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) 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.