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NASCAR: Vegas II?

July 13, 2010 7:06 AM by Micah Roberts

Speedway lobbying for fall event

It may be too early to get overly excited, but what the heck, let’s do it anyway and begin the planning. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway and its parent company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., have sent a schedule change request to NASCAR, as has International Speedway Corporation’s Kansas Speedway. There has been a lot of speculation and rumors abound that the extent of the request is to move dates from each of the company’s current dates at existing tracks to give Kansas and Las Vegas each a second date.

Another one of SMI’s tracks, Kentucky Motor Speedway, has also requested a change that would give that facility their first NASCAR Cup date.

LVMS has confirmed that they have sent a request for a schedule change, but wouldn’t expand on any details for fear of doing anything during the process that could negatively impact a possible second date.

And who would want to louse up a chance at a second date in Las Vegas; this is big money on the line for everyone. February’s NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas had an economic impact on the city of $165 million. Getting another race weekend for a fall date would be just the kind of adrenaline shot the city could use.

In order for the changes to happen, ISC and SMI would both have to concede race dates from one of their existing tracks. NASCAR will not be extending the season past 36 races.

The logical choice for SMI would be to move one date each from tracks that have two races, the first being at New Hampshire and the second being Atlanta if Kentucky is approved for a date.

ISC’s best situation would be to strip California from one of its dates that never draws crowds in order to give Kansas – with its newly approved gaming license – an additional date.

When SMI bought New Hampshire in 2007, it was initially thought by many that the plan behind the purchase would be to get Las Vegas a second date in light of the $20 million in renovations done to the track. The renovations turned the Las Vegas facility into the most fan-friendly race experience in NASCAR and set a standard of entertainment for the sport that no other track can match.

SMI Chairman and CEO, Burton Smith, got the probable cause ball rolling a week prior to their June 27 at New Hampshire when he demanded that his track be charged less by the state police for their services over the course of the Loudon, New Hampshire race weekend. The bullying and power moves by Smith are classic and have always worked as evidenced by similar tactics done in Concord, North Carolina when he threatened to leave the county if they didn’t approve his drag strip, which was almost immediately approved.

Let’s hope for Las Vegas’ sake that the mere quibble of $100,000 with the New Hampshire police is enough to move one of its dates, a date that would likely be a Chase race. There even is the possibility that the final race of the Chase for the Championship could be moved to Las Vegas as NASCAR is always trying to liven up and broaden its product.

Even though NASCAR owns ISC and it wouldn’t be financially beneficial for them to switch their Homestead-Miami date, which is currently the final race of the year, they do know what a draw and level of excitement that would come from having the final race in Las Vegas.

The additional draw for Smith to move the New Hampshire race to Las Vegas is obviously financially motivated. Even though both tracks sell-out consistently, New Hampshire seats 50,000 less than Las Vegas which over the course of a single weekend can boost revenues for SMI up to 40% more between the two. Consider the concessions of a typical Vegas race fan, who chooses the alcoholic – and more expensive – beverage with regularity, and that alone should be enticing.

When factoring in rumors of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority offering to sponsor a second Cup date for a hefty $6 million price tag, a sponsorship fee that is well above the norm in NASCAR, there really isn’t a lot of tough decisions to make for SMI. LVCVA wouldn’t confirm the rumor when asked, but did say they would love to have another date and seemed pretty well-versed in all the details of what was going on in New Hampshire.

"Bright lights city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire." Yes, Viva Las Vegas is where people want to visit. It’s where fans from all over, in particular West Coast NASCAR fans, want to plan their race experience and vacation around. The city creates a vibe like no other; events and happenings are simply made bigger and better by being in Las Vegas and that will translate well into TV ratings, which benefits not only SMI, but also NASCAR in the long run.

It’s more than wishful thinking; it looks like it’s really going to happen, and Vegas didn’t even need Mayor Oscar Goodman campaigning with showgirls.

No word on when the official 2011 NASCAR schedule will be released, but expect something by early September.

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