In March of 2017, it was announced New Hampshire Motor Speedway would be stripped one of its two annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekends in favor of a second date at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, another Speedway Motorsports, Inc. venue.
The first race held at NHMS was won by Rusty Wallace in 1993. Beginning in 1997, the track went to two Cup weekends, one being in July, the other typically in September, though has been moved around a few times.
However, this season marks the first time in 22 years that the venue has hosted just one Cup weekend, and fans are upset about the decision to move the second date to Sin City to kick off the playoffs.
“I don’t like it because I’m never going to go to Las Vegas,” Art Potter Jr., 78 of Enfield, CT, said. “They took a good race away, and they’re going to have a mediocre race in Las Vegas because it’s going to be too hot out there and they aren’t going to get the people.
“Racing started in the northeast, and this track draws a lot of Canadians, and Canadians are good race fans. This is the closest track to the Canadians and they took that away – they aren’t going to Vegas.”
The Potters have been coming to New Hampshire Motor Speedway since its inception, and it’s a yearly family vacation.
“NASCAR missed a generation by not catering to the kids because they kept charging top dollar when it was popular and not getting the kids in there,” Art Potter III, 50, said. “Now, it’s dying because you have a generation gap and they are not going to bring their kids here because they didn’t cater to the kids to a certain generation.”
Meanwhile, since the beginning of 2017, kids under the age of 12 get into XFINITY and Camping World Truck series races for free. For the Potters that’s “a step in the right direction.”
The grandstand capacity is listed at 88,000 for NHMS. However, over the years, the track has taken out at least 15,000 seats, with no seating in Turn 3, just camping. The kids have noticed just that.
“Less and less people come each year so maybe that’s why they cut a race so it looks like more people will show up,” Hunter McLuaghlin, 14 of Newbury, NH said. “The years I’ve been coming the stands have been empty so you get to sit wherever you want. It’s alright, just more places to sit, I guess.”
McLaughlin mentioned how he tries to explain to his friends how “cool” NASCAR is, but he’s the only person of his friend group enjoys the sport. He’s been attending NHMS for the past handful of seasons, while also visiting local short tracks.
However, he has mixed feelings on the track losing one of its dates.
“I think it’s good because it draws more people for July, but then it misses September,” he said. “We [NHMS] will make more money and more people will come to one event and it’s better because there will be more people [for July].
Joey Logano spoke of the issue on Friday during his media availability. Of course, NHMS is his home track, which he’s found Victory Lane twice at.
“I think if you go to a racetrack once it makes it more of an event,” he said. “I think sometimes when you have two races, this weekend will be a great test to see how that works as Loudon goes from two to one. When you think there are two races and you’re a fan that can only afford to go to one, you’re most likely going to choose the playoff race here.
“It will be interesting to see what the stands look like on Sunday because now it’s an event. You can’t miss this one and have a chance to go to the next one. This is the race for a lot of people and from where I’m from in this New England region, so it’ll be interesting to see how it’s gonna work.”
Meanwhile, some fans have been coming to the Magic Mile since they were a youngster. That’s the case for Matt Stewart, 32, of Freemont, NH. The New England native began coming to his home track at the age of 11, and in the meantime met his wife Liz Stewart, and she has tagged along to the races.
They, too, are not pleased with the movement of the playoff race.
“We’re bummed about it,” Liz said. “September was our favorite because it wasn’t quite so hot. It’s just a bummer, and I think there are a lot of people who are protesting the move. I think that the hope was there is going to be more people coming to this race because now there’s only one, but it doesn’t seem like that’s really what happened.”
“It makes me want to come more because if I don’t come now, I’ve got to wait until next July,” Matt added. “I went to Pocono once, but other that it’s just New Hampshire. I do two per year, but now one a year.”
The Stewarts mentioned that as of late Friday (June 20) evening, they had toured the campgrounds to see if there was any additional campers in town. For them, unfortunately, they don’t believe that’s the case.
Instead of the Cup and Truck series returning to the Magic Mile in the fall, the track is holding a “Full Throttle Weekend” on Sept. 21 and 22, which will feature three races, including a 250-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, the longest in history. There will also be a global K&N Pro Series race, which will feature drivers from the Pro Series East, PEAK Mexico and Whelen Euro Series. Additionally, for the first time ever the NASCAR Pinty’s Series will attend NHMS, which will be the first race in series history ever held outside of Canada.
“We’ll probably still come in September, but it’s not the same,” Matt Stewart said. “It’s not the build up as it is for NASCAR [national touring series]. There will be the modified race, which is a good race, but it’s not the big names that everyone wants to see.”
At time of print, NHMS track officials have yet to respond to requests from Frontstretch. However, a track spokesperson did say ticket sales were up four percent from last year. From the naked eye, the XFINITY Series crowd on Saturday looked to be a lot heavier from previous seasons.
About the author
Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.
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