Second local Cup race no priority


Don't start saving to buy tickets for a second Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It's not happening.

Use the extra cash -- if you're one of the fortunate few to have some -- to pay for gas, bread and milk instead.

After Speedway Motorsports Inc. and its chairman, Bruton Smith, purchased the track in New Hampshire late last year, it seemed possible Smith would move one its two Cup races to Las Vegas.

Or maybe he would move one of two Cup races from his track near Atlanta to Las Vegas.

Perhaps he will buy another track with multiple races for NASCAR's premier series and move one west.

Smith has been lobbying for a second Las Vegas date since buying the track in 1998, but his pleas have fallen on deaf ears at NASCAR.

The prospects of getting a second Cup race at the local speedway seem to be off the front burner, if not removed from the stove completely.

The latest roadblock was thrown up last week when Smith announced that SMI -- of which he is majority stockholder -- was finalizing a deal to purchase Kentucky Speedway. He said he would bring the track, located between Cincinnati and Louisville, Ky., its first Cup race next year.

Problem is, NASCAR says that's not going to happen.

So where would a Kentucky race come from?

If the sale of the track goes through, would Kentucky get a first Cup race before Las Vegas gets a second?

Persistent rumors indicate Smith is on the cusp of buying Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. Maybe to move one or both of its Cup races.

However, the family that owns Pocono made clear this week its track is not for sale.

True, but New Hampshire wasn't for sale, either -- at least publicly -- until Smith offered $340 million for it. Many in the industry thought he paid too much for it, but he got what he wanted.

Smith's general managers at Atlanta Motor Speedway and New Hampshire, which also has two Cup races, say they aren't going to lose any of their lucrative Cup dates that generate net revenue of about $30 million each.

Smith, 81, has made outlandish statements before that have stunned his track bosses, including Chris Powell at LVMS. Powell was surprised when Smith confirmed at a news conference during March's NASCAR weekend that Smith had asked the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for $10 million a year before he continues working to get Las Vegas a second NASCAR weekend.

That was the first snag.

It would be absurd for the LVCVA to commit 5 percent of its annual budget to get a second Cup race.

And the convention authority's budget could take a hit if a petition makes it to the ballot and is approved by voters to shift some of Southern Nevada's hotel bed tax away from the LVCVA to help further fund schools, transportation and public safety.

Having another major NASCAR weekend would be great, but not at the expense of improving schools and traffic flow and having more cops.

Smith is a billionaire and usually is able to make what he wants come to fruition.

But not all the time.

At the 2006 Cup race, Smith must have spent close to $100,000 for a lavish track-side party to announce plans to build Trophy Towers condominiums that would overlook the first and second turns of the speedway oval.

Problem was he had not sought zoning approval from the Clark County Planning Commission.

Nellis Air Force Base and Air Force brass lobbied the county against allowing dwellings so close to the base.

Without a guaranteed Cup race for Kentucky, that purchase might sit on the shelf along with the Trophy Towers and a second Las Vegas Cup race.

In case Smith hasn't noticed, the economy isn't doing well. But billionaires don't pump their gas or stop at a grocery to buy their own bread and milk.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

 

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