LAS VEGAS — Track owner Bruton Smith said Wednesday he expects the IndyCar Series to honor its contract with Las Vegas Motor Speedway and return to the track in 2012.
Smith, owner of Speedway Motorsports Inc., has two years remaining on his contract to hold the IndyCar season finale at Las Vegas. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has yet to announce the 2012 schedule, and is awaiting the results of the investigation into Dan Wheldon's fatal accident at Las Vegas to decide if the series can continue to run on high-banked ovals.
"We have two years left on that contract and I expect Randy to honor it," said Smith, who leased the property to IndyCar in a three-year contract.
Smith also said he wants IndyCar back at Texas Motor Speedway, one of the most popular venues in the series. IndyCar has not completed its sanctioning agreement with Texas, and potentially could drop both Las Vegas and Texas from the schedule over concerns of racing on high-banked ovals.
At a NASCAR event in downtown Las Vegas, Smith was critical of Bernard's indecision and called on the CEO to honor his agreements with Speedway Motorsports Inc.
"I like Randy a lot, but he listens to too many people," Smith said. "He's listening to people who don't know a damn thing about speedways and there's no reason in the world he should not be back at Las Vegas and Texas next year."
Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, was killed in the Oct. 16 season finale at Las Vegas in a fiery 15-car accident.
Since the accident, critics have complained IndyCar is not suited for high-banked ovals and there have been calls for the series to abandon the tracks. The Las Vegas race has been scrutinized over the high speeds, the crowded 34-car field and a varied experience level on ovals among the drivers as contributors to the accident.
Now Texas has fallen under scrutiny, even though the facility has hosted a race every year since 1997. The track last season split its 500-mile race into a pair of 250-milers in a trumpeted twinbill.
"There's never been a problem at Texas. Never, ever, ever," Smith said. "I have no idea why all of a sudden Texas would be considered not suitable for IndyCar."
Meanwhile, Smith said he has verbally requested a second race at Las Vegas from NASCAR chairman Brian France and plans to put it in writing for the 2013 season. Smith has long wanted two races for Las Vegas, and has called on NASCAR to move its season finale from Homestead-Miami Speedway to his property.
"It would be for the good of the sport for the season to end at Las Vegas and everybody knows that," Smith said. "Everybody wants to be in Las Vegas. That's not a secret to anyone and NASCAR should do the right thing and move that finale here."
Smith successfully lobbied NASCAR to move its season-ending awards ceremony from New York to Las Vegas three years ago, and LVMS officials hosted Wednesday's event — a version of "The Newlywed Game" with host Bob Eubanks and the 12 Chase drivers — in downtown Las Vegas.
The awards ceremony is Friday night at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort.
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