With a checkered flag waving inside the Pennichuck Middle School library, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau affixed Nashua’s name to the $20,000 check on Wednesday, officially declaring her city as the winner of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s inaugural Race to Benefit Education.
Nashua won the education grant back on July 15 when NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne found his way into Victory Lane at “The Magic Mile” in the 20th annual LENOX Industrial Tools 301. On Wednesday, Nashua Board of Education president Robert Hallowell unveiled the city’s plans for the money.
“It’s called the Race to Read Program,” said Hallowell. “It’s an incentive to read over the summer in the hopes that if our students have to read one book they will choose to read some others, too.”
In the theme of Kahne’s car number, 5, the Race to Read Program is for all outgoing fifth-graders, who will be given a choice of five books to choose from in the spring. Around 1,000 students across the Nashua school system will then vote on what book they’d like to read over the summer and “whichever one gets the most votes will be the book purchased with the grant money,” said Hallowell, who was one of 13 city representatives from across the Granite State that took part in Race to Benefit Education draft at the Legislative Office Building in Concord, N.H., on June 26.
The cities represented included Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Franklin, Keene, Laconia, Lebanon, Manchester, Portsmouth, Rochester, Somersworth and Nashua. Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of NHMS, picked each city at random from a ping pong ball spinner, with each city getting a choice of two drivers paired by their place in the Sprint Cup standings at the time (i.e. 1st-26th, 2nd-25th, 3rd-24th, … ). Nashua picked fifth and chose the pairing of Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski.
“I’m a father of three children and I realize the importance of education. I’m also very aware of some of the budget restrictions that are facing some of our school systems in our various communities” said Gappens, who served as the honorary flagman on Wednesday. “We wanted this to serve two purposes: to provide some much-needed money in support of education here in New Hampshire, and to create awareness about New Hampshire Motor Speedway and try to make some new race fans.
“I think we were able to achieve both of those goals.”
In addition to the $20,000 education grant, Gappens presented Hallowell with 50 complimentary tickets to the SYLVANIA 300 on Sept. 23, the second race in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series playoff. The speedway VP and GM challenged Hallowell “to use those tickets to figure out a program to reward teachers or administrators in the Nashua school system that help best benefit education, and let them be our guest at our race on Sept. 23.”
Gappens also hinted at the Race to Benefit Education being an annual event. And while nothing is set in stone as of yet, Mayor Lozeau sees how such an event can inspire city pride and unity
“It’s great that Nashua was able to benefit from New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s generosity, but it was also a fun event all around,” said Lozeau. “It got the schools involved and the city was able to cheer on somebody to win. It was great.”