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IndyCar series returning to Las Vegas this season

The fastest race cars on American oval tracks will return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this fall after a six-year hiatus.

Top officials and drivers from the IndyCar Series will attend a news conference at 11 a.m. today at Crystals in CityCenter to announce details of a new race Oct. 16 at the speedway.

The Sunday race will be the series’ season finale and part of a three-day event that will include the 15th annual Smith’s 350k NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Saturday night and the Las Vegas debut of IndyCar’s developmental Firestone Lights Series on Sunday.

Among those attending today’s news conference will be the past two winners of IndyCar races at the speedway: Sam Schmidt (1999) and Al Unser Jr. (2000). Both are Southern Nevada residents.

“Having the race here is huge for us,” Schmidt said Monday. “It makes sense for everybody.”

Schmidt, paralyzed since an IndyCar practice crash in 2000, will field a car with driver Wade Cunningham in the yet-unnamed Las Vegas race. Schmidt will also have four cars in the Firestone Lights race; he owns the reigning championship team in that series.

IndyCar chief executive Randy Bernard and several drivers will join speedway officials today in detailing the fall racing weekend at the 1.5-mile oval.

IndyCar formerly operated as the Indy Racing League.

Returning IndyCar to Las Vegas has been one of Bernard’s goals since he took over the series a year ago after spending 15 years running the Professional Bull Riders organization.

The Champ Car World Series, which folded after the 2007 season, had three open-wheel races in Las Vegas — at the speedway in 2004 and 2005 and the Las Vegas Grand Prix on downtown streets in 2007.

Drivers expected to be at CityCenter today include Marco Andretti, Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power, who won the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.

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