Mel Larson, a co-founder of Las Vegas Motor Speedway and one of the pioneers of Las Vegas's rise to international acclaim, died Tuesday. He was 87.

Larson assisted the late Ralph Engelstad and Bill Bennett, along with Richie Clyne, to spearhead the construction of LVMS in the mid-1990s, and it was his guidance that paved the way for the new speedway to land its first NASCAR premier series event in 1998. Larson's friendship with Speedway Motorsports Chairman Bruton Smith helped pave the way for SMI's purchase of LVMS in late 1998.

"Mel was an icon in many arenas," said LVMS president Chris Powell. "He was instrumental in getting LVMS built, but his reach goes far beyond that in Las Vegas. He was an original when it came to promotion, whether it was a race or a stunt to get attention for one of the casinos he represented. He leaves behind a lasting legacy and will be missed by many. Our prayers are with his wife, Marilyn, and all of the people Mel has touched throughout the years."

Services are pending.