LVMS radically pursues younger crowd

Chris Powell always has been nattily attired during news conferences at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But the speedway president showed off a different look this week, stepping from GQ corporate to American grunge.

The dapper suit was replaced by an untucked, unbuttoned long-sleeve shirt over baggy, low-riding jeans. Untied athletic shoes replaced his customary leather loafers.

He even carried a skateboard as he loped to the podium.

But Wednesday's dress-down was perfect for Powell to announce a radical Youth Initiative program for NASCAR Weekend at his track from March 4 to 6.

Sprint Cup attendance continued to drop last year except for races at Las Vegas, and second visits to Bristol, Tenn., and Fort Worth, Texas. Each of those tracks is owned by Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc.

Coincidence? I think not.

Many tracks have cut prices and tried to provide a better experience at races to keep old fans and attract new ones.

But none, as far as I can tell, has made as bold a move as Powell.

He unveiled a marketing plan, which went into effect Thursday, to provide a half-price ticket and free pass into the popular Neon Garage to fans age 15 and younger who attend NASCAR Weekend with a full-paying adult.

The deal allows young fans to attend all three days of Cup weekend for as little as $50 or just Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 Cup race for $25. Couple it with the Neon pass and the savings could be from $135 to nearly $200.

The deal is open to all seating options.

It's not just $5 off or 10 percent off.

And it's not just for tykes.

"One of the things I've heard over and over (is that we need) to make the sport more attractive to young people," Powell said. "I thought why don't we do something that really makes an impact. This will make a big impact."

Powell said he can't promise the youth program will continue beyond this year and added that ticket sales are on par with a year ago, so it's not a desperation move to fill the stands. He expects another crowd for the Cup race like last year's estimated 150,000.

"This is not a push of the panic button," he said. "It's a legitimate effort to appeal to fans especially in this community. Our ticket prices have been out of reach for a lot of parents to bring their kids."

To further make the weekend appealing to a demographic attracted to extreme sports, Red Bull -- the drink of teenagers -- will help create the Extreme Sports Zone on the midway for skateboarding, BMX bicycle riding and racing for remote-controlled cars. Kids are encouraged to bring their boards, bikes and RC cars.

This will give old fogies like me something to watch.

Supercross legend Ricky Carmichael races regularly in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, 11-time X Game gold medalist Travis Pastrana is expected to compete in some NASCAR Nationwide Series race this season and freestyle motocross pioneer Brian "Metal Mulisha" Deegan will test the NASCAR waters this year.

In time, those popular extreme sports athletes might stimulate more interest in stock-car racing, but affordable youth tickets can have an immediate impact.

"This is putting our money where our mouth is," Powell said.

Dude, if the program succeeds you might consider getting some tattoos and piercings.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at or 702-383-0247. Visit Wolf's for more news and commentary.