SBJ/February 25-March 3, 2013/Events and Attractions

Long Drive finals shift to prime time, Vegas speedway

Get ready for long drives under the lights.

The 2013 version of the Re/Max Long Drive Championship finals is set to be played in prime time at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this October as part of a new, winner-take-all format.

This year’s finals will be held at the speedway on Oct. 30 as part of a two-hour finale that will be carried live on Golf Channel. The winner will be awarded $250,000, up from last year’s winner purse of $150,000.

The idea, which came to Long Drivers of America owner and CEO Art Sellinger while he was driving by the speedway, moves the event from the Mesquite Sports & Events Complex, where it has been held since 1997. Mesquite still will host the qualifying rounds Sept. 18-27. Sellinger hopes the move fuels
attendance and interest around the event; he expects to draw 7,000 to 10,000 this October, after hitting a high of 3,000 at Mesquite.

During the competition, popular among avid golfers, players will tee off from the middle of the grandstand in Turn 3. A teebox will be built 75 feet above the speedway with artificial turf.

A landing area will be set up 325 to 435 yards away. The area already has grass, but officials will install overseeded rye and maintain it at fairway height. “Drivers will have to fly it 320 yards to hit the grass,” Sellinger said.

Last year, Golf Channel signed a three-year deal with the Long Drivers of America to carry the event as a way to bring more live programming to its schedule. The event had bought time on ESPN, which showed it on a tape-delayed basis. Golf Channel executives would not discuss the deal, but said they are not paying a rights fee.

Tom Knapp, Golf Channel’s senior vice president of programming, said the network plans to do more than just show the competition; it wants to tell the stories behind the competitors.

“We’re going to do the ‘24/7’ method,” he said. “We feel it’s important to explain to the viewer who these guys are.”

The network already has started pitching the event to advertisers and sponsors. Re/Max is the title sponsor. Callaway and Dick’s have purchased sponsorships, too, Sellinger said.

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