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DATE News (chronologically)
08/16/11
irl
Expect IndyCar back in New Hampshire  “Ideally, I'd like to have them [IndyCar] come back,” NHMS General Manager Jerry Gappens said on Monday night. “But we've got to make it work from a financial standpoint. The encouraging thing is I came in this morning and had a dozen emails that were printed out for me from race fans and every one of them was positive, which is unusual for the morning after a race. Usually there are a couple of hiccups.”

In consultation with Bruton Smith, CEO of track owner Speedway Motorsports Inc., along with IndyCar chief executive officer Randy Bernard and his people, Gappens will try to determine whether it's feasible to keep the race.

“I talked to Bruton last night and one of the things talked about was trying to generate more corporate support for the race,” Gappens said. “With that, and certainly with some more fans buying tickets, I think we're on to something. But I think it's going to take that to make it work.”

Among the questions Gappens and the others will consider is whether it makes sense to squeeze the IndyCar date between the track's two NASCAR Sprint Cup events in July and September. [Race should be the final race before the Indy 500 in early May Mark C.]

Gappens estimated that about 30,000 fans attended Sunday's race. He anticipated when the race was announced more than a year ago, that it could draw between 35,000-40,000.

“When we decided to have an event here, we knew we were going to have to build on it,” Bernard said before Sunday's race. “I wouldn't say we're disappointed. Did we think we'd have more? Yes, I will say that. But the fact is we are significantly up from the last time. I think we're making progress.”

Bernard and Gappens said that track builder and former owner Bob Bahre told them that the last two years the Indy Racing League brought Indy cars to the track in 1997 and 1998, there were crowds of 7,500 and 8,000.

“But he said they had 40,000 paid in its heyday,” Bernard said. “There are fans here. There are fans all over the United States and all over the world. It's a matter of re-educating them and showing them the credibility of our drivers and how they are phenomenal and our cars are great. It's going to take some time.”

Sunday's questionable weather didn't help walk-up sales of tickets, said Gappens after the race, while noting a that crowd of 30,000 may not have looked like much in the vast grandstands at NHMS, but it would have filled the Milwaukee venue where IndyCar also races and would be a decent showing at many other tracks.

“Having said that, there is room for improvement,” Gappens said. “And we need to do better than that.”

Bernard and IndyCar like NHMS for the Boston market and they like having ovals on their schedule to keep a balance with street and rod courses. Drivers loved the challenge of the track with its long straightaways and tight corners, Bernard said.

“We want to work with Jerry and Bruton,” he said. “We want to look at today and just sit down and reevaluate everything after we have time to get our arms around the financials. We want to look at the marketing and the promotion and how much PR we were able to get, too, and see what we do with ABC as well.”

Gappens and others will crunch the numbers and talk to the IndyCar people and make a decision on whether to try again.

One thing was clear: Sunday was not lacking for drama. Union Leader

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