Friday, June 18, 2010

NASCAR: Is New Hampshire losing a Cup Date over security costs or is this just an excuse for Bruton Smith to get his Kentucky Speedway Cup date?

As not only a NASCAR fan, but a NASCAR fan that actually attends NASCAR races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, I’ve read about the this security costs that Loudon charges for a while now.

Last month in the Concord Monitor, it was said that the speedway and the town of Loudon, NH were $100,000 apart on security costs for the upcoming NASCAR race weekend (late June) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The town is charging $174,000 (which includes $134,000 of that for police coverage and Chief Fiske’s hourly rate of $50), while Bruton Smith wants to cap costs at $75,000.

It’s worth noting three things:

1. After 9/11, the former owner of NHMS (NHIS at the time) increased security.
2. NHMS paid $263,000 for police and fire coverage in June 2009, so the price has already been reduced to $174,500 to provide the same level of coverage.
3. That NHMS is the only SMI track that pays for police and fire coverage. Jerry Gappens, the speedway's executive vice president said state and local officials provide coverage for no charge in recognition of the boon to the local economy.

However yesterday in an article on WMUR in New Hampshire is reporting that the owner of New Hampshire Motor Speedway said Thursday he will consider moving next year's summer race if Loudon's police chief doesn't cut the cost for providing safety details. NHMS owner Bruton Smith said that if he can't reach a compromise with the town on security costs, he may move next June's race from New Hampshire.

"The dates are scheduled year to year with contracts with NASCAR," said Jerry Gappens, NHMS vice president. "There is the option of doing that. Let's hope it doesn't come to that option."

While Loudon Selectman Roger Maxfield said "No, we're not prepared to do that," "The answer is no, we won't." Maxfield went on to say he thinks $170,000 to cover an influx of 100,000 people is reasonable, as is Fiske's hourly rate. "He's also in control of 80 full-time officers, so that's a large detail," Maxfield said.

After reading both articles, I think this is terrible on a number of levels and I can’t believe that a town or city would be asked to cover the cost of the police and fire coverage for an event..

As a person who attends the races at NHMS, I want real police officers and fire people on hand to cover whatever situation comes up and not just some people off the street. When walking around the speedway, you do see several police officers around you and they are checking everything and that’s exactly what I want when attending an event. I have no problem opening up my bag for them to check.

I also believe that NASCAR fans and the town of Loudon, NH are seeing some of the makings of the situation that Concord, NC had back in late 2007 when Bruton Smith made the same comment but instead of just moving a Cup date, Smith said he would consider moving Charlotte Motor Speedway to the city of Charlotte if Concord didn’t approve his drag strip.

Now of course CMS has a drag strip and $60-80 million dollars in incentives for staying and to help with upgrades. Of course there is move to this story, but I’m not getting into it because I don’t discuss lawsuits.

If that wasn’t enough, I would say that SMI owner Bruton Smith might just follow through and use the security costs to justify moving a Cup Series date from NHMS to his newly bought Kentucky Speedway if he doesn’t get his way. That would be a huge mistake on both SMI’s part and NASCAR’s part if they were to approve it considering NASCAR only has two Cup Series dates in New England and NHMS sells tickets and sells out several of the Cup races yearly.

By the way, the Cup Series date at New Hampshire also caters to Canadian residences as they come down for the race too. And NASCAR should know that.

However I don’t see a sellout crowd for next weekend’s Cup Series race considering the economy. Of course if Smith were to get his way and move a Cup Series date from NHMS to Kentucky Speedway, that would open the door for Smith/SMI to also consider moving a Cup Series date from Atlanta Motor Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a second date at that track. He would get exactly what he want despite that fact that there is already too many Cup Series dates out west for the economy to handle.

Finally I believe that the town of Loudon and NHMS need to come to some agreement, but cutting $100,000 for police and fire coverage is ridiculous to ask for. So is the concept of cutting police and fire coverage. I wonder, what type of coverage did NHMS have before 9/11 and what would be the cost today?

I surely hope this gets resolved, but I don’t see (or believe for that matter) that Loudon, NH should have to cut or cover the cost on their end. There are other ways for NHMS to cut costs, but police and fire coverage isn’t one of them.

Sources: WMUR New Hampshire, the Concord Monitor and

Follow, and myself (Brian Vermette) on Twitter.