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Reports: Las Vegas, Charlotte speedways may cut seating capacity

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Las Vegas Motor Speedway and sister Speedway Motorsports Inc. track Charlotte Motor Speedway may both be in line for facelifts, according to media reports.

A story in Sunday’s Las Vegas Review Journal speculated that a number of seats could be removed after this season.

According to the newspaper, “Seats at LVMS were widened on the front straightaway before the sweeping grandstand between Turns 3 and 4 (were) shoveled under in 2015, reducing capacity to around 108,000. Attendance for last Sunday’s Kobalt 400 was estimated at 70,000. (NASCAR stopped releasing attendance figures in 2013.)

“If the sections in front of the terraces are eliminated, it would trim LVMS capacity to around 80,000.”

NBCSports.com reached out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials for comment. In an email reply, Jeff Motley, the speedway’s vice president of communications, stated:

“At this time, we haven’t made any final decisions on what changes, if any, we are going to make,” Motley said. “We are considering making some changes. That’s really all I can tell you at this point.”

Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials announced less than two weeks ago that it would host two NASCAR race weekends in 2018 for the first time in its history, taking away one of two annual race weekends from sister track New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Turn 4 of Charlotte Motor Speedway may lose some seating capacity, according to a media report.

And then there’s Charlotte Motor Speedway.

According to Monday’s edition of The Charlotte Observer, SMI – which owns nine racetracks including CMS and Las Vegas Motor Speedway – is expected to remove an unspecified number of seats primarily in the area of Turn 4, as well as suites that have lower demand.

The newspaper cited a recent Speedway Motorsports Inc., securities filing that stated that it had repurposed or are repurposing “certain low demand seating areas and suits” at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“We often use these areas for premium hospitality, advertising and other facility revenue generating uses, and removal also reduces depreciation and certain other operating costs,” the filing stated. “For example, (Charlotte) plans to offer new premium hospitality and entertainment activities, and possibly install solar panels as part of our ‘green initiatives,’ after removal of certain fourth-turn seating in 2017.

“We believe seat removal and alternative use of desirable advertising space help improve pricing power, and provide increased marketing appeal from fuller grandstands because those areas are frequently displayed during television broadcasts, in photos, and are viewable by large numbers of fans attending our speedways.”

Charlotte Motor Speedway vice president of communications Scott Cooper told The Observer, “Every year, we look at ways to modernize the facilities, enhance the fan experience and increase revenues.”

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Atlanta Motor Speedway to delay repave at least a year

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The cries of drivers have been heard. Atlanta Motor Speedway will not repave its track as previously scheduled. Instead, track officials will evaluate the surface following the 2018 race there.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, had planned to have the track surface repaved beginning in late March. It would have been the first repave there since 1997.

Engineers examined the track after the March 5 race to determine if the track surface could last another year with modest repairs. Track officials also consulted with Goodyear and others.

“There’s no question that the surface is worn out, but probably the most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C., was the biggest influence,” Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports of the drivers. “They kind of put the pressure on. I understand.”

After winning there, Brad Keselowski made his pitch not to repave the track.

“Drivers hate repaves,” he said. “We want to see the surfaces last as long as they can.  But the reality is nothing lasts forever, and this surface has made it a really, really long time, 20 years, I think, this season, and they should be really proud of that.

“My hope is they can get another year or two out of it, and I understand if they can’t, and you have to kind of leave it to their expertise and so forth.”

Clark said that work will need to be done to the track before next year’s race.

“The worst part is down the frontstretch in front of the grandstands,” Clark told NBC Sports. “There’s a lot of issues there. We’re actually going to have to cut a few areas and patch … to make it last through 2018. We consulted with Goodyear on that. They don’t think, as long as it is on the straightaway, it is a big issue from a tire standpoint.”

Clark said that the track surface will be sealed in October and should have the patching done before then.

“Let them go ahead and slip and slide one more time in 2018,” Clark said.

Clark said that while anything can change, he doesn’t foresee being talked out of a repave job too many more times.

“You have to see how the weekend goes and what happens,” Clark told NBC Sports. “We had to patch some places after the Saturday events this year, small places. Hey, if we could go two more, great. All you’ve got to do is walk out there and look at it. It is absolutely worn out. But if the drivers say, hey our choice is to race on this surface as it is.

“There comes a point (when a repave is needed). We do have a few drainage issues we do need to correct, some other things when the time comes. Right now, we’re going to get through 2018 and evaluate and see if that is the time or when is it.”

Clark said that when the track is repaved, Goodyear has expressed interest in having two test sessions to determine the proper tire for that 1.5-mile track instead of the customary one because of the track’s challenging surface.

Clark warns that with the excitement of Tuesday’s news, the day is still coming when the track will have to be repaved.

“I can’t see this going two more seasons, maybe only one,” Clark said.

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NASCAR America — My Home Track: 50 States In 50 Shows — Arkansas

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we continued our series of My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows as our trucks rolled into Arkansas!

We visited two short tracks in the state that produced President Bill Clinton and Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.

Plus we talked to NASCAR Hall of Famer and Arkansas native Mark Martin about racing in his home state.

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.