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September 18. 2013 11:12PM

NHMS offers 'ultimate tailgating'

Lee Baker of Cornish, with help from his wife, Sandy, raise flags at their camper as NASCAR fans get ready for race week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Wednesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

LOUDON — NASCAR fans at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend will have a chance to get closer than ever to the races.

On Saturday night, speedway officials will offer two new items at a charity auction: track-side seats with the pit crews of three drivers, and the first of many Pit Box hospitality rentals for those who want to use a ready-made party barge for what one track official called "the ultimate tailgating experience."

"We're always looking to find the next 'wow!' factor for fans," said Jerry Gappens, the track's executive vice president and general manager.

On Wednesday afternoon, fewer than 4,000 tickets were left for Sunday's Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup Series race; hundreds of campers filled the track's RV parks.

Saturday's auction, which benefits Speedway Children's Charities, will include four seats in the drivers' pit boxes on the infield edge of the track — one seat with Carl Edwards' team, one with Mark Martin's, and two with Greg Biffle's.

The auction is Saturday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Miller Lite Lobster Lounge.

The seats will be auctioned for the first time this year, and will be sold at the same time that the speedway regularly auctions "Drive of a Lifetime" rides around the track just before the race, said Cheryl LaPrade, executive director of the New Hampshire chapter of Speedway Children's Charities.

The Pit Box rentals are a new feature that will be offered regularly. Gappens said rental of one of the first two boxes will come Saturday, with the highest bidder having the option of placing the box almost anywhere on the track grounds — possibly even in the track's infield.

Pit Boxes, which have become popular at race tracks across the country, are former food shipping containers that the track purchased.

They are 20-by-8-foot steel crates with checkered flag awnings outside a 12-foot door. The boxes are equipped with barbecue grills, a bar, three tables, four chairs, a fire pit, a 46-inch LCD flat screen television with a satellite television system and dish, track lighting, full power and a number of other amenities.

Included with the boxes are grandstand tickets to all weekend races, as well as meals and beverages.

Gappens said the boxes can hold 10 to 25 people. Track officials are still working on the costs of the rentals, but Gappens said the auction should bring at least $2,000 for the first one. It will likely cost about $800 per person for the rentals, he said.

The boxes should be attractive to businesses, said David McGrath, the track's vice president of marketing and promotions.

But Gappens said they should appeal to fans who want to pool their money for the experience.

"It's a perfect setup for a bunch of guys," he said.

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