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New Hampshire Motor Speedway official says there’s local support for night racing

Union Leader Correspondent

September 24. 2013 6:23PM

LOUDON — New Hampshire Motor Speedway submitted a bid to hold July’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at night to see if NASCAR and its television partners would sanction it; the next step is to ask the town, speedway officials said.

Jerry Gappens, the speedway’s general manager and executive vice president, said Tuesday the application to NASCAR was a necessary first step in pursuing a night race before asking the town for an amendment to the 1989 agreement between the track and the town that forbids night racing.

“NASCAR and its broadcast partners control the dates and the broadcasts, it makes sense to ask them if this is something they would be interested in before proceeding any further,” he said.

Gappens is hoping that he and town officials, with support of residents, can work out an amendment to allow one night race in the spring, and allow lights to be used at the September race if needed in times of bad weather.

He said a Saturday night race would alleviate traffic problems that much of the state has to deal with after the current Sunday races, he said.

Donna White, administrative assistant to the planning board, said the town has not been approached by the speedway with plans for a July night race. But Gappens said town officials are aware of the speedway’s wishes.

“It’s something we’d like to revisit with the town, and we’re exploring ways to do that,” he said. “I think we have a lot of support in town; we’ve been a very good partner over the years, and this just makes sense.”

He pointed to a survey of Loudon’s 5,300 residents for the town’s master plan update taken last September.

When asked the question, “Would you support a Saturday night NHMS race to shorten a race weekend’s impact on the area?”

Of those responding, 198, or 58.1 percent, answered “yes,” while 121, or 35.5 percent, said “no.” Twenty-two said they had no opinion.

Gappens said the idea came mostly from fans, who have complained about watching races in July’s daytime temperatures. Night racing is also becoming a regular fixture on the NASCAR circuit, he said.

Lights at the track would require a $3 million-$5 million investment for the company’s parent, Speedway Motorsports.

The stipulation forbidding night racing is the result of a lawsuit that residents filed against the town alleging improper conduct of a town board relating to the track’s contract. Canterbury resident Arnie Alpert said there are residents of Loudon and other towns around the track that would oppose night racing because of noise and light pollution reasons.

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