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Thread: New road course at NHIS - possible

  1. #1

    Default New road course at NHIS - possible

    Taken from the Union Leader newspaper....

    LOUDON A state-of-the-art new road course is part of New Hampshire Motor Speedway's five-year capital improvement plan and speedway officials are actively involved in a feasibility study to build it as soon as possible.

    A new road track would be an spin-off of changes being made to the NASCAR superspeedway and would not incorporate racing inside the one-mile oval as the existing 1.6-mile road course does now.

    The new speedway ownership, Speedway Motorsports Inc., is a publically traded corporation obviously needing to tap into more revenue sources.

    "This is something we're looking very aggressively at," said NHMS president Jerry Gappens. ". . . We're analyzing it and we've got to do the cost on it."

    SMI chairman O. Bruton Smith and Wes Harrison, executive vice president of facilities and operations, visited here two weeks ago reviewing on-going renovation and laying out initial ideas for a new road course.

    Seventy percent of the activity at NHMS occurs on the road course, but 90 percent of the revenue generated by the Loudon business comes from two NASCAR Sprint Cup weekends -- the Lenox 301 later this month and the Sylvania 300 in September. The track is open from April 1 to November 1 with an event held every weekend.

    "Even with the downturn in the economy, the track rental program is still strong," said Gappens.

    ►Narbonne roars to pole for today's Loudon Classic
    ►NHMS.com: 86th Loudon Classic schedule
    ►Click here to visit Allen Lessels' and Kevin Provencher's 'Gone Racing' blog

    It is hoped that a new purpose-built road course constructed with input from the American Motorcyclist Association will return the AMA stars and major world motorcycle manufacturers while refocusing Laconia Bike Week on Loudon. Gappens said there have been some "initial discussions" with the AMA toward having them back.

    The majority of the estimated 230,000 motorcycle enthusiasts visiting the Granite State this week for the annual Bike Week will not attend racing at NHMS, which hosts the oldest motorcycle road racing championship in America. It has been a sore spot in Loudon since the AMA stars boycotted the races here in 2002 saying the one-mile oval was unsafe for motorcycle racing.

    "If we could capture 10-20 percent of those people you'd have a very successful event in real numbers," said Gappens. "We're trying to get some of the focus back. It used to be here and it migrated up towards the Weirs Beach and Laconia. Now we're trying to get some of that back to complement the event. Hopefully we'll be able to work hand-in-hand . . . we need to get a synergy with all the groups that are involved with Bike Week and who are reaching out to these enthusiasts so we can make it a mega event just like Daytona does."

    But back to the serious business of racing for a moment.

    A horrific crash during AMA Loudon Classic qualifying in 1998 nearly ended the career of Miguel Duhamel. It is said he was on the verge of amputation with a terribly crushed femur after slamming into the turn 1 wall in Loudon. At the time Duhamel was the most heralded rider in the sport and the first Canadian to capture the Superbike title.

    The careers of AMA racers Thomas Wilson and Brett Metzger were ended in the same turn prior to Duhamel's mishap.

    Needless to say, the AMA stars have never returned after multi-time champion Mat Mladin led a rider boycott in the rain a few years later. Mladin went on the record to say the Loudon NASCAR oval was unsafe for motorcycles at any speed. Since that time the AMA Superbikes have also stopped racing at Daytona and other NASCAR ovals.

    "You've got an oval and a road course and it's hard to serve two masters," said Gappens. "To try and incorporate them into one and be world class with it is probably difficult to do . . . motorcycles and walls don't get along well at all."

    What is needed is "a separate world class" road racing track, according to Gappens. But, he also will try to incorporate some of the historic features of the existing course into a new track if indeed it is a "go."

    One of those might be the sweeping downhill bowl turn. He said if and when building a road course gets "decidedly serious" SMI will seek more input from the AMA and the Sports Car Club of America, as well as other sanctioning bodies.

    SMI owns Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., which hosts the AMA and a NASCAR road race. There it has as its sister track a drag strip on the property. Smith said last September he is not interested in building a drag strip in Loudon.

    Current speedway improvements for NASCAR events call for the hill on the back straightaway to be tiered, adding more lucrative motor home parking and better vantage points for spectators. Gappens says as things exist now there is not enough room for popular back stretch camping. That will change and that area of change is where the road course exits the speedway. The back stretch will be dedicated to oval viewing and not a road course.

    Gappens said early thinking on a road course would see it with portable grandstands and some permanent garage facilities.

    "We have the land and as I said you have to make sure the land is still dual purpose to park cars and have camping during the Cup weekends because we don't want to give up space there," he said. "The road course is a very popular aspect of our business . . . this could be a major event weekend.

    "We have to ask ourselves is the road course here our version of the zMAX Dragstrip that was just built in Charlotte? And the nice one they have in Vegas?" Gappens continued. "With Bruton all things are possible. We need to look at the cost and the return on the investment."

  2. #2
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    oh... do I hear ALMS? at least Rolex and/or Koni?
    Demetrius Mossaidis aka 'Mickey' #12 ITA NESCCA
    '92 Honda Civic Si
    STFU and "Then write a letter. www.crbscca.com"
    2013 ITA NARRC Champion and I have not raced since.

  3. #3
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    One advantage with the new ownership is Bob Bahre is a Nascar guy, but Bruton Smith runs a variety of different series.
    The above press release showed up on the papers website a few weeks ago during bike week but there was a noticeable difference. The original press release mentioned SCCA as well.
    One of those might be the sweeping downhill bowl turn. He said if and when building a road course gets "decidedly serious" SMI will seek more input from the AMA and the Sports Car Club of America, as well as other sanctioning bodies.”
    By the way region management has been discussing this possibility for over a year with mid level track people. I think it Was first mentioned at the tracks vintage festival last July.
    dick patullo
    ner scca IT7 Rx7

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    Concord, NH 03301
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    This has been talked about since SMI bought the place, but I'm not holding my breath. Notice the comment about most of the money being made on the oval. They will spend money on oval improvements before anything on the road course.

    Last year at the July NASCAR race I got the opportunity to sit in Bruton Smith's suite for the Cup race. I got talking to the guy who runs all the construction for SMI at NHMS (he was transitioning out of a couple of other tracks at the time). I asked if they would build another road course w/ Grand-Am, ALMS type racing in mind. He made the comment they had just spent XXX million at Sears Point but don't see making money on that track. He did comment that they would like to seperate the oval & road courses, the goal being that in a 200+/- day season they would like to have 400 events - an event on both tracks every day.

    The oval is going to stay where it is, they would not have spent the money on the infield if they had plans to move it. I suspect the next move will be to change the turn 5 hill.

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