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Laura Carroll

NASCAR extends Champions Week honeymoon in Las Vegas

7 May 2012

NASCAR and Las Vegas have gotten serious.

The powerhouse sports organization and the tourist playground will take their relationship to another level today with the announcement of a three-year deal to keep NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series Awards and Champions Week in Las Vegas for three more years.

The two parties have been taking things slowly since NASCAR left its steady venue of 25 years, New York City, in 2008. But, it seems, Las Vegas wasn't just a rebound.

"The first three years in Vegas were very successful for the sport overall," said Steve Phelps, NASCAR's chief marketing officer. "The city is a great backdrop for our sport to serve as our championship city."

During Champions Week, NASCAR celebrates the end of its season with fan-centric events such as the popular Victory Lap, during which drivers strut their stuff on the Strip, or After the Lap, an event that allows fans to see drivers in a relaxed atmosphere interacting with one another.

Phelps described last year's atmosphere as "electric."

"We're always looking for more ways to engage the fans," he said.

In November, NASCAR will return for its fourth consecutive Champions Week in Las Vegas. A full schedule is not yet available, but the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards are set for Nov. 30 at Wynn Las Vegas. In December 2011, the events drew about 2,500 people to the city.

Although relatively small in terms of attendance in a town where conventions drawing 30,000 people are common, the branding value of the partnership benefits Las Vegas, so much so that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority romanced the racers.

"We worked very hard to get that event here," said Julian Dugas, sports marketing director for the LVCVA. "From a value standpoint, it's worth millions."

Dugas said co-branding with NASCAR gives Las Vegas access to untapped markets in the Southeast, from where Sin City has not traditionally drawn as many visitors.

"The bottom line is that it's a win-win for all of us," Dugas said.

NASCAR Champions Week traditionally is filled with celebrities and targeted entertainment offerings.

Last year's events featured Reba McIntyre as host and a performance by Kid Rock. Brooks and Dunn, David Gray, Rascal Flatts, Colbie Caillat and Martina McBride also have been included in the past.

NASCAR races are broadcast in more than 150 countries and in 20 languages, and consist of three national series: the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. There are also four regional, one local and two inter­national series.

NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races at 100 tracks in more than 30 states, Canada and Mexico. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., the organization has offices in eight cities across North America.