Originally created 03/12/06

Track owner wants to double down



LAS VEGAS - O. Bruton Smith wants a second race at his Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and he's willing to pay for it.

The chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. said he's working every week to buy a racetrack with a Nextel Cup Series event so he can move that date to Las Vegas. And he's got as much as $250 million to play with.

Smith already owns speedways that hold 10 Nextel Cup Series races, and he's worked for years to bring a second date to the 137,000-seat facility. Since the raceway joined the sport in 1998, every seat has been sold out for the Nextel Cup Series, including today's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400.

The speedway announced major renovation plans for next year, including a new garage area, a new racing surface with higher banking to promote more side-by-side racing and condominiums in the first turn.

Even at $250 million, Smith faces problems buying a second race for Las Vegas. The only tracks not owned by rival International Speedway Corp. are Dover International Speedway, New Hampshire International Raceway and Pocono Raceway. None have expressed any interest in selling.

"If Pocono or any of the others came knocking, I'd open the door," Smith said. "They know I'm here and it would take me 20 minutes to write the check."

NASCAR, which is owned by the same family that owns International Speedway Corp., told Smith if he wants a second race at Las Vegas he can move it from one of his existing tracks at Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Bristol, Tenn., Fort Worth, Texas, or Sonoma, Calif. Smith insists will never happen.

MAYFIELD CRASHES: Jeremy Mayfield will be one of four drivers dropping to the back of the starting lineup before today's race after crashing with Kenny Wallace during the final practice session.

"(Wallace) crashed in front of us," said Mayfield's team director, Chris Andrews. "I don't know if they ran something over or blew up or what, but the 78 wrecked immediately in front of us. Jeremy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Both Mayfield and Wallace will forfeit their starting positions by switching to backup cars.

Ryan Newman blew an engine during the final workout and will move to the back, as will Scott Wimmer, who changed an engine.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.