Second Las Vegas race could shake up NASCAR schedule – USA TODAY
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A vote expected to happen in Las Vegas Wednesday could have a dramatic impact on future NASCAR schedules.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss and possibly vote on a sponsorship proposal that could result in Las Vegas Motor Speedway adding a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race to its schedule.
If the proposed $2.5 million sponsorship deal is approved and parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. puts a second race in Las Vegas, it’s likely that the race would fall within the September-November playoff run. The current Las Vegas race on the schedule typically is run in March (this year on March 12), and the weather extremes of Vegas summers would make a mid-year date there practically impossible.
Although it’s possible that talks could result in a scrambling of the schedule involving several tracks, it seems likely that SMI, which operates eight Cup facilities, would move one of its fall dates to Las Vegas. On the current schedule, SMI tracks in Loudon, N.H. Charlotte and Fort Worth host fall events.
It’s never easy to predict what SMI kingpin Bruton Smith might do in any given situation, but it seems unlikely that he would move a race from SMI’s flagship facility in Charlotte to Las Vegas. That leaves New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where attendance has suffered in recent years and where Smith has not been able to add lighting, in the crosshairs.
SMI also operates tracks in Bristol, Tenn.; Sparta, Ky.; Sonoma, Calif., and Hampton, Ga. Bristol Motor Speedway hosts two Cup races, while Kentucky Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway have one each. Including the May All-Star race, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts three Cup events; New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway have two apiece.
There are obvious reasons to add another date in Las Vegas. While all NASCAR tracks, including Las Vegas Motor Speedway, have seen attendance decline in the past decade, LVMS has maintained relatively good crowd totals.
PHOTOS: 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races
The Las Vegas track clearly benefits from the fact that the city is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. NASCAR fans get a race, along with access to world-class entertainment and an array of hotel/casinos that stretches the imagination. According to the tourism office proposal, last year’s Las Vegas NASCAR weekend attracted 96,400 visitors and produced an economic impact of $139 million.
Adding a playoff race in Las Vegas would put more punch and sparkle into NASCAR’s 10-race run to the championship, the winner of which has been celebrated in recent years at the post-season awards banquet along the Vegas strip. On the flip side, however, a Vegas playoff race would add another 1.5-mile track to the championship lineup. The 10-race playoff schedule already includes five 1.5-mile facilities.
Although each of the tracks has its own somewhat distinctive layout, fans often deride the 1.5-milers as “cookie-cutter,” and there has been significant fan interest in adding a second short track (to join Martinsville Speedway) or a road course to the playoff lineup.
NASCAR has taken steps to improve the level of its competition, particularly at the intermediate-size tracks, where racing has been more parade-like than fierce in recent seasons.
Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, another 1.5-mile track, was run under new lower-downforce rules, but there was no extended competition at the front of the pack in a race in which Kevin Harvick led 292 of the 325 laps. Brad Keselowski won when Harvick was penalized for speeding on pit road late in the race.