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April 01. 2014 6:21PM

Lights

New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials hope to light up for nighttime races


A general view of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon where speedway officials have spoken publicly several times about the hope of erecting lights for the track — a $3 million to $5 million investment — because fans have asked for them. Town officials said they have not been approached by the track for night lights yet. (File./Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

LOUDON — The people who run New Hampshire Motor Speedway hope to build lights around the track to allow for night racing, perhaps as soon as next year.

Last week, NASCAR racer to Dale Earnhardt Jr. was tweeted a question by a fan about night racing in Loudon. Earnhardt re-tweeted the question to NHMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Gappens.

“What do you think of @NHMS possibly getting a night race?” was the question to Gappens from Twitter.

Gappens tweeted back, “….NHMS is working w/ (NASCAR and television sponsors) on possibility of night racing for 2015 … fans would love it.”

Gappens and the speedway officials have spoken publicly several times about the hope of erecting lights for the track — a $3 million to $5 million investment — because fans have asked for it, he said. In surveys, fans have complained about watching races in July’s daytime temperatures. Night racing is also becoming a regular fixture on the NASCAR circuit, he said.

In September, Gappens said the speedway considered the possibility of running one of its two annual Sprint Cup races under the lights for the first time in track history.

Town officials said they have not been approached by the track for night lights yet. Before NHMS would make such a request, a judge would have to “undo” a stipulation forbidding night racing in the speedway’s original operating agreement, said Donna White, the planning board’s administrative assistant.

In discussing the possibility of erecting light towers for night racing, Gappens this week noted the town support for the idea. In a Master Plan survey taken of town residents in 2012, the speedway asked the question of residents, “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. The town has about 5,300 residents.

Gappens would not comment on his tweet last week.

“Obviously, it is something we are exploring, but I have no new updates to share at this time,” he said.

“Night racing requires an agreement from a number of stakeholders, and if we do it, we want to do it right and with community support.

“Meanwhile, our primary focus is preparing for our 2014 schedule of events, including those two very important NASCAR weekends in July and September,” he said.

dseufert@newstote.com


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