The Legislative Office Building in Concord, N.H., was the host site of “The Race to Benefit Education,” an announcement made by New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials today. The NASCAR themed draft paired 26 drivers with 13 city representatives across the Granite State, awarding $20,000 in education grants to the city that chooses the winning driver of the upcoming 20th anniversary NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 on July 15.

Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of NHMS, announced “The Race to Benefit Education” will donate the $20,000 on behalf of zMax and New Hampshire Motor Speedway

“It was a concept made up by Bruton Smith, our chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc.,” says Gappens. “We thought it would be a great way to get towns to pay attention to the race, cheer for a driver and then receive some much-needed funding for their programs. I think this is something we can do every year with different towns and eventually have full coverage of New Hampshire and build some more race fans throughout this great state.”

The cities represented today were those with a mayor, including Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Franklin, Keene, Laconia, Lebanon, Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth, Rochester and Somersworth. And while scheduling conflicts made it difficult for all mayors to attend, a representative from every community was on hand to participate.

Gappens picked cities at random from a ping pong ball spinner, with the first pick going to Lebanon city councilor Sue Prentiss, who picked defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya.

“It made my job definitely harder, but I was very excited to represent the city of Lebanon to have the first pick,” says Prentiss. “I talked to race fans that I know and Tony Stewart has done well in New Hampshire previously and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to pick Tony.”

Somersworth, Laconia, Berlin, Nashua, Concord, Portsmouth, Dover, Claremont, Franklin, Manchester, Keene and Rochester followed, with each city getting a choice of two drivers paired by their place in the Sprint Cup standings (i.e. 1st-26th, 2nd-25th, 3rd-24th, … ). Representatives made their picks by placing their city’s name on a large board that contained the 13 driver pairings.

To help make the best pick possible, legendary pit reporter Dick Berggren was on hand to share his extensive knowledge of all things NASCAR. Berggren, a Massachusetts native, recently retired as FOX’s pit reporter after the Dover race on June 3, signifying an end to his 32 years as a TV pit reporter. Berggren now serves as the president of the Northeast Motorsports Museum, which will be built on New Hampshire Motor Speedway property.

“This is was a very important event today as $20,000 will be going toward education, which is always significant,” says Berggren. “The speedway recognizes its responsibility in the community and I have to say that this racetrack, more than other businesses, gives back to the people of New Hampshire in a big way.”

The following are the pairings for the “The Race to Benefit Education in the order they were selected:

Lebanon: Council member Sue Prentiss selected Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya
Somersworth: Council member Dale Sprague selected Ryan Newman and Paul Menard
Laconia: City manager Scott Myers selected Jimmie Johnson and A.J. Allmendinger
Berlin: Council member Diana Nelson selected Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon
Nashua: School board president Robert Hallowell selected Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne
Concord: Mayor Pro Tem Dan St. Hilaire selected Matt Kenseth and Bobby Labonte
Portsmouth: Council member Esther Kennedy selected Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers
Dover: Dover School board member Mike Limanni selected Kyle Busch and Joey Logano
Claremont: Council members Chris Irish, Thomas Burnham and Andrew Austin selected Greg Biffle and Regan Smith
Franklin: Mayor Ken Merrifield selected Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton
Manchester: Mayor Ted Gatsas selected Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray
Keene: State Senator Molly Kelly selected Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose
Rochester: Code enforcement officer Jim Grant selected Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola

Should one of the aforementioned 26 drivers not win the LENOX Industrial Tools 301, Gappens will hold a blind draw to determine which city will receive the education grant.

In addition to being paired with a driver, each community leader was given 10 tickets to the F.W. Webb 200 NASCAR Nationwide race, the Town Fair Tire 100 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race and the SYLVANIA Silverstar ZXE Global Rally Cross race on Saturday, July 14, as well as the LENOX Industrial Tools NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, July 15. The tickets will be distributed to members of each community.

To cheer on your community’s respective drivers in the upcoming LENOX Industrial Tools 301 or the SYLVANIA 300 on Sept. 23, please stop by our Ticket Office, visit the speedway website at www.nhms.com, or call our Ticket Hotline at (603) 783-4931.