SMI Shuffles Race Lineup; Vegas Gets Second Date

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 9 2017

Las Vegas will have two Cup races in 2018, it was announced this week. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Las Vegas Motor Speedway has secured a coveted second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race weekend for the 2018 season and beyond via an intramural “realignment” affecting two other facilities in the Speedway Motorsports, Inc., empire.

SMI President/CEO Marcus Smith made the announcement during a news conference with Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority officials at Cashman Center on Wednesday, two days before the green flag will fall on LVMS’ single 2017 NASCAR weekend. The 1.5-mile LVMS oval will host its second Cup race beginning in the fall of 2018 in addition to its annual March NASCAR weekend, with the Cup date coming from sister SMI facility New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s September schedule slot.

The unsponsored New England 300 on Sept. 24, 2017 will be NHMS’ final fall Cup race. There was no mention of the realignment on NHMS’ official website. NHMS apparently will retain its mid-July Cup/Xfinity weekend dates in 2018.

LVMS also will welcome a second NASCAR Xfinity Series race beginning in the fall of 2018 _ from sister facility Kentucky Speedway  _ and an additional NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from NHMS beginning in the spring of 2018.

The Vegas realignment deal reportedly is for seven years at $2.5-million annually.

With the realignment both of LVMS’ NASCAR weekends will feature races from NASCAR’s top three national touring series _ the first facility on the NASCAR schedule to do so. Official race dates will be announced later this year by NASCAR as part of the release of full 2018 schedules.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Speedway Motorsports and Las Vegas Motor Speedway to create a NASCAR spectacle worthy of the greatest racing in the world and the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World,’^” Smith said in a statement from SMI’s Charlotte Motor Speedway headquarters in Concord, N.C. “It’s taken a tremendous amount of work to make this happen and we are very thankful to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and NASCAR for their support in our endeavor to create a tripleheader NASCAR weekend in such a world-class destination.”

LVMS first hosted a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in 1996, added a NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 1997 and will host its 20th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event, the Kobalt 400, on Sunday. The first race held at the facility north of the famed Vegas Strip was the Indy Racing League’s Las Vegas 500K in 1996.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s 1.058-mile oval has hosted two Cup events annually since 1997. “The Magic Mile” _ largest sports and entertainment facility in New England _hosted its first Cup series event in 1993 under ownership of track founder Bob Bahre. O. Bruton Smith, SMI’s executive chairman and Marcus Smith’s father, purchased the facility from Bahre in November 2007 following years of contentious negotiations.

“Fans and tourism officials in New Hampshire and Kentucky should know that we are still very committed to creating motorsports entertainment in those regions,” said Marcus Smith, who largely has taken over the day-to-day duties of running SMI from his NASCAR Hall of Fame father. “We will work hard to make sure the July NASCAR race weekends that we will continue to host in New Hampshire and Kentucky are bigger and better than ever before for our fans, sponsors and stakeholders.”

Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger put a positive spin on the realignment shuffle.

“We accomplished great things with the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in September, and now it will continue to grow during this exciting new weekend,” Simendinger said in a statement from Sparta, Ky. The realignment will affect the Xfinity Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 night race booked for Sept. 23.  

“We were the last Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series track to hold an Xfinity Series race on a non-Cup weekend,” Simendinger said. “It makes sense to combine all three NASCAR national touring series as this big weekend in Las Vegas is launched. I fully expect Las Vegas to be THE place for NASCAR fans to be in the fall, just as it is in the spring.

“Myrtle Beach is a great partner. We look forward to another exciting race weekend with them as the title sponsor in 2017 and will work together to find more creative ways to deliver their message of fun in the sun starting in 2018.”

Kentucky Speedway opened in 2000 but did not host its first Cup race until 2011. The 1.5-mile track’s 2017 NASCAR schedule features Camping World Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Cup night races from July 6-8.

Wednesday’s announcement confirmed a rumor that picked up steam last weekend during NASCAR’s annual spring visit to Atlanta Motor Speedway, another 1.5-mile SMI facility located in Hampton, Ga.

“We’re honored that NASCAR has entrusted us with a second NASCAR weekend,” LVMS President Chris Powell said in a statement. “We’ve pursued a second NASCAR premier-series race weekend for quite some time, so this news is monumental for everyone at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as well as everyone in our wonderful city.”

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, echoed Powell’s remarks. “Las Vegas and Las Vegas Motor Speedway have become great destinations for NASCAR fans,” O’Donnell said. “The experience is unique to any other in our sport. We look forward to having NASCAR racing there for two race weekends in 2018.” Las Vegas also is home to NASCAR’s season-ending and week-long awards ceremonies and banquet.

The addition of a second NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas looms as a significant economic boost for the region, with the news welcomed by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Board of Directors.

“We have outstanding support from the LVCVA and other Las Vegas leaders, and we’re supremely confident that we’ll host two top-notch race weekends,” Powell said. “Today’s news will create lasting memories for our fans and will provide immeasurable economic impact for Southern Nevada.”

Rossi Ralenkotter, president/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, noted the city has become a major sports destination for a variety of championship and professional events.

“Las Vegas, NASCAR and Las Vegas Motor Speedway have developed a strong and successful partnership, and we are certain this second race will prove to be another great success,” Ralenkotter said in a release. “Last year’s March race attracted more than 115,000 fans, with more than 96,000 coming from out-of-town, and generated nearly $140-million in economic impact. We have worked with LVMS and NASCAR for years to bring a second Cup race to Las Vegas, and now we are committed to making the fall race just as successful for all of us.”

Lawrence Weekly, chairman of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Clark County commissioner, added, “Las Vegas is the ideal destination for a second NASCAR Cup race, and this addition will delight the thousands of fans who love visiting Southern Nevada to watch their favorite drivers in action. As a city, we are uniquely positioned to provide sports fans with a top-notch experience, and our energy and passion are the perfect complement to NASCAR.”

SMI also plays host to double NASCAR race weekends on the half-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, as well as a single event on the road-course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

LVMS’ 2017 NASCAR weekend will begin with the Stratosphere Pole Day on Friday, with Cup qualifying beginning at 4:45 p.m., (Pacific Time). The Xfinity Series’ Boyd Gaming 300 is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday. The weekend will culminate Sunday with the Kobalt 400 at 12:30 p.m.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 9 2017
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