Banquet in Vegas a safe bet?

September, 11, 2007

Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith believes chances are good NASCAR will move the Cup postseason awards banquet from New York City to Las Vegas in 2008.

"I think it's 80 to 90 percent likely to happen," Smith said Tuesday from his office in Charlotte. "I think it would be a wonderful thing for everyone involved if we can get this worked out."

Ramsey Poston, NASCAR's managing director of corporate communications, said talk of moving the banquet is strictly speculation.

"NASCAR has no current plans to relocate the banquet," Poston said. "However, NASCAR is courted on a regular basis by other major cities, and on a consistent basis for the Cup banquet and other banquets."

Smith has become somewhat of an ambassador for the Las Vegas market. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of six tracks that Smith owns through SMI.

Smith has lobbied for more than year to try to convince NASCAR officials to move the banquet to Las Vegas.

The Cup banquet, which comes the week after Thanksgiving, will be held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Nov. 30, the 27th consecutive year the ceremony has taken place in New York.

But Smith said he recently has engaged in some favorable conversations with NASCAR chairman Brian France about the possibility of moving the awards banquet to Las Vegas.

"I think everyone is more accepting of the idea now," Smith said. "It seems we've worn out our welcome a little bit in New York. That was obvious when plans to build a track up there fell through."

International Speedway Corp., Smith's rival in speedway management and construction, purchased land on Staten Island with hopes of building an 80,000 facility for Cup events. But ISC, owned by the France family, gave up on those plans last December when political obstacles couldn't be overcome.

Smith believes holding the season-ending awards ceremony in Las Vegas is a no-brainer.

"I'm tired of getting ripped off every time I go to New York," Smith said. "Vegas has 145,000 hotel rooms and far better weather that time of year."

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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