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Survey results show respondents favor lights, night racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Denny Hamlin's team cheers for him as he crosses the finish line in first place during the Sylvania 300 race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 23, 2012. 

(Andrea Morales/Monitor Staff)

Denny Hamlin's team cheers for him as he crosses the finish line in first place during the Sylvania 300 race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 23, 2012. (Andrea Morales/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

The majority of residents who responded to a recent town survey support installing lights and holding Saturday night racing at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Three-hundred-eighty people responded to the Loudon Master Plan Survey, which included four specific questions about the speedway. The rest of the questions related to general development, and the responses will be used to update the town’s master plan, which happens once a decade.

The speedway-related questions asked residents if they would support installing lights, hosting night racing and allowing a casino on the speedway property if the state decides to legalize expanded gambling. The survey also included a question about traffic flow on race days.

“I’m just encouraged because it looks like the respondents have responded with a willingness to have an open mind and further dialogue, which is all you can ask,” said Jerry Gappens, the speedway’s general manager.

Ninety-two percent of respondents, or 343 people, were Loudon residents. Members of the town’s planning board received the results of the survey Nov. 15.

A total of 58.6 percent of respondents, or 201 people, said yes to installing lights to extend the NASCAR event day in case of rain, while 34.1 percent, or 117 people, said no.

On night racing, 58.1 percent, or 198 people, said they would support a Saturday night race to shorten the race weekend, while 35.5 percent, or 121 people, said they would not.

Responses to the question regarding a casino on the speedway property was much closer, with 50.7 percent, or 181 people, supporting a casino, and 46.8 percent, or 167 people, against it. Nine people, or 2.5 percent, had no opinion.

“If the state moves in that direction we certainly would like to be a player at the table,” Gappens said.

On the final question regarding the racetrack, 62 percent, or 198 people, said they do not have concerns related to traffic flow on race days, while 29.2 percent, or 93 people, said they do have concerns.

The generally positive survey responses do not mean the speedway is moving forward with a concrete plan to install lights or begin night racing. But Gappens said he would like to continue discussing the matter with key players, which includes the town and nearby property owners, given that the survey results show the public is receptive to the idea.

“I really don’t have a plan that I can discuss at this point,” he said. “There’s a lot of due diligence we’d have to do on our part.”

A group of people who live near the racetrack signed an agreement in 1989 with the speedway’s previous owners and the town of Loudon that forbids racing after 7:30 p.m.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

The survey is not valid. There is no way to ensure that only Loudon residents completed the survey. There is no way to ensure that no one completed the survey more than once. Folks with a special interest could access the survey on line and complete it as often as they desired. Also, the question about installing lights includes a specific rationale to support the idea. It is therefore a biased question designed to elicit a positive response. Same thing with the night time racing question. This certainly may not have been intentional, but it does provide only one side of the argument. Questions should have been neutral and should not have included rationales, if the town was truly seeking accurate input. Town officials should address this concern before proceeding with any other analysis of results. Most alarming, however, are the results that have nothing to do with the track. Loudon residents should be alarmed that only 9% seem to be impressed with the district's schools. Maybe that concern should be addressed before lights are installed and dice are rolled at the track.

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