Pennzoil 400 at LVMS hopes to beat heat with later start

Usually when you hear the heat is on at a NASCAR race, it’s a good thing.

Unless it is in the literal sense.

With midday temperatures at September’s inaugural Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway turning the 1.5-mile oval and surrounding grandstands into a blast furnace, speedway officials sought and have been given a new starting time of 4:15 p.m. for Sept. 15, 2019 .

There’s a good chance it still will be hot at the start, as statistics show that 3 p.m. usually is the hottest time of the day in Las Vegas.

But the later starting time will mean the NASCAR playoff opener will finish under the lights and in cooler weather, which should make the second half of the race more bearable for drivers and fans.

“We’re excited about this change to our start time for the South Point 400 and feel it will be a big hit with fans,” LVMS president Chris Powell said in a statement. “We listened to fan feedback about the heat we experienced at this race, and we applaud NASCAR and NBC Sports Network for working with us to provide a more favorable starting time.”

It was 100 degrees when the green flag fell at this year’s fall race — seven degrees higher than the historical Las Vegas high temperature for Sept. 15. With the later start time, the grandstands will be shrouded in shade for the majority of the 267-lap race even if blistering temperatures return.

The first fall race at LVMS, won by Brad Keselowski, attracted an estimated crowd of 45,000 — the lowest turnout in the speedway’s NASCAR history.

Green, white, checkered

—- The Strip at LVMS has announced a 68-event schedule for 2019, topped by the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals April 5 to 7 and the NHRA Nevada Nationals Oct. 31 to Nov. 3. The drag strip also will host its usual array of Bracket Series and Junior Dragster races, along with Test-n-Tune and Midnight Mayhem, which will hit the track seven times on Wednesday instead of Friday.

Mayhem also is returning to prior regulations, with only street-legal vehicles with treaded tires permitted. High-performance vehicles with racing slicks will be limited to eight Friday Test-n-Tune sessions that have been added to the calendar.

—- John Hunter Nemechek has been announced as driver of the No. 23 Xfinity Series GMS Chevrolet for 2019. He’ll replace Las Vegan Spencer Gallagher, who announced his retirement in October to assume a managerial position in the NASCAR team founded by his father Maury, CEO of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air.

Nemechek, 21, had 18 Xfinity starts for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018, collecting six top-five finishes including his first Xfinity win, at Kansas Speedway.

—- It was another successful year for the Las Vegas Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charites which will distribute $260,000 to local charities and has now raised more than $5 million since inception in 1999. Awards were made at the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Tuesday.

Top fundraising events included Laps for Charity at LVMS, the Drive for Charity Golf Tournament, the PJ 5K Run and 1-Mile Walk, a NASCAR driver memorabilia auction and the Glittering Lights holiday display at LVMS.

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

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