Las Vegas gets second Cup date in 2018; New Hampshire loses a Cup date

12 Comments

Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host two NASCAR tripleheaders next year, the track announced Wednesday.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., is moving a Cup date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will have the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Trucks for both its spring and fall events in 2018. The Cup and Truck races will come from New Hampshire. The Xfinity race will come from the standalone event at Kentucky Speedway.

New Hampshire will retain its July Cup weekend.

Las Vegas’ fall race weekend will be announced at a later date by NASCAR but is expected to take place in the third or fourth weekend of September (what had been New Hampshire’s spot).

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of SMI, said the move is best for the sport.

“Over time it’s something that we thought about,” Smith said of the moving dates. “This became the right time.

“It’s a matter of all the great things for the whole sport of NASCAR to be coming to Las Vegas, a city that has worldwide renown and attention and draw. I think from a NASCAR perspective to have a tripleheader weekend in the fall of the season is going to be a tremendous positive for the whole sport.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will pay $17.5 million — $2.5 million a year for seven years —  in a sponsorship agreement with the track. The Convention and Visitors Authority will pay a $1 million sponsorship fee for the spring race and $1 million sponsorship fee for the fall race. The Convention and Visitors Authority also will contribute $500,000 to a marketing fund.

The contract goes through 2024 and can be extended for three years at the same rate.

Drivers attending Wednesday’s announcement were Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Brendan Gaughan, Noah Gragson and Spencer Gallagher.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? Money, money, money. Vegas has more of it than New Hampshire does. Simply, this makes business sense. Las Vegas is expected to have higher attendance than New Hampshire has had. New Hampshire also was held back by an agreement with local residents agreeing not to hold night races at the track. That came about after those residents filed a civil lawsuit against the track years ago. The track also has wanted the two-lane road leading to the facility widened but the state hasn’t done so.

HOW DOES THIS MOVE IMPACT THE SPORT? It gives NASCAR the chance to alter the playoff schedule next year. While it is most likely that Las Vegas slips into New Hampshire’s spot in September, there’s another way to look at it. Why not move it back later in the playoffs and create a West Coast swing at the end? One idea would be to have the season end with Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami. That’s just one option, but this opens the door to changes — if NASCAR will do so.

WHAT’S POSITIVE ABOUT THIS CHANGE? For the sport, it is better to have two dates at Las Vegas in that they will be further apart than what New Hampshire’s dates are. Las Vegas is the hot town in sports with the NHL moving there and the Oakland  Raiders looking to move there in the near future. The belief is it will help raise the sport by being in Las Vegas.

WHAT’S NEGATIVE ABOUT THIS CHANGE? NASCAR adds another 1.5-mile speedway to the schedule and possibly the playoffs. That would mean there could be five 1.5-mile tracks among the 10 playoff races next year with Las Vegas replacing New Hampshire and Charlotte using the infield road course with its oval for its playoff race. Move also won’t be popular with Northeast racing fans or fans who like the racing at the 1-mile track even with Marcus Smith saying they plan to create a special modified weekend in that September slot. 

 and on Facebook

Starting grid for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the second pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Kyle Larson will lead the field to green Sunday in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Joining Larson the front row is Denny Hamlin.

Filling out the top five is Brad Keselowski, Martin Treux Jr. and Ryan Newman.

Click here for the starting grid.

Kyle Larson wins pole for Auto Club 400, second Cup pole of career

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kyle Larson ended a three-year drought by winning the pole for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400.

Larson won his second Cup Series pole with a speed of 187.047 mph around Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. His first pole came in the August 2013 race at Pocono Raceway.

The pole continues Larson’s impressive start to 2017. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver leads the point standings after earning three consecutive second-place finishes.

“I felt like messed up there in Turn 1 and 2 and I got a little bit loose off the wall on the entry and it got me to split the seam in (Turn) 1 and 2,” Larson told Fox Sports. “I was able to commit to (being) wide open off (Turn) 1 and 2. I hadn’t ran up high in (Turn) 3 and 4 at all in practice or qualifying here. Didn’t really know what I would have out there but ran a good ways and it stuck. … Our Target team has been really amazing to start the season and to get a pole is great. … Got a little team dinner tonight, so this will be a good thing to celebrate.”

Larson’s run knocked Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin from the top spot. As Larson drove down pit road, a Fox Sports camera caught Hamlin playfully showing his dissatisfaction by emptying a cup of ice in the direction of the No. 42.

“This is No. 1 on my list of track I want to win,” Hamlin told Fox Sports. “It’s bitten me mentally and physically … definitely one I want to check off.”

Filling out the top five is Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Newman.

Daniel Suarez qualified 10th for his best career Cup start.

No Hendrick Motorsports entries will start in the top 10. Kasey Kahne was the top qualifier in 12th, followed by Chase Elliott.

Five cars did not make qualifying attempts, with one of them being by choice. Jimmie Johnson’s team elected not to make an attempt following his accident in practice. He will start 37th.

Joining Johnson at the back of the field will be Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Matt DiBenedetto and Gray Gaulding. All of their cars did not make it through inspection in time to qualifying.

Click here for qualifying results.

Jimmie Johnson’s team elects not to make qualifying run after accident in practice

Leave a comment

Following Jimmie Johnson’s accident in practice early Friday, Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team chose not to qualify with a backup car at Auto Club Speedway.

Johnson, a six-time winner at Auto Club Speedway, will start 37th in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Four other cars, including those of Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne, will start in the back after they did not make qualifying attempts. Their cars failed to get through inspection in time. Rookie Gray Gaulding and Matt DiBenedetto also did not qualify because their cars failed to get through inspection.

Johnson explained his team’s decision.

“We had a tough practice session and mid-pack was probably going to be our goal anyway,” he said. “So, to take our lumps here, at a track that’s really wide with a lot of lanes, a long race; we’ll just take our lumps and get the car right where we can take advantage of the precious minutes that we have in Saturday’s practice session and go from there. Pit road is going to be a problem. We’re not going to have a great pick there. We’re definitely not in a position we want to be in, so we’d rather take the time now and make sure we get everything right and get this car right; and also kind of control our risk factor.”

With ACS being such a wide race track with plenty of passing opportunities, Johnson is not in as bad a position to start Sunday’s race as he would be at more narrow track.

Crew chief Chad Knaus told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Claire B. Lang he wasn’t comfortable forcing Johnson to “hustle” to qualify a car he hadn’t practiced in.

Joey Logano completes sweep of Xfinity practices at Auto Club Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Joey Logano was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session at Auto Club Speedway for the Service King 300.

Driving Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford, Logano put up a speed of 176.804 mph on his 19th of 35 laps in the session

The top five as made up of Erik Jones (176.744), Paul Menard (176.587), Brandon Jones (176.475) and Kyle Larson (176.039).

William Byron and Brennan Poole recorded the most laps in the session with 37 each.

Logan also had the best 10-lap average at 174.889 mph.

Click here for the full practice report.