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New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. (PAULA TRACY PHOTO)

By Paula Tracy

CONCORD — Pit crews and drivers for an upcoming NASCAR race in Loudon and their close to 12,000 ticket-holders are descending on the state, but there are measures in place to help protect the public, Gov. Chris Sununu said at his news conference on Thursday.

Sununu said what is likely to be the largest public event since the pandemic closed many businesses in the state and forced many people to stay home for months, then to social distance, is a sign that life is getting back to normal, with some differences.

Sunday’s Foxwood Resort Casino 301 NASCAR Cup Series Race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at 3 p.m. will allow about a third of the typical number of fans to enter the stands and cheer on their favorite drivers.

“It’s an exciting weekend but looks a lot different,” Sununu said. He said last week he wrote a letter to Steve Phelps of NASCAR that he would allow for a “modified quarantine” for race workers. Rather than having to quarantine for 14 days prior to entering the state, as is required for all those coming outside of New England, staff, drivers and other NASCAR employees will be restricted to NHMS and their hotel.

Sununu said they can’t even go out for coffee. He said NHMS staff has assured him that 90 percent of the ticketholders are coming in from New England and the rest are to self-testify that they have quarantined for 14 days prior to coming for the one-day race.

About 12,000 tickets are being sold for the event after officials worked with the state Department of Health and Human Services to come to an agreement on how they can hold a race safely here in a pandemic.

“They cannot go out in public,” Sununu stressed.

He said there will also be modifications for open and closing ceremonies for social distancing to be achieved.

“So it will look and feel different,” than the traditional NASCAR that has been held here for years.

Race fans also will need to go through temperature and health screenings before entering the stands.

Sununu said he and Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, felt confident that an elevated message to wear masks, practice good hygiene with washing hands frequently and staying 6 feet apart will help New Hampshire avoid an outbreak.

New Hampshire has among the lowest rates of the novel coronavirus in the country though officials are tracking a slight uptick in the number of cases over the past few weeks, Chan said earlier in the week.

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