Love and NASCAR return to NHMSBy TRAVIS R. MORIN
Union Leader Correspondent
July 19. 2018 7:50PM
LOUDON — Among the hardcore New England race fans who are already excited for NASCAR’s return to Loudon is Kevin Sgro of North Berwick, Maine.
On Wednesday, Sgro took his love of racing to a new level when he and his longtime girlfriend, Allie, got married in their section of the S6 camper lot outside the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
From the homemade wedding cake to the friend and fellow race fan who officiated the ceremony, nearly every aspect of the wedding involved members of Sgro’s NASCAR tailgate community.
“This is our happy place,” Allie said of why she and her newlywed chose to have the ceremony at the track. “Our whole NASCAR family is here.”
A lifelong NASCAR fan and 10-year veteran of the NHMS racing scene, Sgro has built a network of more than 140 fans who come together at that track’s S6 Camper Lot every year to enjoy each other’s company.
“We used to just drive in on race day,” said Sgro of his tailgating resume. “Just like most people, we started off with a small camper and not much of anything. Then I became close friends with another fan who used to work here and it went from one camper to two campers, to three campers to the 10 large campers you see here today.
“We just like it here. We have people here that we only see when we’re here, so this is a place where we can all come together, hang out, have some drinks, have some food, and have a good time,” said Sgro.
Race fans from across the country are pouring into the Granite State this week in anticipation of Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 NASCAR race at NHMS.
While it’s always noteworthy when NASCAR returns to New Hampshire, 2018 marks the first year that NHMS will only host one race.
In 2017, Speedway Motorsports Inc., the company that owns NHMS, moved the September race to its track in Las Vegas.
The move to Las Vegas is a sore spot for local race fans and NHMS employees, but NHMS spokesman Scott Spradling says the single summer race has sparked renewed enthusiasm among the loyal fan base.
“Ticket sales are about 4 percent above last July,” said Spradling. “We do think that the folks that were the September crowd are going to be coming out in big numbers this weekend. I know we’ve lost some fans, but there is definite evidence of improvement with the ticket sales, the trend lines, and just talking to race fans out and about.”
Although the loss of the fall race had a lot to do with the ability to sell more tickets at Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s larger Vegas track, that’s not stopping NASCAR drivers like Kaz Grala, an Xfinity Series driver with Massachusetts roots, from trying to grow the sport’s New England following.
Born in Boston, Grala got his start racing go-karts when he was 4 years old. From that early interest in motorsports, Grala quickly climbed the ladder of the stock-car racing world, moving from go-karts to the NASCAR Truck Series, to his current role as the driver of the No. 61 Ford Mustang for Fury Race Cars.
Hosting a Media Go-Kart Challenge at the track on Thursday, Grala expressed hope that New England drivers like himself could help expand the sport’s reach in the region.
“If you’re watching a game between the Steelers and the Patriots around here, you’re obviously rooting for the Patriots. But if you watch a NASCAR race and there’s no one from New England, there’s no one to pull for,” said Grala. “Other New England drivers and myself just want to take people who would only be casual fans or not even fans at all and bring them in a little bit by giving them a hometown guy to root for.”