Schedule realignment: Good for Vegas, but is it good for NASCAR?

No lobsters were harmed in this production. (Getty Images)

What began as a rumor this past weekend turned into fact Wednesday when representatives from Speedway Motorsports Inc. and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced that Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be getting a second weekend of NASCAR racing starting in 2018.

Not only will the venue in the desert get a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but an Xfinity and Camping World Truck series race as well.  The announcement came only moments after the board voted to accept the contract that will bring NASCAR to the city in September of next year.  The vote was a sure thing, given that across the hallway two NASCAR Cup showcars were parked in front of a stage. Of course, it might have been fun had someone had a dissenting vote and the measure failed (“I’m just not sure”). There was no dissenting vote however and the announcement was made on time.

The first race held at the Vegas oval was the Indy Racing League’s Las Vegas 500K in 1996; that was followed by a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in 1996, then an Xfinity Series race in 1997.

In 2018 however, the track will have a total of six NASCAR races per year, two Cup, two Xfinity, and two truck races.

“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,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “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.”

A $140 million impact would be welcomed by any city in America, perhaps none more than Loudon New Hampshire, and Sparta Kentucky.  Especially since both cities will be losing races at the expense of Las Vegas.  The extra Cup date will come from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, another track, like Vegas, owned by Speedway Motorsports Incorporated and which currently has two Cup dates. The September NASCAR Xfinity Series race will come from Kentucky Speedway, which hosted a standalone Xfinity race in September.

But in the end will the loss of these two dates do more harm than good?  Will there be hoards of rabid old school fans rioting at the new glass tower that is NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach?  Has Frances Ferko already put together a legal team and is ready to head to the courthouse? (Google it kids)

Not likely.

That’s because at the end of the day there are a couple of facts standing in the way.  Mainly (sorry New Englanders), because while there are no “bad” NASCAR races; some are better than others, and truthfully, the races at New Hampshire belong in the “others” category.  They just aren’t that good. Yes, the facility is good, and on the surface, a 1-mile track is better than the cookie-cutter 1.5 milers, like Vegas, to most fans. It’s just that the flat 1-mile at Loudon doesn’t lend itself to a great deal of passing. Jeff Burton even won a race there years ago after leading every lap.

Going to Vegas means star power; scantily clad women with big feathers on their head, and the Strip. Sure it is a 1.5 mile track, but it’s one of the better ones.

As for Kentucky, sadly the standalone Xfinity race wasn’t all the well attended.  Now, if they were taking an Xfinity race from say Bristol, or someplace like (giggady) South Boston, or Myrtle Beach, well I for one would be leading the charge in Daytona Beach like Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill. But they aren’t so…

The moves then aren’t all that bad and there’s a new rumor that the fall Charlotte race next year, the one in the Chase, uh playoffs, will be on the road course. A road course race at Charlotte is kinda weird (Watkins Glen! Road America! Sebring!), but fans (and media) have wanted a road course in the playoffs, so the trade off might be huge.

Besides we can console ourselves with the fact that one less race in New Hampshire means the life of a lobster will be saved . That and I’ll need to save a lot more money to lose in the slot machines.

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