Jewel of the Desert: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, located in Clark County, about 15 miles northeast of the Las Vegas, is the biggest motorsport facility in Nevada. The main race track on the 1,200-acre ground is a 1.5-mile tri-oval, which was built in 1996 and it was used for NASCAR and Champ/Indy Car races ever since. The facility also features infield and outfield road courses, a drag strip, and a few small ovals.
In the early 1970s, Las Vegas needed a new race track
The story about Las Vegas Motor Speedway started in the early 1970s, after a closure of the Stardust International Raceway in the Spring Valley near Las Vegas. This left the local motorsport community without a proper race track, so the idea of a new racing facility on the other side of town was born. In 1972, Las Vegas Speedway Park was opened: it featured the quarter-mile dragstrip and a 1.6-mile road course.
Speedrome was added to Las Vegas Speedway Park in 1985
The closure of Craig Road Speedway, a 0.250-mile paved oval in North Las Vegas, opened a new opportunity for the expansion of the Las Vegas Speedway Park. In 1985, the 0.375-mile oval named Speedrome was constructed. That oval still exist today and it is known as Bullring.
The next change followed in 1989, when the City of Las Vegas, which was the landowner, decided to put the whole facility for sale. The new owners changed the name to Las Vegas International Speedway and in the following years, the combination of three different race tracks hosted many national car and motorcycle racing events.
The construction of the big oval began in 1995
Another change of the name to Las Vegas Raceway Park followed in 1995, when the construction of the big oval began. It was the biggest construction project in Nevada, with more ground moved than for the Hoover Dam. While building 1.5-mile oval, the old road course and Speedrome were also reconstructed.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway was opened in 1996
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway was opened in June of 1996, when Indy Racing League drivers Tony Stewart and Richie Hearn had tested the track. The inaugural race was the Las Vegas 500K on September 16 and Richie Hearn was the first winner. In that race, Arie Luyendyk set the fastest lap time with an average speed of 226.491 mph. It remained the fastest lap time at LVMS up to date.
All three NASCAR national series since 1998
Other competitions until the end of 1996 were the AMA Superbike finale, NASCAR Winston West Series, NASCAR Truck Series and World of Outlaws. The NASCAR Busch Series came in 1997. The premium NASCAR competition, the Winston Cup Series, came to Las Vegas in March 1998. The winner of the Las Vegas 400 race, held in front of 120,000 spectators, was Mark Martin. At the end of the year, the track owners made a good deal and had sold the facility to Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Group for $215 million.
Former racing series at LVMS: ALMS, IndyCar, Champ Car
Under new ownership, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway remained one of the main NASCAR’s track but also expanded a schedule to some international competitions, such as the American Le Mans Series in 1999 and 2000.
After an inaugural race, Indy Car drivers were returning to Las Vegas four more times, until the year of 2000. The winners were Eliseo Salazar, Arie Luyendyk, Sam Schmidt and Al Unser Jr. In 2004 and 2005, the Champ Car Series visited Las Vegas, with both races won by Sebastien Bourdais.
A new driving and viewing experience since 2007
After a few modifications of the outside road course between 2003 and 2005, the big reconstruction project of the tri-oval began in 2006. The plan featured an increase of the banking from 12 to 20 degrees. The pit road was also moved closer to the grandstands, incorporating a new quarter-mile oval for Legends Cars. The capacity of the current superspeedway grandstands are 116,000 spectators.
Video : 2011 IndyCar Series crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Dan Wheldon’s death is the darkest moment in speedway’s history
October 16, 2011, was the darkest day in the history of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After ten seasons of absence, IndyCar Series returned to Las Vegas for the season finale. Unfortunately, the celebration turned into a catastrophe when the big crash happened during Lap 11. Fifteen cars were involved, including the one of the defending champion Dan Wheldon. He didn’t survive the crash and the race wasn’t resumed. Instead of that, remaining drivers made five tribute laps in honor of Dan Wheldon.
IndyCar Series never returned to Las Vegas
After the race, IndyCar officials announced that the series wouldn’t return to Las Vegas until the cause of the tragedy was fully investigated. Although the official results of the investigation were released in December 2011, IndyCar Series never returned to Las Vegas.
Since then, it is the venue of NASCAR stock car races and NHRA drag races, but also a number of hosted various minor racing competitions, racing schools, testing trials and different non-racing events. One of the racing schools is Richard Petty Driving Experience. In 2016, Las Vegas is hosting all three NASCAR national series.
Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson have the most wins
The most successful driver in the premium NASCAR series at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is Jimmie Johnson, who won four times (2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010). Matt Kenseth is a three-time winner (2003, 2004 and 2013).
Among active drivers, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski have won two times, along the retired driver Jeff Burton. Burton was also a three-time winner of Busch Series races at Las Vegas. The record holder is Mark Martin who won four times in the Busch/Nationwide Series races. So, in total, Burton and Martin had five wins at LVMS.
Address: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 7000 Las Vegas Blvd. N., Las Vegas, NV 89115, USA
Phone: +1 702 644 4444
Official website: lvms.com