Viva Las Vegas! NASCAR finalized a decision today to award Las Vegas Motor Speedway a second date in the NASCAR season. Initially this was exciting because I like Las Vegas. It’s a tighter track that offers high speeds and close quarters racing. It has beautiful scenery with a mountain backdrop and desert vibe. It also has a ton of amenities for fans to indulge in during their weekend at the track. It seems like a paradise for NASCAR’s growing high paced audience, so it must be good for the sport. Right?
We’ve seen detrimental affects when tracks lose second dates. Many tracks fall into limbo and ultimately lose both races. Tracks like North Wilkesboro, and Rockingham have all fallen victim to NASCAR’s westward expansion. It is rarely a good thing when a track loses a race.
According to the rumors, it looks as though the track losing it’s fall date will be New Hampshire Motor Speedway. New Hampshire is a bit of a conundrum to me. I love the track. It’s got soul. There is no other track like New Hampshire, but over the years it’s had some pretty lackluster races. Although the years have passed, I can’t get the over the 2000 Dura Lube 300. Jeff Burton led every lap in an absolute snooze fest. New Hampshire is not know for door to door, tight quarters racing. My point is, New Hampshire is a tough place to hold two dates to begin with. Tracks like Martinsville, Bristol, and Phoenix understandably have two dates. The Racing is exciting and the fans will pay to see more. The racing at New Hampshire just isn’t a barn burning type of event.
So, if New Hampshire loses one date, will it fall into the category of racetracks that faded into NASCAR history? New Hampshire is in a very good market. It doesn’t compete with many other tracks. What ended tracks like North Wilkesboro and Rockingham was a saturated market. Rockingham sits in between tracks like Darlington, and Charlotte. North Wilkesboro sits in between Charlotte, Martinsville, Bristol, and Atlanta. If you look at New Hampshire, it’s six and a half hours from Watkins Glen and six hours from Pocono. It’s the only track within reasonable distance to upper New England and eastern Canada. For many fans, New Hampshire is their only shot of seeing the big leagues of stock car racing. In my opinion, one date on the NASCAR calendar will help New Hampshire thrive. One race per year makes New Hampshire a sell out event.
With that said, is Las Vegas Motor Speedway up to the task of holding two races per season? Las Vegas is a city much like Atlanta and Fort Worth. There is a ton to do! For many people traveling to Las Vegas, a NASCAR race is the last thing on their minds. It’s a tough market. I think Las Vegas has thrived because it’s the only track in that sector of the country. NASCAR fans of the west are willing to make the trip because it’s their only shot to see a cup race. By adding a second date, Las Vegas will have a steep hill to climb. I don’t foresee filling those grandstands full twice a year being an easy task.
Lastly, if the schedule stays as is, Las Vegas’ fall race will be a playoff race. The playoffs will consist of six mile-and-a-half tracks out of a ten race playoff. The limitation of variety is an unwelcomed change. I think I speak for most NASCAR fans when I say that we want to see the driver’s skills tested. We want a variety of tracks to help separate the best from the rest. We would like to see more short tracks and a road course thrown in the mix. The last thing we want to see is another mile and a half track diluting the NASCAR schedule.
This isn’t a knock on Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I mentioned before that I like the close confines and high-speed racing. I’m just not a fan of racetracks holding two dates per year. One race makes the event a spectacle. Many fans will think, “This is my only chance to see Dale Jr. at Dover, Michigan or Las Vegas!” Limiting each track to one race creates more demand.
Sure, there are exceptions. I think all short tracks and super speedways should have two dates, but the last thing NASCAR needs is more mile-and-a-half racing.
Bring in new venues, stimulate different economies and make races more exciting for the spectator.