LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host two top-tier NASCAR races beginning in 2018.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors approved a race sponsorship agreement with the track and parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. on Wednesday, with this year's race coming up Sunday. Las Vegas' win is New Hampshire Motor Speedway's loss, with SMI shifting one of the New England track's two NASCAR Cup Series races to Nevada.
"Las Vegas and Las Vegas Motor Speedway have become great destinations for NASCAR fans," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "The experience is unique to any other in our sport. We look forward to having NASCAR racing there for two race weekends in 2018."
SMI said it will move its September race date at New Hampshire to Las Vegas to create the second race. The company will also move the Truck Series race from New Hampshire, as well as a stand-alone Xfinity Series race from Kentucky Speedway to create a triple-header weekend.
LVMS will become the first facility on the NASCAR schedule to host two yearly weekend events with all three national series. The race dates will be announced later by NASCAR as part of the full 2018 schedules.
"The fantastic support that NASCAR as a sport and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway receive from Las Vegas is phenomenal, and it really has proven to be something that we can ignore," SMI President Marcus Smith said. Smith, tourism officials, along with brothers and Las Vegas natives Kurt and Kyle Busch participated in the deal's announcement in Las Vegas.
The sponsorship deal is for $2.5 million per year for seven years with the option of extending the agreement three years. The convention authority is expected to pay a sponsorship fee of $1 million per race and commit to spending $500,000 annually to market both races.
The city of Las Vegas currently does not sponsor the race that comes to the city in March.
SMI owns the Las Vegas track, along with seven others, and said racing will continue in New Hampshire and Kentucky. Those facilities will host just one race weekend each year now.
"Fans and tourism officials in New Hampshire and Kentucky should know that we are still very committed to creating motorsports entertainment in those regions," Smith said. "We will work hard to make sure the July NASCAR race weekends that we will continue to host in New Hampshire and Kentucky are bigger and better than ever before for our fans, sponsors and stakeholders."
Las Vegas tourism officials said their 2016 race attracted more than 96,000 out-of-town guests and had an overall economic impact of more than $139 million.
LVMS first hosted a Truck Series race in 1996, added the second-tier Xfinity Series in 1997 and will mark its 20th Cup race Sunday. The first race held at the 1.5-mile oval was the Indy Racing League's Las Vegas 500K in 1996.
Tourism officials and track leaders said they have worked on the possibility of bringing a second race to Sin City for at least six years. Wednesday's announcement continues the expansion of Las Vegas' sports offerings with the city recently getting an NHL team and possibly becoming the home of the Oakland Raiders.
"The big winner here is going to be the city of Las Vegas," said Las Vegas driver Kurt Busch, the Daytona 500 winner. "Vegas has gone through many phases over the years... It started out with a family atmosphere it seemed like in the early 90s. It seemed like there was a nightclub phase, there was a restaurant phase, all along everything kept building, and now we are going through a big sports phase here in Las Vegas."
Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO. More of her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/ReginaGarciaCano
More AP auto racing: www.racing.ap.org