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(NECN: Lauren Collins – Loudon, NH) When NASCAR comes to New England, so do the crowds.
“It's the largest sporting event in all of New England,” says New Hampshire Motor Speedway General Manager Jerry Gappens.
Fans from as far away as Canada make the trek every year and arrive days ahead of the big race.
Yvon Burnet has got his camper, his wife, and more than a dozen family and friends with him.
“It's a blast,” he says. “It's just a big party. Everybody's friends. We don't know them but we will by the time the night's over with, so it's a great time here.”
“It's a boys’ get away,” explains Gaetan Hebert of Canada who drove nine hours with his friends. “But (this race is) the closest one.”
He and his friends make the trip every year; 10,000 race fans camp out on the grounds of the speedway. Many, many more stay in area hotels, eat in area restaurants, and shop in area stores.
“NASCAR races, they equate to an economic impact of somewhere around $120- to $125-million a race,” says Gappens.
Multiply that by the 20 years that NASCAR events have been at the speedway and it’s a multi-billion dollar business for New Hampshire. And it's growing.
Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Lenox Tools Industrial 301 will draw a 100-thousand people to the grandstands, but as many as 60,000 more will come to the track on Saturday.
“We've got three great races on Saturday,” says Gappens, “including the global rally cross which is brand new this year.”
Events like that look to draw new fans who wouldn't typically pay for the classic stock-car event. But perennial ticket holders are excited, too.
“I think it's pretty cool,” says Mike Johnson of Nashua, N.H. who’s at his 12th race. “It's great that they add something new to the track every year and it's a lot of fun.”
The attention-grabbing Danica Patrick will race on Saturday too in the Nationwide Series, putting bigger bang in the buck.
“It's worth the investment to come down here and do this,” says Burnet.
There are still tickets available for both days of events.