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LVMS upgrades reduce seating capacity to 80K

When a motor speedway announces VIP seating options and fan experience enhancements, it usually is a euphemism for a motor speedway removing seats it can no longer sell.

Such was the case this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which at one time had a seating capacity of 140,000 or thereabouts. After these latest upgrades, seating capacity will be trimmed to around 80,000.

Perspective: That’s still a lot bigger than the Raiders’ new stadium will be.

But it bears repeating the auto racing bubble has burst all over the backstretch bleachers at Daytona — which went from 147,000 capacity to 101,000 after its enhancement project — and multiple other tracks.

This is the third time LVMS has undergone a seat reduction, following the widening and renumbering of seats in the main grandstand several years ago and the burying of the grandstand between turns 3 and 4 in 2015.

The Speedway is still going to be big, and it’s going to be nicer. It’s also going to be expensive to reserve seating in the new VIP areas, which starts at $1,499 for a Vegas Clubhouse package, though one does get to attend both Cup Series weekends for that price.

Other amenities, such as a social pavilion and an interactive sports lounge, will be free to anybody holding a ticket.

Adding VIP seating and other attractions helps NASCAR tracks recoup some of the revenue lost by removing grandstands or burying them with a steam shovel, while also addressing the perception problem of vast swaths of empty seats on race day. This year’s Cup Series race at LVMS attracted an estimated crowd of 70,000, which would rank LVMS 15th in attendance were it an NFL franchise, between the 49ers and Eagles.

Sometimes one has to take lemons and make lemonade. One LVMS official told me a seating capacity of around 70,000 would be like baby bear’s porridge — just right — in today’s economy for tracks hosting two NASCAR races.

Anyway, it would not come as a surprise if spectators milling about the new social pavilion and interactive sports lounge take a look around at next spring’s Pennzoil 400 and say it’s nice to see LVMS filled up again.

NASCAR Heat

Next fall’s NASCAR race at LVMS will get the green flag at noon on Sept. 16. When it’s usually hotter than an exhaust pipe.

But it may not be as hot as you remember it.

On this past Sept. 16, it was 89 degrees at high noon. That was cooler than at five 2017 Cup Series races: Phoenix (March race), Daytona (July), Indianapolis, New Hampshire (September), Texas (November). With the possible exception of Phoenix, it’s also usually more humid in those places than it is in Las Vegas.

People will still probably complain, but they should remember that LVMS has no control over when the green flag falls. That’s NASCAR and its TV partners’ call.

Green, white, checkered

— More than 200 IMCA Modified and Northern SportMod drivers representing 21 states and two Canadian provinces have registered for the 20th Duel in the Desert running through Saturday night at the LVMS dirt track. Racing starts at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

— Henderson teenager Jason Reichert finished fourth in his rookie season in the Pacific 2000 Series, a step up the ladder to major league open wheel racing. Reichert’s top finish was second, and he led the race at historic Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway driving for Dave Freitas Racing.

— Move over Barbara Romano: Indianapolis is about to get a little more friendly and personable as NASCAR pit road reporter Jamie Little is leaving Las Vegas to be closer to the fast cars and husband Cody Selmon’s auto racing family. A lot of people around here are going to miss her.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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