Las Vegas gets second Cup date in 2018; New Hampshire loses a Cup date

Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host two NASCAR tripleheaders next year, the track announced Wednesday.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., is moving a Cup date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will have the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Trucks for both its spring and fall events in 2018. The Cup and Truck races will come from New Hampshire. The Xfinity race will come from the standalone event at Kentucky Speedway.

New Hampshire will retain its July Cup weekend.

Las Vegas’ fall race weekend will be announced at a later date by NASCAR but is expected to take place in the third or fourth weekend of September (what had been New Hampshire’s spot).

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of SMI, said the move is best for the sport.

“Over time it’s something that we thought about,” Smith said of the moving dates. “This became the right time.

“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. I think from a NASCAR perspective to have a tripleheader weekend in the fall of the season is going to be a tremendous positive for the whole sport.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will pay $17.5 million — $2.5 million a year for seven years —  in a sponsorship agreement with the track. The Convention and Visitors Authority will pay a $1 million sponsorship fee for the spring race and $1 million sponsorship fee for the fall race. The Convention and Visitors Authority also will contribute $500,000 to a marketing fund.

The contract goes through 2024 and can be extended for three years at the same rate.

Drivers attending Wednesday’s announcement were Daytona 500 winner Kurt BuschKyle BuschBrendan GaughanNoah Gragson and Spencer Gallagher.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? Money, money, money. Vegas has more of it than New Hampshire does. Simply, this makes business sense. Las Vegas is expected to have higher attendance than New Hampshire has had. New Hampshire also was held back by an agreement with local residents agreeing not to hold night races at the track. That came about after those residents filed a civil lawsuit against the track years ago. The track also has wanted the two-lane road leading to the facility widened but the state hasn’t done so.

HOW DOES THIS MOVE IMPACT THE SPORT? It gives NASCAR the chance to alter the playoff schedule next year. While it is most likely that Las Vegas slips into New Hampshire’s spot in September, there’s another way to look at it. Why not move it back later in the playoffs and create a West Coast swing at the end? One idea would be to have the season end with Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami. That’s just one option, but this opens the door to changes — if NASCAR will do so.

WHAT’S POSITIVE ABOUT THIS CHANGE? For the sport, it is better to have two dates at Las Vegas in that they will be further apart than what New Hampshire’s dates are. Las Vegas is the hot town in sports with the NHL moving there and the Oakland  Raiders looking to move there in the near future. The belief is it will help raise the sport by being in Las Vegas.

WHAT’S NEGATIVE ABOUT THIS CHANGE? NASCAR adds another 1.5-mile speedway to the schedule and possibly the playoffs. That would mean there could be five 1.5-mile tracks among the 10 playoff races next year with Las Vegas replacing New Hampshire and Charlotte using the infield road course with its oval for its playoff race. Move also won’t be popular with Northeast racing fans or fans who like the racing at the 1-mile track even with Marcus Smith saying they plan to create a special modified weekend in that September slot. 

NBC Sports


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