Police hope for driving dream, but prepared for driving nightmare in Loudon
LOUDON - This year's July race week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is presenting some new challenges to law enforcement authorities, as the track is hosting added events this year, such as a Friday night fireworks.
Police and rescue crews always have their hands full in the two summer races at the speedway, which becomes the state's largest community with well over 100,000 people in attendance at each of the NASCAR events.
And Police Chief Robert Fiske said he expects more people than usual today during what police refer to as "exodus," when the spectators will be departing.
"There's more going on this year on the weekend, and the weather has been very good, so I'd say on Sunday, we might have a somewhat larger than normal crowd departing," Fiske said.
But it's nothing police aren't ready for. There are more than 100 police officers from 30 departments around the state on hand, and fire and rescue crews from area departments are on special stand-by details.
Should there be an accident at the track, there is an infield "hospital" run by Concord Hospital and led by the hospital's Dr. David Hirsch, Fiske said. Outside the track, there are emergency responders ready for whatever occurs.
There is plenty of security at the track, which in past years has included federal law enforcement officials. Fiske declined comment when asked if the same detail would be in place this year in case of catastrophic events.
Loudon requests state troopers every year, and Fiske said the response this year was, as usual, very strong.
"We're really pleased that so many agree to help us on this busy weekend. It's phenomenal that they all want to help us work the race," he said.
County law enforcement agents also make up a large portion of the law enforcement contingent. A large number from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is working grandstand security, Fiske said, while Belknap County officers are working the family parking lots, and Merrimack County officers are working in the booking rooms of the temporary police stations set up at and around the track.
As of late Saturday, there were no serious accidents or incidents reported.
"There was one guy who had minor injuries Saturday morning on his way to work, not race-related, but that's been it," Fiske said,
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 race starts today at 1 p.m. It runs 301 laps over 318.46 miles on the speedway track.
At exodus time - usually beginning around 4 p.m. - about 70 percent will head south in special temporary southbound lanes on Route 106 toward Interstate 93.
With driver cooperation, all should go smoothly, the chief said.
"The fire departments are sited at strategic spots, and there are police officers at every road off of Route 106, whether there's an overpass or an exit or not," Fiske said.
"If everyone just minds the signs and the officers on the way out, they'll be golden," he said.