Las Vegas Diary
Las Vegas, Nevada, September 24, 2005 — This is the second year of the Doubledown in the Desert, the Bride of Frankenstein marriage of the Champ Car World Series with NASCAR Craftsman Trucks. One event, two series equals what? Last year, a very late Champ Car race featured very poor officiating, an ever shrinking crowd, and the Flying Elvi. For reasons we well understand, the Elvi are not returning this year. Also, for reasons easily grasped, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the last year of doubling down at LVMS. The main reason for this is what I call the “lackapromotion blues.” Quite simply, no one is promoting this race.
We know no one is promoting the race because we’ve talked to friends who actually live here. All are vaguely aware that there’s a NCTS race here this weekend. However, all were surprised to learn that we were coming to town to cover a Champ Car race on Saturday night. As Strother Martin’s character said in Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Under the business model employed elsewhere in Champ Car, Champ Car delivers the product – the competition – and the promoter delivers the attendance along with a sanctioning fee. It’s a model where everybody wins.
We’re still trying to figure out who wins with this particular set up. There is no doubt whatsoever that there will be a large crowd in attendance on Saturday night to watch the third tier of NASCAR – the trucks – make a top billed appearance ahead of the premier open wheel racing series in North America. If you want to know the truth about this event, just open up LVMS’ own Media Guide for the Double Down. Other than mentioning the appearance by Champ Car and one page of “tentative entries” for the series, the rest of the 60 odd page guide is all NASCAR all the time.
While track officials are noticeably more polite to the Champ Car media than they were last year, the handwriting is on the wall. It’s as clear as the 8:30 PM approximate start time for the CCWS race, a start time not definite because of the truck race, which is being televised live on cable. Or as clear as the Champ Car warm up not being run on time because the Nastrucks weren’t done qualifying on time because they couldn’t be bothered to start on time.
Kevin Kalkhoven told us in Denver last month that Champ Car would definitely be in this market. As a gazillionaire who has used his hard earned capital to buy in successive order Champ Car, Cosworth, and the Long Beach Grand Prix, if Kevin wants a race here, he is certainly entitled to one. However, the 2006 schedule shows the Las Vegas race as tentative. There will supposedly be a “joint review” of the Double Down in the Desert after this year’s race. Honestly, what is there to review? I’m not privy to the financial arrangements for this race (and I wish I were), but I have real trouble seeing the upside of continuing to play second fiddle to third place in NASCAR. Am I missing something here?
The IRL has mercifully forsaken Fontana after failing to draw even close to the way CART did back in the day. September in Fontana would not be bad, and the last time Champ Car raced there, the Nastrucks were also there – as a support series race the day before. That could work. So could this race if it were run on Sunday morning after Trucks on Saturday night. I’d much rather have a slightly smaller crowd in the process if they were coming here to actually watch a Champ Car race as opposed to being enticed to stay on after watching the trucks.
Better still, so it is said, would be a Las Vegas street race. No disrespect intended, but the cities where street races work best – cities such as Denver, Long Beach, and San Jose – are those without much else going on. The problem with a street race in Las Vegas in the early 21st century is that this place has a lot going on. So much is going on, in fact, that I suspect it would be difficult to get casino owners and the city leadership to close down streets and other actions so necessary to produce a successful street race.
With this in mind, the options for Las Vegas become much more “focused.” Either we find a way to make things work here at LVMS, or we revisit the plan to be in this market. Most Champ Car fans seem to favor having a few more ovals. With that in mind, let us trust Kevin Kalkhoven and Company to figure out how to keep this oval race without Champ Car having to be either the Bride or Frankenstein.
Copyright © 2005 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.