Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2014

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Six Questions:

Chris Powell, GM of Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Beyond the Sun

For 362 days every year, he is an executive vice president and general manager of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But on the first weekend of every March, Chris Powell becomes the mayor of a Nevada city bigger than Reno.

Is Sunday’s Sprint Cup race going to be a sellout?

No. Unfortunately, NASCAR and Las Vegas are not immune to this economic downturn. However, we will have tremendous crowds on hand for both the Sam’s Town 300 and the Shelby 427. While this weekend is important for Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it’s equally important for our city. Last year’s event created an economic impact approaching $200 million.

Has the sluggish economy hurt ticket sales as much as you anticipated?

It’s been about what you’d expect. I heard a report the other day that our city has been affected more than any other city, except perhaps Detroit. In the past, approximately 70 percent of our attendees for NASCAR Weekend have been from out of state. With people traveling less, it’s no surprise that our event has felt the effect.

What’s the status of a second Cup race at the speedway?

It might be on someone else’s back burner, but it’s high on my priority list. Las Vegas needs the economic stimulus that a second race would bring each year. NASCAR fans, like most everyone else, love coming to our city, and we’d love to give them a reason to return in the fall.

What’s the best way to wait out a traffic jam after the race?

It’s not necessary to sit in traffic. The really smart fans arrive early and take advantage of the many festivities on our midway and in the Neon Garage. At our speedway, it’s “first in, first out” of the parking lots.

Does the general manager get good seats?

I do very little sitting during the course of the race — bouncing around the suites and the NASCAR control room, talking to fans and sponsors, and generally keeping an eye on the operation.

You used to be a sportswriter covering the Durham Bulls. Did you ever meet Nuke LaLoosh or Annie Savoy?

In yet another case of poor timing, I left Durham a year before “Bull Durham” was filmed. My replacement at the newspaper had a cameo interviewing Nuke. Who knows, I could’ve been the next DiCaprio.

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