D’oh Vegas


Bruton Smith is, in some ways, a genius. He more or less built Bristol in the early 90s, and he literally did create Charlotte Motor Speedway. But in many ways, Bruton Smith is just a crazy old man with a lot of money. This is the man who bought North Wilkesboro, a track that had been one of the final two original Cup tracks (Along with Martinsville) just to take both races away from it to give to Texas (He bought half of it, the other half was the Loudon owner of the time, who took the other race to Loudon).

Recently, Smith has had the audacity to say that there’s a “70/30” (according to wbtv out of Charlotte) chance of moving the fall race out of Charlotte and taking it to Las Vegas. It’s a dumb idea by any stretch of the imagination.

First of all, Las Vegas does not need a second race. There’s plenty of races out west at this point, and they all do good business now that Fontana only has one race a year. Phoenix in particular sells out on a regular basis now. NASCAR fans out west don’t need another race, because as we saw with Fontana it just doesn’t work out well.

Mar 11, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart (14) leads driver Jimmie Johnson (48) on a restart during the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Fontana was a track that regularly sold out before getting a second Cup race from Rockingham in 2004, and often struggled to get three quarters of the track full from then on. Sure, they had more overall attendance, but they lost money because instead of only putting on one race (and thus spending the money to put on one race), they put on two. Not only that, but the teams lost money as well- instead of making a like 20 minute trip down to the Rock, they had to get airplane tickets out to the other side of the country. And don’t get me started on the poor hauler drivers.

There’s a lot of entertainment options out in Vegas, which translates to people doing other things then going to both Vegas races every year. Why has there never been any serious discussion of Las Vegas getting an expansion NFL team? Because the NFL is smart enough to realize they’d be playing second fiddle in the city to, say, the casinos.

You could make the argument that Charlotte has a lot of entertainment options, but many of these, such as the Hall of Fame and all of the team shops, promote NASCAR and are typically part of the weekend experience. Like the Rock, it’s a home track for most teams and the cheapest place to run because you don’t need to haul a car 2,000 miles away.

Finally, the history of Charlotte in NASCAR means nothing to Smith, but it should be noted that Charlotte was home to the very first Cup race of any kind, at a long destroyed little dirt oval near what is now I believe the airport. Charlotte is one of the final connections to NASCAR’s origin, along with Daytona, Darlington, Atlanta (Lakewood Speedway was stock car racing’s (at least) second biggest track during the 40’s, and the most prestigious stock car race of the year was the annual Labor Day event), and Martinsville. It would be a shame if yet another location loses a race to a track out west that would do less business.