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Mar 9, 2017 2:38 PM

Political shots fired over loss of NASCAR race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

NH1.com

CONCORD — The loss of one of the two NASCAR races held at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway is turning into a political blame game.

The state’s Democratic Party chair on Thursday charged that Republican Gov. Chris Sununu “is asleep at the wheel.”

Hours earlier state’s GOP chair accused Sununu’s two Democratic predecessors in the Corner Office of having “done so little to keep” the race in New Hampshire.

The Granite State’s hosted two top-tier NASCAR races a year for 20 years, traditionally in July and September. But Las Vegas officials on Wednesday approved a sponsorship agreement with Speedway Motorsports Inc. to shift the September race to Nevada starting next year.

The general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Thursday urged fans and small businesses to give him time to fill in the gaps now that the September race will soon be history.

David McGrath, executive vice president and general manager of the New Hampshire track, said Thursday that the July race will be bigger and better, and the track will explore new opportunities for other months, such as music festivals.

Hours after Wednesday’s announcement, Sununu said in a statement that “although we are disappointed by today’s news, New Hampshire Motor Speedway remains a key player in our state’s tourism industry not only for drawing race fans and automotive enthusiasts from around the world, but as a premier event venue for our state.”

“We look forward to welcoming race fans to Loudon in July and partnering with NH Motor Speedway to identify new events that could call New Hampshire home,” added the state’s first Republican governor in a dozen years.

Considering the races draw some 90,000 attendees and nearly $200 million in spending, it was no surprise that a political fistfight would soon break out.

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley said the “importance of the NASCAR Cup Series race to New Hampshire's economy can't be overstated.”

“It's shocking to think that retaining the NASCAR Cup Series wasn't one of Governor Sununu's top economic priorities. Sununu promised to talk to 100 businesses in his first 100 days. Instead, his first 100 days will be remembered for losing the state's biggest economic driver, spending wasted effort on failed so-called Right-to-Work legislation, and losing 190 New Hampshire Fidelity employees to layoffs,” Buckley charged.

And Buckley said that Sununu “has big questions to answer. Did Governor Sununu even meet with owner of Speedway Motorsports, Bruton Smith? If he did, why wasn't he able to retain the event like his two Democratic predecessors, John Lynch and Maggie Hassan were able to do? The Governor must take responsibility for this massive loss to our state and work on digging us out of the hole he created."

But NHGOP chair Jeanie Forrester pointed fingers at Lynch and Hassan.

“It is a shame our previous two Governors have done so little to keep them, and so many other businesses, in New Hampshire. This is one reason Granite State voters have put their trust in Gov. Chris Sununu’s optimistic agenda of prosperity and economic growth. It’s time for Democrats in New Hampshire to stop obstructing the Governor’s positive agenda,” Forrester wrote in a statement Wednesday evening.

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