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2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Las Vegas, Richmond part of 2018 playoff schedule; Indy moves to cutoff race

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NASCAR’s playoff schedule will look significantly different in 2018 with a new race leading into it and all three first-round races new.

For the first time since it was put on the schedule in 1994, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will move from its summer spot to Sept. 9 and be the final race before the playoffs begin.

The Brickyard 400 will lead into a revamped first round that will see the playoffs begin for the first time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 16. The playoff opener will be the second race at Las Vegas, which got the date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

Richmond International Raceway, which had been the final race before the playoffs since 2004, moves into the playoffs and will be the second race in the opening round on Sept. 22, a Saturday night.

Charlotte Motor Speedway will be the cutoff race in the first round on Sept. 30, but that race will be competed on the track’s roval— combining its oval and infield road course

The changes dramatically alter the type of tracks in the 10-race playoff, which will still end in Miami on Nov. 18.

There will be one road course (Charlotte), one restrictor-plate track (Talladega), two short tracks (Richmond and Martinsville), two 1-mile tracks (Dover and Phoenix) and four 1.5-mile tracks (Las Vegas, Kansas, Texas and Miami).

The race at Chicagoland Speedway moves from September to June.

The final 11 races of the 2018 season will be:

Sept. 9 — Indianapolis Motor Speedway (final race before playoffs)

Sept. 16 — Las Vegas (playoff opener)

Sept. 22 — Richmond

Sept. 30 — Charlotte (oval/infield road course – end of first round)

Oct. 7 — Dover (start of second round)

Oct. 14 — Talladega

Oct. 21 — Kansas (end of second round)

Oct. 28 — Martinsville (start of third round)

Nov. 4 — Texas

Nov. 11 — Phoenix (end of third round)

Nov. 18 — Miami (championship)

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Travis Pastrana to compete in September Truck race at Las Vegas

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Once you’ve had a taste of driving a NASCAR car or truck, it’s hard to resist attempts to come back.

Such is the case for action sports star Travis Pastrana, who announced Monday that he will test tomorrow (May 2) at Charlotte Motor Speedway and compete in the Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sept. 30.

Pastrana will drive the No. 45 Chevrolet Silverado for Niece Motorsports in that race.

“I love NASCAR, and Las Vegas is always a good time, so I’m really looking forward to racing there later this season,” Pastrana said in a media release. “The seat time at Charlotte will be a huge help for me to get up to speed and for the team to get a solid base setup for when we show up to race later in the year.

“I’ve actually worked with several of the people on this team in the past. It’s a fun group and we have a good rapport.”

Pastrana has long sought to return to NASCAR racing, and the opportunity with Niece Motorsports is what he was looking for.

“NASCAR is something that challenges me,” Pastrana said. “I’ve done a lot of work over the past couple of years to try and improve my pavement skills.

“I’m racing my first full year of Rally (America) since 2010, and I’m fresh off my first win in over a year, so it’s really exciting to be able to get behind the wheel again and see what we can do in the Truck Series.”

It will be Pastrana’s first NASCAR race of any type since he competed in a Truck Series race at Las Vegas in 2015 (finished 16th).

Prior to that, he ran all 33 races in the Xfinity Series in 2013, with a season-best finish of ninth in the spring race at Richmond as well as three other tenth-place finishes. He also earned one pole that year at Talladega.

One bonus for Pastrana is he’ll have Cody Efaw as his crew chief on the No. 45 truck. Efaw served as Pastrana’s car chief in the 2013 Xfinity Series season.

“Any time you can team up with someone you’ve worked well with in the past, there’s obviously a level of comfort there,” Pastrana said. “I know the group of guys that Niece Motorsports has assembled is going to give me a great shot at running well.”

Niece Motorsports is competing on a part-time schedule in the Truck Series in 2017, with plans to race full-time in 2018.

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Sandy Wexler, AKA Adam Sandler, crashes Cup Series garage to promote new movie

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A couple weeks ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series garage had a noteworthy visitor.

Sandy Wexler, a low-level talent manager from Los Angeles, swooped through the garage trying to sign his next big client.

Wexler said he was asked by NASCAR to stop by the track to talk to drivers and “make them better racers and make them better people.”

His targets included Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

In reality, it was just actor Adam Sandler in character to promote his next movie, Sandy Wexler, which premieres April 14 on Netflix.

This isn’t the first time Sandler has been seen at a NASCAR track. Sandler has given the command to start engines at three different Cup races.

Watch the video below to see if Wexler lands some NASCAR talent.

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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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