Friday, May 30, 2008 | 2 a.m.
If Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith is close to bringing a second annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he isn’t talking — not even to the track’s president and general manager, Chris Powell.
Powell, who spent the weekend in Charlotte, N.C., for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, said the topic of Las Vegas’ landing a second Cup race did not come up during conversations with Smith.
“Bruton has always played his cards fairly closely to the vest and I think this is no different,” Powell said. “Whenever the day comes that he tells me we’re going to be hosting a second NASCAR Sprint Cup race, we’ll be ready to go. That day has not yet come and I don’t believe that the events of last week impact us greatly.”
Smith last week announced he had agreed to purchase Kentucky Speedway, which does not host a Cup race, and that fueled widespread speculation that Smith was in talks with Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., to purchase that facility and its two Cup race dates. One oft-repeated rumor had Smith closing Pocono and moving one of its races to Kentucky Speedway and the other to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
That rumor was quashed this week when Pocono Raceway owner Rose Mattioli told the Associated Press that she and her husband, Joseph, had no intention of selling the track to Smith or anyone else.
“It never was available. It never will be available,” Rose Mattioli was quoted as saying. “My husband has stated that over and again. That’s it.”
During the Las Vegas NASCAR weekend in March, Smith said he remained hopeful Las Vegas would receive another Sprint Cup date, but said he was not considering moving a race from one of his other tracks. Smith’s SMI owns and operates seven tracks that host 12 Sprint Cup points races, plus the series’ annual all-star race.
Powell, who has been in charge of Las Vegas Motor Speedway since Smith purchased the track in December 1998, said Smith’s penchant for not always keeping his general managers in the loop when he’s making plans that affect their tracks is not a source of frustration.
“Not at all,” Powell said. “Bruton’s track record is pretty solid and I’ve got full confidence in him and his vision for the company. I know he’s doing everything he can to add to our schedule of events out here.”
Las Vegas Motor Speedway has hosted one NASCAR weekend — Sprint Cup race and Nationwide Series race — a year since 1998. This year’s UAW-Dodge 400 Sprint Cup race drew a crowd estimated at 150,000 and generated an economic impact of $189.7 million, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. NASCAR weekend has created more than $1.2 billion in economic impact in the 10 years since SMI bought the track.