Las Vegas Motor Speedway appears to be in line to host two races on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018, for the first time.
According to an article in last Friday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors held a special meeting last week “to consider a seven-year $2.5 million annual sponsorship agreement with NASCAR that would include the addition of a fall race at the speedway.”
Las Vegas currently hosts the third race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season; this weekend’s Kobalt 400. The agreement -- reportedly a seven-year, $17.5 million pact with an additional three-year option – includes $1 million in per-event sponsorship, along with an additional $500,000 annual marketing budget for “two NASCAR first-tier sanctioned races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway every year during the term of this agreement.”
The Convention and Visitors Authority issued a written statement, saying, “Until the board votes on the proposal, it’s premature for us to comment on it. We have a great relationship with Las Vegas Motor Speedway and NASCAR and we look forward to continuing the partnership.”
According to working materials provided to the board, last year's Las Vegas race attracted 96,400 out-of-town visitors and contributed $139.2 million to the local economy. Based on those numbers, the Convention and Visitors Authority appears ready to pay for a second event.
A media release from Las Vegas Motor Speedway was fairly non-committal, saying, “When there is more information to provide, we will do so.”
NASCAR Senior Vice President for Racing Operations Jim Cassidy said, "We are constantly working with promoters to discuss and develop NASCAR schedules. We have not finalized any schedules for 2018 or beyond, but will announce them as they become final."
|SMI's Marcus Smith|
Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Marcus Smith said Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway that “We’ve always said we’d entertain a second date at Las Vegas.” He declined, however, to discuss where that race might come from, unleashing a firestorm of speculation in the NASCAR garage.
Sources say it is unlikely that NASCAR will add a 37th point-counting event to its already overstuffed premier-series schedule, meaning that another venue will need to relinquish an event. NASCAR has long allowed track owners to relocate events within their ownership portfolio, making it likely – though not cast in stone – that the second Las Vegas race would come from an existing SMI track; Charlotte, New Hampshire, Atlanta, Sonoma, Bristol, Kentucky or Texas Motor Speedway.
Atlanta, Sonoma and Kentucky host single races each season, leaving Charlotte, New Hampshire and Texas – all of whom currently host second events in the fall -- most likely to face the chopping block.
When former Speedway Motorsports, Inc. CEO Bruton Smith acquired New Hampshire International Speedway from founder Bob Bahre in 2007, he made no secret of his plans to transfer one of its MENCS events to Las Vegas. He changed those plans after witnessing the support northeast race fans have traditionally shown for “The Magic Mile,” but last week’s report has raised anxiety levels in the Granite State once again.
Northeast race fans aren’t the only ones unhappy with the reports.
Former series champion Kevin Harvick – an outspoken proponent of running only one race per season at each venue – said that while he enjoys racing at LVMS, the prospect of two races at the desert oval concerns him.
"I love Vegas and I think it’s a great atmosphere," said the Stewart Haas Racing driver. "I think it would be good. But sometimes you turn one great (race) into two mediocre ones. That’s something you have to consider and has to be evaluated.”
He cited the example of Auto Club Speedway, which struggled to attract crowds for many years, until cutting back to a single race each season.
“When we had one race, it was great,” he said. “When we had two, it wasn’t so great. You have to be careful of not doing that.”