What's Bruton Smith up to now? If we tug real hard on his beard, will he tell us? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Mike Mulhern
A day after track mega-owner Bruton Smith stunned the stock car racing world with news that he was discussing a possible 10-year sponsorship deal for a second NASCAR Sprint Cup tour weekend at his Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a race that would be moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway's fall calendar, and a move he described as 70-30 odds to be made, the veteran racing promoter stepped back a bit from that.
Smith insists "No final decision has been made regarding any race date move, and I have not discussed this with NASCAR."
While NASCAR ostensibly has ultimate control over race dates, Smith and the France family have both moved several Cup weekends from one of their tracks to another -- North Wilkesboro to both New Hampshire and to Phoenix, Atlanta to Kentucky, Rockingham to Kansas, and Darlington to California and then to Kansas, all in various mutations.
Given NASCAR's diminished West Coast presence, a second Las Vegas race wouldn't be much of a leap, particularly since this sport has three Cup weekends at Charlotte Motor Speedway already, two Cup tour events and the All-Star.
But what is Smith really trying to do here, with this proposed move from Charlotte to Las Vegas?
He could be taking the first step in what would be a move to switch the All-Star and 600 weekends further apart, instead of back to back, which hurts both in attendance.
However the All-Star race is a peculiar animal, with its own political baggage. And the France family itself might want to weigh in on any new plans for that event. At one time it was proposed that the All-Star race be run at Richmond, a France-family track.
More likely Smith is trying to wrangle with local politicians over something or other. He has been at odds with them over the years.
A second NASCAR Sprint Cup tour stop in Las Vegas? Could be, during the fall championship playoffs 2014, Bruton Smith says (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Smith Tuesday pointed out all the investments made in the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex, including that direct access road to I-85, and a huge shopping/hotel strip created along that road.
"We've invested $100 million in the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex in the past six years to make it even better for the fans," Smith says. "We've expanded our fan zone, added pit road suites and built the world’s largest HDTV for every fan to enjoy.
"We've put more people to work with these projects, and we've added more events to the calendar to bring in more tourists and fans. And we've done this during the worst economy since the Great Depression.
"We've done this without asking for a handout from the government, like we've seen from so many other sports facilities, teams or franchises.
"Yet at the same time property values are falling during the recession, our Cabarrus County taxes have doubled since 2005.
"We absolutely love the fans that come to Charlotte Motor Speedway. It's frustrating to think about the future and consider that the local government doesn't share the same excitement about Charlotte Motor Speedway that our fans do.
"The Cabarrus County politicians may say nice things to the media, but raising taxes does not support the tourism business, the area economy or companies trying to grow."
Good news: Michael Annett, injured badly at Daytona in February, has finally been cleared to get back behind the wheel. And he expects to be again driving in Saturday's Nationwide 300 here.
Annett suffered a broken and dislocated sternum in the season-opener. His injuries required surgery and lengthy healing.
A broken sternum is a now rare injury in this sport, and no reason has been offered as explanation.
The team said NASCAR officials played a role in deciding whether or not Annett would be cleared to race.
Fox' Speed channel reports a ratings increase for Saturday night's rain-delayed All-Star race.
Not including the nearly one-hour rain delay, Speed says the event pulled a rating of 3.29, up 6.5 percent from last year's 3.09.
Over all, including the delay, the total rating of 3.04 was off only 2 percent from 2012.
Speed said the All-Star show ranked second that night on cable, and second in men 18-to-49, first in men 35-to-54.
Chad Knaus' pit crew set the stage for Jimmie Johnson's All-Star victory (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)