Hey LVMS blog fans, part 2 of the "Stat Guy" takes on Las Vegas.
First, I would like to answer the two people who left comments about my first blog entry. One was : "Were you the guy who was at the Stone Pony (in the world famous Asbury Park, NJ) wearing jeans and drinking a beer that I met?" The answer would be of course, not sure about the beer part; it would depend on which decade. The first time I went to the Pony, as we locals call it, was in 1977 and at the time I drank beer, lately water.
The next comment was very funny about going over to Bob Frey's house for National Dragster archive parties. I HAVE NEVER been to Mr. Frey's house, the Shrine of Drag Racing Statistics. He does own every copy of National Dragster besides countless other drag racing goodies. I am not sure why I have never been invited. He always has a pre-Englishtown get together and for some reason I am never on the guest list. I have even met the lovely Diana Frey (Bob's wife and comedic teammate) at Kevin and Jill McKenna's wedding last year. Both do work for NHRA but Jill is from Central Jersey (both her Father and sister race NHRA) so the wedding was in the state last fall and Bob brought along Mrs. Frey. Personally, I thought we hit it off so I figured I am in! But still no invite to play among the treasure trove of drag racing history. Maybe someday I will get the invite!
Now onto the first two days at Vegas. I arrived in Las Vegas from New Jersey on Wednesday afternoon. The only drag racing moment was when the gentleman next to me asked what I was going to Las Vegas for. I said I am working for ESPN at a drag racing event. His first comment in response was, as usual, ‘drag racing, huh?' I explained to him the basics and he made the connection to the sport based on what he had seen on Speed Channel watching "Pinks." I was like, if you think that's cool you should check out NHRA drag racing. If you are reading this, you probably know the rest of the story! He did mention his son went to Englishtown a couple of years ago and had a really good time. He then went on to bring up his reason for coming to Las Vegas and the fact that he worked for insurance giant Prudential. If you are familiar with Newark, N.J., Prudential is very involved in the city. He continued to talk about drag racing and its potential from a marketing point of view. He then shifted to NASCAR and how his company looked really hard at getting involved in the sport a couple of years ago. For some reason, Prudential passed on NASCAR but I felt that he was fishing for some information about NHRA. Since I am just the lowly "Stat Guy," I told him NHRA was a great buy, really good bang for the buck and that if he ever wanted an entre to the sport I could make that happen. What you don't know is that prior to our conversation about NASCAR, we made the connection that one of his fellow employees was a longtime friend of yours truly. You may never see a Prudential Race car anywhere but as always, I was working the room. By the way, Continental Airlines: thanks for the upgrade! Many a deal, and I am not looking for one in any way, has been made by pure accident.
Once at McCarran Airport I walk right past the "Wheel of Fortune" slot machines or as they are known to my friends, "Wheel of Torture," to meet my longtime friend and travel companion Matt Polito. Matt grew up in New Jersey and gave up a corporate job years ago to become the guru of motorcycle drag racing through his web site Dragbike.com. He is an EXCELLENT photographer and an even better writer. He has "mad skills" in many other areas too: cooking, culture and even snowboarding. Matt and I have been going to races together since the spring of 1990. Our first road trip was to Budds Creek to see a Pro Mod race. I will never forget our first trip together. If you know Matt, you can ask him why. (Hint, it involves my ex- wife, he is thankfully happily married. He currently does a blog on his web site from the NHRA national events and services clients like Harley Davidson. It is great to have a friend like him on tour!
We would start the Las Vegas experience with a trip to Caesar's to see the Elton John Red Piano show. This time it was courtesy of Jay Wells, public relations man to the Lucas team who long ago introduced Bob Frey and others to a man they call "Sticks." He was kind enough to get Matt and I into the show and in the sound room in the middle of the theatre. We saw a terrific show, the highlight for me being Pinball Wizard from the rock opera "Tommy." It is also amazing how many Elton John songs are classics. The show had and incredible video backdrop, not a show for children, which is ok with me! I had heard through the grape-vine that Tim and Kim Richards, along with Rahn Tobler and his wife Ellen, were in the house so I will track them down for a review later on this weekend. The night concluded with dinner in the Paris hotel and a walk through the Bellagio. I walk through the Bellagio every time I am in Vegas because it makes me feel like some day I could actually afford to stay here. It's one of those moments where I miss former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Marco Andreano who used to let my play at the Bellagio with his money. I never won much but it was REALLY COOL to sit at one of those $100 tables. Realize that when you are from the East coast and in Las Vegas at midnight it is definitely time to go to sleep!
Odds are is that I will not win any bets this weekend. Oh, first you have to place the bets......
First thing on Thursday morning is to go to the Palace Station and pick up the latest odds for the race this weekend. Only in Vegas can you place bets, and get odds on your favorite racers. I usually get the odds not only for personal entertainment, but also for graphics for the TV show. The last time I cashed in was the spring race here in 2007 when Robert Hight was part of the field bet. With Tony Schumacher a virtual lock in the 1000-foot era to win the race why even look at a Top Fuel pick? But I do like JR Todd at 25 -1. Todd, of course, is the only 1000- foot winner other than Schumacher. In Funny Car the favorites are, of course, anyone in the top five in the points. John Force at 12 -1 looked like a pretty good deal but his last couple of trips to The Strip have resulted in DNQ's. John's luck here has to change! I saw a very young member of the National Dragster staff Thursday night put some of his hard earned cash to work placing a bet on, as he said, "my boy Mike Neff." Mike had his debut here last year so as I always say, that is pretty good karma. In Pro Stock Car how could you bet against the Cagnazzi, or KB cars but this year we have had plenty of different winners, 10 to be exact. I mentioned Morgan, WJ and Yates in my previous blog so why not go with one of the long shots. Remember bet responsibly!
Next on tap for the day was some time spent walking around the Strip taking some photos. For the first time ever, I went to the famous Las Vegas welcome sign to take some photographs and have my picture taken with my pal Matty Polito. I was surprised how cool the sign was up close, a true icon of the Las Vegas strip. We went for lunch and then it was back to our hotel for a quick power nap. After that, it was time for another show "Jersey Boys" at the Palazzo. How ironic, a Jersey Boy at "Jersey Boys." It is the story about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Not normally my cup of tea but it was all Jersey. The music, staging and story were terrific. The most surprising part was how funny the show was. I laughed out loud several times. After the show, we went to the Palms for our night out at the Playboy Club. We were there for several hours, saw some crazy stuff and called it a night at 1 p.m. In terms of Las Vegas I was a total loser, in bed on a Thursday at 1 a.m., what, are you joking!
This brings us to day one of the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at the Strip. I have been here since 10 a.m., not an early start to the day to say the least, working and getting ready for the race. I will have more about that tomorrow.
Three things before I go: Tim and Kim Richards loved the Elton John show, Bob Frey is so skinny because of the water in New Jersey (look at me!) and Alan is really that cool....or is he?
Enjoy the blog and the races! Where do we go tonight? I am thinking an early bedtime. Let's see Friday night in Las Vegas on Halloween......do I stay in or do I go out. Such drama.......