Saturday, March 1, 2008

NASCAR Tracks: Las Vegas

Las Vegas Motor SpeedwayImage by rayb777 via Flickr
Las Vegas Motor Speedway has a dozen different venues for everything on wheels from go-karts to NASCAR, including The Bullring, a 3/8-mile paved oval for short track racing, a state-of-the-art drag strip, road courses, and a dirt track. Of course, what we (NASCAR fans) are interested in is the 1.5-mile tri-oval.

The facility opened in 1996. NASCAR held a Truck Series race there that year, then added a Nationwide Series race in 1997 and a Sprint Cup series race in 1998.

In 2006, the track was repaved and reconfigured.  Pit road was moved closer to the front straightaway and closer to the fans in the stands, and fan-friendly features were added to the infield, particularly the Neon Garage where fans can see live entertainment and get up-close and personal with drivers.  Progressive banking -- the track gets steeper the closer you get to the outside wall -- was added, making the track faster and allowing more side-by-side racing.

The track features twenty degree banking near the wall in the wide, sweeping turns and nine degrees of banking on the 2275-feet frontstretch. The flatter (only three degrees) backstretch is 1572 feet long.

SAFER barriers had been installed along the outside wall, but in 2008 Jeff Gordon was involved in a crash in which his car slammed hard into the inside wall. SAFER barriers were soon installed along the inside wall.

Las Vegas native Kurt Busch holds the Sprint Cup qualifying record at LVMS -- 28.614 secs. (188.719 mph), set in February 2010. Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with three wins at LVMS. The wins came in consecutive years from 2005-07. Jack Roush leads all owners with six LVMS wins.

Currently, Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosts one Sprint Cup race per year, the Shelby American, in late February or early March. The track also hosts a Nationwide Series race on the same weekend, and a Camping World Truck Series race in September. Owner Bruton Smith has been lobbying NASCAR hard for a second race, but the schedule is already full and NASCAR officials are leery because of their experiences at Fontana.

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