Speedway Motorsports Inc.

Photos courtesy Las Vegas Motor Speedway

NHRA: The Strip at Las Vegas expands to become 4-lane dragstrip

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Like a casino player riding a hot streak, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will soon hold four of a kind in its hands.

LVMS and parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials announced Wednesday that The Strip has embarked on an ambitious construction program to expand the two-lane dragstrip to a four-lane facility.

The enhanced track will mirror that of its sister track, zMAX Dragway, across from Charlotte Motor Speedway.

When completed, The Strip will hold the first four-lane drag race in the Western U.S. on April 4-6, 2018 with the DENSO Nationals.

 

“Four-wide drag racing has captured the interest of race fans and competitors at Charlotte’s zMAX Dragway,” LVMS president Chris Powell said. “It’s exciting to give everyone on the west coast a chance to see what fans back east have experienced for several years now.

“Four-wide drag racing was the vision of our chairman, Bruton Smith, and our chief executive officer, Marcus Smith. They are two of the key reasons that NHRA drag racing has become one of the most popular forms of motorsports in the world.”

The NHRA is fully onboard with the track’s expansion.

“The excitement and sensory overload of four-wide drag racing is one of the most intense displays of motorsports in the country,” NHRA president Peter Clifford said. “We look forward to presenting the four-wide experience to the dedicated NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series fans in Las Vegas and the surrounding states.”

16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force and 3-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Antron Brown are both looking forward to going four-wide in Vegas.

Force won the first four-wide event at zMAX Dragway in 2010, while Brown is a two-time winner in four-wide competition there.

“I’ve got to give credit to Bruton Smith for investing in the sport of NHRA drag racing,” Force said. “His four-lane in Charlotte gave him two races, one with the two-lane in the Countdown (to the Championship playoffs) and then the four-lane in the spring.

“It only makes sense that when he designed his Vegas track, from day one he planned on four lanes. That will allow those two races to be even more successful. So, good for you Bruton, and thank you from all of us at John Force Racing.”

Added Brown, “It will be a lot of fun going to Las Vegas for a four-wide race. It will give our fans on the West Coast what the East Coast fans have had at Charlotte. It will be a real spectacle with four 11,000-horespower cars launching at the same time.

“That will shake Vegas down. It will be a really cool experience.”

The expansion of The Strip, which has begun, will not impact the Oct. 24-26 Toyota Nationals at The Strip.

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Dover Motorsports Inc. releases earnings report, sets sale of Nashville Superspeedway for end of February

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Dover Motorsports Inc. released its fourth quarter and yearly earnings report Thursday.

Because there were no major events at the track in the fourth quarter from October through December, revenue was just $157,000, up from $129,000 in the same quarter the previous year.

For the overall fiscal year that ended Dec. 31, 2014, the track reported income of $45,674,000, compared to $46,180,000 the previous year. The decrease was attributed to lower admissions and event related revenue partially offset by higher broadcasting revenues.

Net earnings were up by more than one million dollars year-over-year. DMI had net earnings of $3,145,000, compared to $2,024,000 in 2013.

DMI is one of only three track ownership groups (the other being Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway) that host NASCAR events other than International Speedway Corp., and Speedway Motorsports Inc.

One of the most significant aspects of the report concerned the pending sale of Nashville Superspeedway.

Dover Motorsports will receive $27 million when the sale of Nashville Superspeedway is concluded, which is expected to occur at the end of February.

The group that plans on making the purchase, NeXovation, Inc., recently paid a non-refundable $1.7 million to DMI, to be applied to the eventual purchase price of the Gladeville, Tenn., track and surrounding facilities.

NeXovation Inc. also will assume $18.8 million of the track’s bond obligations to Wilson County, where the track is located. That would make the entire deal worth $45.8 million.

The closing deadline for the sale of the track has been extended three times, the most recent being in late December. NeXovation announced last May that it had reached agreement to purchase the track.

NeXovation officials have said they plan on using the track and its surrounding area year-round and hope to eventually bring NASCAR racing – most likely either the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series – back to the speedway.

Last June, NeXovation president Robb Sexton, said he planned on also reaching out to IndyCar for a possible race return to the track.

After 11 years of holding a number of races, there have been no races at Nashville Superspeedway for more than three years.

NeXovation also reportedly plans to develop a potential drag strip, dirt track and short track that were included in original blueprints for the facility.

“We plan to develop the entire facility,” Sexton told the Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat last June. “We have a comprehensive business plan that involves using the track 52 weeks a year, with a primary emphasis on the motorsports community. Our focus is on a motorsports identity.”

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NASCAR: Trackside shopping set to change as part of new Fanatics deal (UPDATED)

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The familiar merchandise haulers at NASCAR tracks will be reduced in favor of a central superstore made up of climate-controlled tents. Credit: NASCAR

“Souvenir Row” is soon going to look a lot different.

For many years at NASCAR tracks, fans have flocked to groups of merchandise haulers to pick up T-shirts, jackets, hats, and other nick-nacks that represent their favorite drivers.

But the trackside shopping experience will soon change.

Sports merchandise company Fanatics has signed a 10-year agreement with NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties to become the primary retailer of series, team, and driver gear at all Sprint Cup events.

As part of that, the familiar haulers will be gradually reduced in favor of a central superstore made up of climate-controlled tents as well as, in some instances, smaller retail areas around the track.

Fanatics’ apparel division will also produce its own NASCAR merchandise to complement the current lines from other authorized licensees.

The company has already partnered with many other sports leagues, teams, schools, and organizations including NBC Sports.

“Fanatics is extremely excited to partner with NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties to greatly expand their at-track retail presence,” said company president Ross Tannenbaum in a release.

“We have taken the time to listen to what the fans, teams, drivers and NASCAR were asking for and look forward to using our market-leading scale, technology and production capabilities to deliver an improved and entertaining shopping experience for years to come.”

While things will, more or less, remain as they are now at Daytona Speedweeks next month, noticeable changes should be in place by mid-season. The new model is expected to be fully implemented by 2016.

In an interview with MotorSportsTalk this afternoon, NASCAR executive vice president/chief marketing officer Steve Phelps said that placement of the superstore and its satellite areas during a race weekend will depend on the tracks themselves.

“If you’ve got 150,000 fans going to Daytona, that may look different than a track that serves a smaller number of fans both from a footprint standpoint as well as the number of fans that are attending, as obviously some facilities hold more than others,” he explained. “We’re working through all of that with the people at Fanatics as well as with the race tracks.”

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Within the central superstore at the track, fans can expect unique merchandise areas for each driver. Credit: NASCAR

The superstore will feature unique merchandise areas for each driver. Phelps said that this ‘store-within-a-store’ concept will allow for more merchandise per driver on hand, a more diverse array of product, and more pricing points.

And while fan favorites such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick, and Tony Stewart are likely to have bigger merchandise areas, drivers not as popular will also have spaces for their own gear.

“There will be opportunities for drivers who, frankly, are not selling merchandise at the race track to have an opportunity to have merchandise sold and have their fans be able to show their colors and their driver with pride,” Phelps said.

“What we wanted to make sure we did is that every driver had product out there. We’re servicing drivers who are 30th in the points, not just [first through fifth]. We think that’s a very important thing for the sport.”

If fans are unable to find a specific item in stock, they’ll be able to order from Fanatics’ online NASCAR shop. Phelps also mentioned that, ultimately, fans will have the chance to buy gear from their grandstand seat and be able to either pick it up at the superstore before they leave the track or have it shipped to their homes.

It’s shaping up to be quite a change from the current model of trackside shopping.

Phelps admitted that he expects to see some initial backlash from fans that look at visiting the haulers as a race-weekend tradition – one that enables them not just to buy gear, but to congregate with fellow fans of their driver.

However, he also expects they’ll be able to do that just as well in the specific merchandise areas within the superstore. Throw in a special area for driver appearances and autograph sessions, and the complex stands to be more than a shopping space but a major social hub altogether.

“We think it will create an entirely new way for fans to interact,” he says. “The haulers have been around for 20-25 years. This is the new evolution, and ultimately, we believe that the bulk of the fans are gonna embrace this and really be excited about it.”

NASCAR track owner Bruton Smith not a fan of Race Team Alliance

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As the leader of Speedway Motorsports Inc. – the entity that owns eight tracks with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series dates – Bruton Smith hasn’t always gotten along with the sanctioning body about the sport’s direction.

But when it comes to the new Race Team Alliance, Smith is happy to stand in NASCAR’s corner.

In an interview with USA Today and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan, Smith severely criticized the formation of the RTA, which features nine of the Sprint Cup Series’ biggest teams.

The RTA has insisted that they’re not looking to pick a fight with NASCAR over matters such as revenue from the sport’s new TV package (which goes in effect next year with NBC Sports joining Fox as a broadcaster), and is focusing on cutting costs in areas like parts, travel, and insurance for team members.

But apparently, that hasn’t convinced Smith, who believes the RTA is bad news.

“What I know about it, of course I don’t like it,” he said to Ryan after today’s Sprint Cup practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (which is owned by SMI).

“I don’t know anything about it that’s good for what we do. I don’t see anything that’s going to be good for the sport. Nothing.

“What little bit I know about it right now, it seems it will damage the sport. If NASCAR needs us, we’re there with NASCAR on the deal. We’re there every day, every hour, if they need us.”

According to Ryan, Smith even pretended not to know the RTA’s chairman, Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman, in his interview.

Smith’s comments are a stark contrast to those from defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who drives for Hendrick Motorsports, one of the biggest teams in the RTA.

Johnson said this morning at New Hampshire that he understood the worry from some over the RTA’s formation.

But he also expressed the belief that the RTA can help NASCAR better recognize the collective needs of the teams by having those needs voiced by a single group.

“We will see what the future holds and I feel like there is a positive outcome,” Johnson said. “This is a good thing. I don’t feel like this is going to drive separation or a split, and I don’t even know where that separation or split would take place.”

NASCAR president Mike Helton also said this morning that the sanctioning body’s relationship with the owners has not degenerated into animosity.

NASCAR Hall of Fame fan vote opens, cast your ballot for Class of 2015

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Get your computers fired up, NASCAR fans, because now it’s time to make your vote count.

The Fan Vote part for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015 opened Wednesday, with balloting continuing until Tuesday, May 20, at Noon ET.

Fans can choose from any of the 20 nominees, with the five nominees receiving the highest percentage of votes ultimately comprising the fan vote that will be included among those cast by the 54-member Hall voting panel. The panel meets the following day after the fan voting closes, Weds. May 21, to select the final five inductees for the 2015 Hall class.

“The NASCAR Hall of Fame is the only hall of its kind where fans have had a voice in the induction process since its inception,” said Brett Jewkes, NASCAR chief communications officer. “And the reason is simple. NASCAR fans are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the sport and its history, and have demonstrated that with their selections for the first five classes.”

Here’s the 20 nominees for the five-member 2015 Hall class, as well as five nominees for the inaugural Landmark award:

* Buddy Baker, won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier (now Sprint Cup) series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500

* Red Byron, first NASCAR premier series champion, in 1949

* Richard Childress, 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series

* Jerry Cook, six-time NASCAR Modified champion

* Bill Elliott, 1988 premier series champion, two-time Daytona 500 winner and 16-time Most Popular Driver

* Ray Fox, legendary engine builder and owner of cars driven by Buck Baker, Junior Johnson and others

* Rick Hendrick, 14-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series

* Bobby Isaac, 1970 NASCAR premier series champion

* Terry Labonte, Two-time NASCAR premier series champion

* Fred Lorenzen, 26 wins and winner of the Daytona 500 and World 600

* Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first champion car owner

* Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR premier series champion

* Larry Phillips, only five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion

* Wendell Scott, NASCAR trailblazer was the first African-American NASCAR premier series race winner, and first to be nominated for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

* O. Bruton Smith, builder of Charlotte Motor Speedway and architect of Speedway Motorsports Inc.

* Mike Stefanik, winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships

* Curtis Turner, early personality, called the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing”

* Joe Weatherly, two-time NASCAR premier series champion

* Rex White, 1960 NASCAR premier series champion

* Robert Yates, won NASCAR premier series championship as both an engine builder and owner

 

The five nominees for the inaugural Landmark Award are:

* H. Clay Earles, founder of Martinsville Speedway

* Anne Bledsoe France, helped build the sport with husband Bill France Sr. Affectionately known as “Annie B.,” she is the first woman to be nominated for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

* Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first champion car owner

* Ralph Seagraves, formed groundbreaking Winston-NASCAR partnership as executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

* Ken Squier, legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner / namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence

To cast your vote, click here:

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