by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist
NASCAR IN LOUDON
It was wonderful to hear the roar created by the world’s best race car drivers at the Overton’s 301 NASCAR race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on July 16. I heard the noise from the back deck at my home in Loudon, roughly a mile from NHMS—as the crow flies.
More than just crows were flying that day, as some small planes pulled banners through the sky to advertise to the tens of thousands of NASCAR spectators. Helicopters were aloft as well, at least one of which was carrying a camera for some aerial shots for NBC sports, which telecast the event nationally.
I always get a kick from watching the action on my television, as I can listen to the event in real time while watching the splendid telecast with its wonderful graphics, multiple cameras, and excited announcers.
The aerial shots showing New Hampshire’s hills and forests always make me proud of this unique major sports venue on Route 106 with a capacity for 100,000 spectators.
Of course, there were less than 100,000 fans at the track on July 16, as NASCAR attendance has been declining nationwide for years. Consider my situation. I’ve attended in person in the past, but was content to watch Denny Hamlin’s #11 Toyota take the checkered flag on TV, even though I lived within walking distance of the track.
Still, I love the energy and excitement that NASCAR brings to the Granite State twice a year. Yes, the traffic is heavy on those two days, but I think it’s cool to see people from all over America converge on Loudon. We had three Canadian visitors stay with us for race weekend—who, unlike me—spent most of Saturday and Sunday at NHMS.
It all happens again on Sunday, Sept. 24 when the New England 300 comes to NHMS.
Sadly for New England NASCAR fans, that will be the last September race in Loudon, as that event moves to Las Vegas in 2018—a reminder that major sports are big businesses. Hopefully the July race will stay in Loudon.
The track has always been a good neighbor, at least as far as most of us are concerned. The numerous full-time and part-time jobs at NHMS are a wonderful economic boost and the whole state benefits from all the race weekend spending. The generous scholarships the track awards to area young people have helped scores of families and the funds that go to local sports teams who help with post-race clean-up have strengthened numerous high school athletics departments. And NHMS provides local property tax relief, for which I am truly grateful.
NHMS, of course, is active during non-NASCAR weeks, with a busy race schedule, and when the racing stops the track remains open for special events like its awesome Christmas light experience.
With the loss of the September race, NHMS is understandably looking at new ways to generate business. A country music festival is under consideration, which would be great. This may require revisiting and revising some existing arrangements and agreements made with the towns of Loudon and Canterbury. There are processes to do that and zoning and planning boards have been looking at proposals and also getting input from residents—some of whom are less thrilled than others about the prospect of a major concert weekend in an area prized by many for its bucolic, rural character.
Hopefully communication and compromise will lead to some exciting new agreements and new opportunities.
A diminished NHMS would leave New Hampshire all the poorer—in more ways than one.
As for me, I reckon I should find my way down the hill to the track for next July’s race. While my back deck is great, half the fun of going to a NASCAR event is seeing its great people!
Who is the leader among active drivers for NASCAR victories? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on July 27 include famed baseball manager Leo Durocher (1906) and recently retired MLB infielder and slugger Alex Rodriguez (1975).
“I feel like I got a pile of cattle chasing my ass, and I’m pedaling as hard as I can to stay in front of ‘em. I’m looking behind me while driving like hell.” —NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace
Jimmie Johnson has 83 NASCAR victories—sixth all-time. Richard Petty (“The King”) is the all-time win-leader with 200. The King, 80, was a visitor to Loudon for the Overton’s 301 on July 16.
State Representative Michael Moffett was a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.