David McGrath of Kennebunk was named executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon in October. McGrath once worked for the Sports Car Club of America, but after moving into sales with Comcast, he figured his association with car racing was over. Not so. He’s excited to be at the speedway, which hosts two NASCAR Sprint Cup races each year and recently signed a five-year deal with NASCAR that extends through 2020.

Q: Let’s get the most obvious question out of the way first. What kind of car do you drive?

A: A Toyota Highlander hybrid.

Q: Do you ever take it on the track?

A: I don’t take the Highlander, but I have been known to take the pace car out. It’s a 2015 Toyota Camry XSE. It’s got a big V-6 engine and it’s beautiful.

Q: How fast do you drive it?


A: Maybe 50. I don’t go that fast. But the NASCAR guys don’t go that fast, either. Most pace laps are between 45 and 55 miles an hour. We’re only a mile track. The racers will probably go 120 to 130 miles an hour on the stretch and around 90 on the corners. The speedway is a fairly flat track, without as much banking as at some other tracks where they can carry more speed into the corners.

Q: What’s the deal with NASCAR’s popularity in New England? Why has it never been as popular here as it is in the South?

A: This a sport born in the hills of North and South Carolina and the beach at Daytona, but it certainly has evolved as a national sport. In New England, there’s a rabid fan base. We really pull all from the Northeast – Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, certainly Massachusetts and Canada. There’s a base of wonderful short tracks in the area that feed that fan base. In Maine alone, you’ve got Beech Ridge in Scarborough and Oxford Plains – that short track racing is the base of the popularity.

Q: How do you make money when the racing season up here only runs five or six months?

A: We are always evaluating and looking at ways we can use the property. We own 1,100 acres and we think about what new things we can bring in. We just had an “Extreme Punkin Chunkin” event … We’ve hosted snowmobile events over the winter. We had a big Boy Scout jamboree earlier this fall and showed them what a NASCAR Sprint track looks like from the inside. Our season begins in April and ends in October, but our team is a creative group of people.

Q: What about staffing? You only need a few year-round workers, but a lot of people in-season. How do you handle that?


A: We have a core of seasonal people from the local communities. We have a year-round staff of 52 employees that swells to over 1,000 on a race weekend. We bring in volunteers from all over the Northeast and they work a certain number of hours. (In lieu of pay, we make a donation to their organization or charity.) We keep them busy April through November. There are groups that have been part of the team for years, like a church group or sports booster club. They might work in parking or as ushers or screeners. On a typical (NASCAR Sprint) Cup weekend, you’ll have 100,000 people on the property and that (crowd can) begin to gather a week before the races on Sunday. You need a lot of people to help with that. And nearly $300,000 was raised for volunteer groups last year.

Q: How do you keep the track in shape, particularly given the harsh winters in New Hampshire?

A: The drivers love the track because it’s a little coarse and it gives them a lot of grip. You don’t touch the surface in the winter months. There’s a blanket of snow on top of the pavement, but if you put pressure on it, it forces the frost deeper into the ground, which causes damage. The maintenance team is always improving our facilities.

Q: Wouldn’t the snowmobiles events compact the snow and cause the damage you try to avoid in the winter?

A: We don’t run them on the race track surface itself. A lot of snowmobile trails kind of converge on the speedway property, so we have a lot of snowmobile clubs coming by here.

Q: Are snowmobilers fans of NASCAR?


A: I think there’s a bit of a correlation between outdoors-minded folks and NASCAR, but I wouldn’t limit it to snowmobiles. On a NASCAR weekend, we have upwards of 4,000 campers on the property. Certainly those who enjoy being out-of-doors seem to be fans. Ice-fishers too, I’m sure they’re NASCAR fans.

Q: What is NASCAR like to work with?

A: They’re wonderful to work with. There’s the operational side of what NASCAR does – they come in and they basically orchestrate the show; it’s their folks that run the racing series. We coordinate with them on everything we need, but there’s also the industry services side, who work with marketing teams on promoting the event and getting the word out. We spend our own dollars promoting our races, but NASCAR is very much involved in helping us promote the event and working with us. So they’re instrumental and they add more flair and excitement to the track. They’re very good partners.

Q: Who’s your favorite driver?

A: I really don’t have one. I’m a fan of the sport. And this isn’t the Bruins versus the Canadians or the Red Sox versus the Yankees, this is everybody at once, duking it out.


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