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NASCAR doubles down on Vegas races

By Norm Clarke  (VSiN Columnist) 

March 9, 2017 09:32 AM
Kyle Busch at the announcement of Las Vegas landing a second NASCAR race starting in 2018. @Norm Clark photo

With ratings and revenue in decline, is NASCAR counting on Las Vegas and its bright lights and big track for a turnaround?

That appears to be the strategy behind Las Vegas landing a second Cup series race after a 10-year chase.

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of the Speedway Motorsports Inc., empire which includes LVMS and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said as much during a press conference Wednesday at Cashman Center.

“Over time it’s something that we thought about,” said Smith, referring to the decision to transfer one of New Hampshire’s tracks dates to Las Vegas in 2018.

“This became the right time,” said Smith, the son of ailing NASCAR Hall of Famer Bruton Smith.

“It’s a matter of all the great things for the whole sport of NASCAR to be coming to Las Vegas, a city that has worldwide renown and attention and draw.”

Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with its 140,000 seats, will become the only NASCAR track to host weekend triple headers of the three racing series.

The bonus for fans and TV: the fall race in Las Vegas means the venue will be part of the Chase for the Cup, the dramatic playoff finale held over the last 10 races of the season. The hope is that the added drama will pack ‘em in for a second time.

LVMS president Chris Powell isn’t concerned about a drop-off in interest.

“I think it will be the same,” he said of the likely September date.

Powell pulled his senior vice president of sales and marketing, Kevin Camper, into the conversation with a reporter.

“Fans love coming here,” said Camper, “and they’ll come for both races.”

They ticked off the demographics: About 70 percent of the NASCAR Weekend crowd comes from outside of Nevada, which makes up 25-30 percent. Southern California and Utah each produce 10 percent of the turnout.

A stunning statistic, said Camper, is 60 percent of the people who buy weekend tickets “are RV folks. We have 5,000 camping spots.

“I guarantee we’ll have 10 countries represented,” Camper said.

“Chevrolet is bringing 60 folks from China into the races this weekend,” he added. “Somebody sent me a note from General Motors yesterday asking me if I had brushed up on my Chinese.”

On this day…

March 9, 2005: Federal agents storm Piero’s Italian Cuisine, a popular restaurant a few blocks off the Strip, and arrest former New York City police detectives Louis Eppolito and Steve Caracappa, both accused of being Mob hitmen. Both are convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The scene and heard

Cirque du Soleil has reached agreements in principle for five-year extensions for “O” and “Zumanity,” according to Jerry Nadal, senior vice president for Cirque’s resident shows division. It was earlier announced that “Mystere” had signed a five-year extension at Treasure Island that would take it through a 28-year run…

I hear Pia Zadora may soon be introducing a President Donald Trump-Kellyanne Conway skit to her show at Piero’s Monkey Bar. She’d play you-know-who and veteran local actor Rusty Meyer may have the inside as Trump. They clicked at the recent 51st birthday party of R-J columnist John Katsilometes at the Tuscany. Meyer played Col. Tom Parker in Cirque du Soleil’s “Elvis” production at Aria at CityCenter…

My Las Vegas Country Club neighbors tell me fan mail for Ann-Margret still arrives at the Regency Towers condo where the Swedish bombshell stayed during headliner gigs over the years. She was 22 and Elvis Presley was 28 when they met in 1963 while filming “Viva Las Vegas.” Sparks flew and Elvis sent her a giant heart shaped out of red roses on opening night during her Las Vegas openings.


​NASCAR legend Tony Stewart, with his girlfriend, model and actress Penelope Jimenez, at “Absinthe” (Caesars Palace) on Wednesday night. . .

ESPN’s Matt Barrie, with friends at Topgolf (MGM Grand) on Monday…Gonzaga’s men’s basketball team at Topgolf on Sunday.  

The bottom line

“In California, an experimental self-driving Uber car drove through six red lights. In other words, it just passed its Los Angeles driving test.” – Late-night TV host Conan O’Brien.

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