NASCAR Teams Descend Upon New Hampshire
Since 1990, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway has hosted one or two major NASCAR auto races under the Busch/Winston/Nextel/Sprint series banner. These are the biggest races in the New England states, and attract spectators from the northeastern U.S. and Canada. Since the races began at the track in 1990, race teams have flown an array of aircraft from their bases across the country to three main airports in the vicinity of the speedway; Concord, Laconia, and Manchester, all in New Hampshire.
Twenty years ago, over 100 aircraft would fly into these three airports for the weekend; the majority of these were operated for race officials and team transport. Aircraft would be a mix of turboprops such as Beech Super King Airs, Mitsubishi MU-2s and the occasional Piper Cheyenne, and jets like Cessna Citations, various Lears, Hawkers and Falcons. Laconia and Concord airports could attract more than 30 aircraft each, with Manchester hosting a handful more. Roush Fenway Racing even purchased former MGM Grand Air Boeing 727s as team transports for their NASCAR efforts; these were the largest jets in town in a sea of “heavy metal”.
Other teams were soon sending converted regional airliners, including Beech 1900s and Embraer 120s, carrying team personnel together on one trip, rather than on multiple smaller aircraft. Most of these aircraft would fly up to the area on Thursday and Friday, and leave after the marquee race finished on Sunday afternoon. Fast forward fifteen years or so, and some things have changed during the race week. There are fewer aircraft staying each weekend (maybe 50 or so), although the amount of flights seem to be steady at around 100. Shuttle flights utilizing larger aircraft such as Saab 2000 45-seat turboprops operate almost daily to and from Concord and Laconia.
Some fans make it a point to meet and greet the drivers, owners and crews at the airports as they arrive in the Granite State. Sometimes an autograph or two is signed, but staying “under the radar” is also an option when arriving at any of these three airports. Trying to figure out which jet is owned by whom used to be rather easy; in the old days most call signs contained the NASCAR number and driver’s initials in the registration, but it isn’t that easy to decipher today. Team names’ initials take the place of driver’s initials, and security sometimes dictates that a registration number has nothing to do with whom is aboard. Sometimes a team sponsor lends it’s aircraft to help airlift people , and using a fractional operator hides identities too.
Still, the twenty or so jets that arrived wearing artwork (some of it inconspicuous, some of it blatant) always attract attention. Do you know which driver/owner/team flies with these logos on their planes, and what types they are? Good luck.