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SMI CEO discusses decision to retain New Hampshire track GM guilty of lewdness

Speedway-Executive Arrested

FILE - In this April 5, 2010, file photo, Jerry Gappens, general manager for New Hampshire Motor Speedway, stands on the roof overlooking the track in Loudon, N.H. Gappens was arrested on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, on a misdemeanor charge of lewdness after police say they observed him and a 19-year-old woman in a parked car in Manchester, police said in a news release Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)


CONCORD, N.C. – Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith said New Hampshire Motor Speedway general manager Jerry Gappens went through “significant process” before pleading guilty to lewdness last week.

Gappens was arrested and charged after police in Manchester, N.H., said they observed him engaging in lewd contact Jan. 21 during a prostitution detail.

Jerry’s been with us a long time with a great record, and that was something that all of us were really disappointed and troubled to hear about earlier this year,” said Smith, whose company counts New Hampshire among its eight tracks that play host to NASCAR Sprint Cup races. “He’s gone through significant process not only with the court system, but as well as treatment, therapy and some other things.

“(In) our business, we consider our co-workers like family, so we’re extending forgiveness. We are praying for him and his family and hoping things work out. That’s what our decision was driven by.”

Smith said the decision to retain Gappens was driven more by company philosophy than the public response.

“We know that there’s a community impact,” Smith said. “I don’t live in New Hampshire, so I’m not there every day to take it all in, but for the most part, it was driven by our internal thinking (and) discussions.”

Gappens has been the general manager at NHMS since shortly after SMI bought the 1.058-mile track in 2008. Prior to that, he had been a longtime media relations director at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In a statement last Thursday, SMI said, “Jerry Gappens was suspended following his January arrest. While the legal process ran its course, the company placed several requirements on Mr. Gappens in order for him to return to his duties. As this is a personnel matter, the company will not discuss these conditions. The company is satisfied with Mr. Gappens’ progress to date and he will return as general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway.”

In a statement after his guilty plea to a class B misdemeanor in Manchester Circuit Court, Gappens said, “I did not act according to the standards that I have as a person and as a husband. I sincerely apologize to my wife and family for the hurt and public embarrassment caused by my uncharacteristic behavior. I also apologize to my New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports family, friends and colleagues. I take full responsibility for my actions and I will continue to make amends. In moving forward, I would hope people — especially those who know me — will look at my overall conduct and contributions, and not judge me on this isolated incident.”