While NASCAR track promoters have already begun wooing Danica Patrick to choose their venues for her stock car racing schedule, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway took that enticement to a new level.
Jerry Gappens, the Executive Vice President and General Manager of NHMS, surprised Patrick with a whole, fresh and still snapping eight pound lobster to woo her to his race, the New England 200. In fact, he brought 20 pounds of live lobsters along with his proposal for Danica to race at the first Nationwide race in New Hampshire on Saturday, June 26.
While Danica has pledged to race her No. 7 GoDaddy.com JR Motorsports Chevy before and after her IndyCar racing schedule, it just so happens that the New Hampshire race falls on an off-weekend for her open wheel series. And with the announcement that Patrick will debut her NASCAR career at Auto Club Speedway, Gappens knew he had to act quickly to ask her to consider a race at his track.
"I wanted Danica, Kelly Earnhardt, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to know how much the race fans in the Northeast are looking forward to seeing her compete," Gappens said. "I brought along a little enticement (the lobsters) to show everyone what a wonderful overall experience it is to race at the 'Magic Mile.'
"I think it may have worked," Gappens said optimistically. "Tony Eury, Jr. (Danica's crew chief) is excited to feed his team fresh New England lobster.
Patrick had a similar look to Joey Logano's when he won the rain-shortened race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this past season and was presented his live lobster trophy. Both wore that same expression of surprise, wonderment, and just a little horror when presented with their huge, wriggling lobster, that special gift that only NHMS can give.
Yet, Gappens' ploy was brilliant, surprising the new NASCAR convert with the invitation and the lobster during her first press conference at the track with JR Motorsports. Patrick is currently in Daytona, participating in the ARCA test to gain experience with the stock car and to get her clearance to race her limited NASCAR Nationwide schedule.
As an astute track manager, Gappens realizes that Patrick will add excitement and, most importantly, fill seats in his grand stands. His offer will most likely set the bar for other track promoter "wooings" of Patrick in the days and months to come.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway runs two NASCAR sanctioned race weekends, including the Nationwide and Cup races. The speedway hosts the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 and the Sylvania 300, on the weekends of June 27 and September 19 respectively.
In addition to wooing Danica, Gappens has also been busy during the off-season promoting his race track. Gappens, on behalf of NHMS, just presented over $125,000 to various NASCAR children's charities, raised from events held over the race season.
"Our race fans and corporate partners have stepped forward with great support and this is just the beginning," Gappens said. He has set a goal of $200,000 to be raised and distributed next year.
But in the meantime, Gappens continues his quest to attract NASCAR's newest phenomenon, Danica Patrick, to his race track.
While Gappens is the first promoter, and perhaps one of the more creative with his live lobster enticement, he is no doubt not the last of many track managers who will come up with the next zany way to get Danica Patrick to coming racing at their facilities.