The word was out this weekend in Las Vegas; in an effort to recoup some of the millions they invested rebuilding LVMS, Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. are lobbying NASCAR hard for a second race date. So while the Northwest, Northeast and Denver are still hoping to have a facility that will be guaranteed a Cup date once they are completed, Vegas is looking to cash in twice a season.
Many questions come up whenever the Cup schedule is discussed such as why does anyone have a second date when everyone wants a Cup date at their facility? Do the Northeast and Northwest even want a Cup quality facility in their regions? When, or rather, if one of those facilities is constructed, will the fans show up in sufficient numbers to support it? And the ultimate question: Is it not a conflict of interest for the sanctioning body that controls the dates to also own facilities that host races during the season?
There has been a quandary for years now as to why any race facility has two Cup dates when so many other tracks are clamoring for the Cup cars to run at their facilities. There are several tracks that have two dates that people simply don’t seem to care about. Michigan, Pocono, Phoenix, Dover, and Loudon all come to mind.
My belief is that if NASCAR is truly serious about spreading the sport to the masses in multiple areas of the country, then they would start by limiting every track to one date. Since they’ve already shown that they do not care about tradition, losing the Fourth of July race at Daytona and the Spring race at Bristol would be a necessary evil, but would afford so many other facilities the chance to host a race. It would also allow the series to go back to tracks like a refurbished North Wilkesboro or Rockingham, which was never given the opportunity to host an event during a period of the year when the weather in the Carolinas is hospitable to fans and would be conducive to full stands for a Cup race. Besides those two classic tracks, the one-race-per-venue rule would send the Cup series to new tracks like Nashville, Kentucky, Iowa, Memphis and possibly even to some dirt tracks. There is no reason that all of these facilities couldn’t have a race date and allow more people the opportunity to see the Cup cars close to their homes.
The ongoing debate about the Northeast and Northwest will probably never go away until the tracks are actually built. Only then will there be proof to the positive or negative as to whether the facilities can be profitable. The problem is that once a track is built, it will be years, if ever, before an ownership group is going to admit that it made a mistake by building a facility that doesn't have the support to make it viable. In the meantime, the fans will be subject to empty seats as have become common place at tracks like Michigan and California.
The ultimate question though, is how can the sanctioning body, NASCAR, be allowed to also own facilities where races are contested? The fact that International Speedway Corporation owns so many tracks on the Cup schedule, and is owned by the same ownership group as NASCAR, simply screams conflict of interest. How can a multi-billion dollar corporation be objective in handing out the dates on the schedule when the benefits of such an event are in the hundreds of millions of dollars? Since Vegas is an SMI track, and in direct competition with ISC facilities, the chance of NASCAR giving another lucrative race date to this competing corporation seems remote. Even if they are awarded a second race weekend, where will the date originate from? The teams are saying that the schedule is already full. If no new dates can be added, then the date will have to come from somewhere. As has already been pointed out, the odds of ISC giving up one of these dates from one of their facilities would not make logical business sense. So SMI would most likely have to cannibalize a date from one of their other tracks to be able to acquire a second date for Vegas.
The bottom line is, there are so many worthy facilities around the country that would love to have a Cup date on their schedule, it doesn't seem logical or prudent to give a second date to Las Vegas. Unless NASCAR comes off of its stance that the schedule is full, the odds of Vegas getting a second date seem very long. Here's hoping NASCAR will step up and completely rework the schedule, limiting all tracks to one date, and spreading the sport to more people all over the country.
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