Southern Nevada’s depressed economy put bigger frowns on faces of management at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Bullring on Saturday when only six Super Late Models started the night’s premier race.
That’s about half as many that started the previous week’s opening night.
Eleven could have started the main event of the NASCAR All-American Series on Saturday, but three sustained major damage the night before during a practice crash on the 3/4-mile oval. A couple of others were unable to start the race after suffering engine damage in Saturday’s qualifying and practice sessions.
Chris Blair, the speedway’s vice president of racing operations, said the economy has hit the Super Late Models hardest because several teams relied on sponsorship support from real estate and construction businesses.
Car counts in the Bullring’s other divisions are close to what they were last season.
Blair said the track might consolidate Super Late Models and Late Models into the same weekly main event, with each division competing for separate race and points standings. The change could come in a few weeks after input has been solicited from drivers, Blair said.
“We want to keep the cars we have racing,” said Mike Stafford, the Bullring’s competition manager.
The Super Late Models are about 1.5 seconds faster on each lap, but the gap between the fastest Super Late Model and slowest Late Model is at least two seconds.
Scott Gafforini, who finished second on opening night and won Saturday, said limited sponsorship availability is a problem. He is willing to discuss merging the classes into one race but is concerned about the disparity between speeds of cars in each division.
“It’s a double-edge sword, and it’s bad,” he said of the merger that would limit combined fields to 26 cars. “It could be very dangerous, and someone will get hurt.”
Gafforini ran away from the field Saturday, finishing 5.1 seconds ahead of runner-up Josh Gross. The race was shortened from the regular 40 laps to 25 when only nine cars started, including a few Late Models added to pad the field.
A narrower and less expensive tire that currently is required could slow the Super Late Models, Blair said. They could switch from a 10-inch wide, smooth racing slick to the 9-inch treaded model used by Late Models.
“I’d like for us to be on an 8-inch slick, not a treaded tire,” Gafforini said. “That will put the driver back into the equation because the wider tire makes it easier to drive.
“But I don’t want to see the classes merged. Definitely not this year.”
Added Blair: “We don’t want any change to cost teams more money. If anything, we want to help them save some money. The Super Late Models could save a couple hundred dollars a weekend because the smaller tires will last a few races longer and are cheaper.”
• NOTES — Legends Car driver Scott Swinford was transported to University Medical Center for evaluation and treatment of a left hip injury after B.J. Bollman hit him broadside midway through their feature race, which was won by Jeremiah Wagner. …
Other winners were: Chris Bray (Late Models), Charlie Wahl (Modifieds), Phil Goodwin (Chargers), and Jacksen Smith and Jonathan Eakin in Bandoleros.
• DRAG RACING — Bill Webber beat Brian Miller in the championship round of Super Pro in the Jerry’s Nugget Championship Series on Saturday night at the LVMS dragstrip.
Other winners were: Camillo Piccoli (Pro), John Irving (Sportsman), Rick Newport Motorcycle) and Justin King (High School). Cody Webber, Lyndzi Powers and Cody Parsons won their respective categories in Jr. Dragster.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.