The holiday season is a time for families to be together and for all of us to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the upcoming 12 months.
The 2008 season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway saw some new faces and some older ones make headlines. It was also a year to say goodbye to a couple of longtime partners, and to welcome a pair of new ones.
In the biggest event of the year, Carl Edwards won his first Sprint Cup race at LVMS and thrilled the crowd with his customary back somersault on the start-finish line. But the day before, Mark Martin won the Nationwide race driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team. For Martin, it was his third Nationwide win at LVMS and his fourth win overall. But for Dale Jr., it was his first win ever as a car owner.
LVMS also saw the end of the United Auto Workers' eight-year sponsorship of the Cup race come to a close. But before the calendar could turn, Shelby Automobiles stepped up and took on sponsorship of the 2009 race. The sponsorship will help Shelby promote its Las Vegas Motor Speedway limited-edition Shelby 427. The race will be extended by 18 laps (27 miles) and be called the Shelby 427.
We also welcome a new sponsor for the NASCAR Truck Series race. Houston-based bed liner company Qwik Liner became the title sponsor of the event in 2008. But while the sponsor was new, a familiar face hoisted the winner's trophy as Mike Skinner won his second Truck race in three years at LVMS.
The NHRA events had different winners in the spring and fall, but the fall's ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals saw Tony Schumacher hoist the trophy as the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series world champion. The veteran driver won his title in style too by winning the event and beating Las Vegas' own Hot Rod Fuller in the final. Cruz Pedregon posted his second career Funny Car win at The Strip en route to clinching his series title, and Jeg Coughlin's win in November helped propel him to the Pro Stock title.
Among our locals, Scott Gafforini won his second NASCAR Whelen All-American Series title at the Bullring. It's been quite a change of fortune for Gafforini, who finished second five times before breaking through for his first track title in 2006. He has definitely become the man to beat week in and week out at the 3/8-mile oval.
The local drag racing scene was also hot all year. John Dowd of Las Vegas scored a victory on June 7 and went on to win the Jerry's Nugget Championship Drag Racing Series Super Pro title by 65 points over Glen Copley. There were other headlines at the Strip including a bitter battle for the high school title that saw Ian Perri of Las Vegas defeated Boulder City's Jon Irving by just two points and a rare win by brothers Chad and Cody Webber in the Jr. Dragster Lightning and Jr. Dragster Thunder championships, respectively.
It was also another banner year for Speedway Children's Charities. More than $290,000 was donated to 57 different child-related charities in the Las Vegas area this year. The donation total was sparked by the annual driver auction at Sam's Town as well as the first Track Walk, which was conducted prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
And our excitement is at a fever pitch heading in to 2009. The NASCAR Weekend is right around the corner. The driver auction and track walk are back on again this year as well. We have two NHRA national events and the Trucks will return on Sept. 26. We also are looking forward to honoring automotive legend Carroll Shelby at our Mel Larson Night of Champions on April 1. All proceeds from this event benefit Speedway Children's Charities.
The Bullring will be back with a full racing schedule, and bracket racing and Midnight Mayhems will keep the Strip humming along in 2009.
And we have tickets available for every event, so once you've gotten all the holiday cheer you can handle, turn your attention to another great racing season and plan to join us in 2009.