Jerry Gappens, the executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said despite the sluggish economy, they have only 7,900 tickets remaining for the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 on July 17.

The capacity at NHMS is 105,491.

“New England has done a great job supporting New Hampshire Motor Speedway the last 20 years,” said Gappens, who was named the GM in November, 2007, after Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. bought the track from Bob Bahre for $340 million.

“We’ve very fortunate to have two NASCAR Sprint Cup dates. This is an important market for NASCAR,” said Gappens, who came to NHMS after serving as the senior vice president for events and marketing at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (N.C.).

“One of the biggest surprises for me after coming here was finding out how big racing is up here and how passionate the fans are,” said Gappens.

Gappens is totally cognizant of the economic times and they taken steps to improve the fan experience.

“A couple of years ago we dropped the (lowest) ticket price (for the Sprint Cup race) from $60 to $39. You can get a three-day ticket for $99,” said Gappens.

The New England 125 K & N Pro Series East race will be held July 15 at 4:40 p.m.; the F.W. Webb 100 Whelen Modified Tour (1:10 p.m.) and New England 200 Nationwide Series (3:30) races will be run July 16 and the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 will be held July 17 beginning at 1 p.m.

“We also offer free parking and we allow fans to bring in food and drinks to help keep the cost down,” said Gappens.

Kristen Costa, the director of communications for NHMS, said they have responded to a common request from their fans and bought a new $1.2 million scoreboard.

“It’s 80 feet tall and will have TV screens on top of it,” said Costa.

Gappens said instead of just listing the numbers of the cars in the top seven positions, which was the case with the old scoreboard, the new scoreboard will list where all 43 drivers are, positionally, throughout the race.

Gappens and Costa pointed out they will have a new Lite Lobster Lounge located across the street from the tunnel entrance to the track that will feature live bands at night on July 15 (Phoenix) and 16 (Inside Out) in addition to a full menu.

The lounge will be open from 4 p.m.-10 p.m. on July 14; 11:30-11 on July 15; 10-11 on July 16 and 10-2 on July 17.

There will also be their annual Fanfest activities on Thursday which will include a question and answer session with Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano at 8:30 p.m. followed by a performance by country duo Steel Magnolia at 9.

The Fanfest festivities will take place in the vicinity of the Lite Lobster Lounge.

“We want to make sure everybody who comes to Loudon has a great time. It’s more than just a race, it’s an event,” said Gappens.

Draw the Line, an Aerosmith tribute band, will perform right before the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 near the start-finish line.

Popular Indy Racing League driver Danica Patrick ran last year’s Nationwide race at Loudon and Gappens said she definitely impacted the attendance.

“Attendance was up 30 percent over the previous year’s race,” said Gappens.

Patrick won’t be running the New England 200 but will race at Loudon when the IRL’s Indy 225 returns to Loudon on Aug. 14 for the first time in 13 years.

The race begins at 3:30.

Gappens explained they have a three-year contract with IRL but both sides can opt out after this year’s race if it isn’t well-attended.

“The people will vote by buying tickets,” said Gappens.

Gappens, who pointed out he has Indiana roots (home of the Indianapolis 500), believes IRL has appeal and is a worthwhile venture.

“It produces close, side-by-side racing,” said Gappens.

He said they have budgeted for a turnout of 35,000-40,000.

Tickets for any races at NHMS can be purchased by calling 603-783-4931.