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.
Last month, NASCAR announced a ban on testing for the 2009 season. The only exceptions to that testing ban are tests conducted by Goodyear to examine tire wear and help select the best tire for certain speedways.
On Wednesday and Thursday, four NASCAR drivers visited our 1.5-mile superspeedway on behalf of Goodyear to test tires for the March 1 Shelby 427. It was a nice mix of young and old, superstars and newcomers. Carl Edwards, who won the Sprint Cup event at LVMS in March, represented the Ford teams.. Veteran racer Mark Martin, who has joined Hendrick Motorsports for the 2009 season, was testing in his new Chevrolet. NASCAR young gun Brian Vickers came with his Toyota team, and David Stremme was piloting his Dodge. Stremme will be in his first year with Penske Racing. He replaced Ryan Newman who has joined Tony Stewart's new team.
The test was uneventful - which is a good thing when testing. In talking with each of the four drivers at some point during the test, they all expressed great optimism about the tires they were testing and the prospects for a very competitive race here on March 1.
Prior to the 2007 event, the speedway was repaved and the banking was increased from 12 degrees to 20 degrees in the turns. There have been three Camping World Truck Series races, two Sprint Cup races, two Nationwide races, numerous tests and hundreds of days of driving schools on the track since the repaving. The more laps, the better, so we are all looking forward to one of the best race weekends ever starting Feb. 27.
Goodyear should be commended for its work in trying to bring a good tire to the event to make the race even better. The tire manufacturer picked a perfect mix of drivers for this test as well.
Martin won the inaugural Cup race here in 1998 and won this year's Nationwide Series race driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team. In fact, Martin, Jeff Burton and three-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson are the only drivers to win on both the old track and the new one.
Edwards is the defending champion of the race, and is one of four different drivers to win a Cup race at LVMS driving for Jack Roush. Stremme has an amazing Nationwide Series record at LVMS. In four starts, he has never finished worse than fifth. He also sat on the outside pole for the Cup race in 2007. Vickers has competed in four Cup races and three Nationwide Series races here.
Now that the testing is done, it's time for Goodyear and the teams to return to their respective headquarters and process the data. It's also time for everyone to take a break and enjoy the holiday season. The NASCAR Weekend here in Las Vegas is less than three months away, so if you haven't made plans to be here, it's time to start.
The Las Vegas Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities hosted its inaugural WNFR Celebrity Bowling Tournament on Saturday, December 6th, at The Gold Coast Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The bowling
tournament benefited Speedway Children's Charities and the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund and brought in over $4,500.00.
The event was tied to the annual kickoff weekend of the WNFR and included current and past rodeo champions and participants Will Lowe, Bobby Mote, Gary Leffew, Billy Etbauer, Hunter Herrin, Steven Dent, and Kelly Wardell. Additional celebrities included television star Mickey Jones; Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys; country music start Kristy Lee Cook; NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin and film, television and music star Susan Anton and singer Debby Campbell. The event was announced by PRCA personalities Boyd Polhamus and Wayne Brooks. Bowling participants were randomly matched with a celebrity on the bowling lanes to create an exciting event.
The event was won by Team Coca-Cola, who each walked away with a custom belt buckle donated by Montana Silversmiths.
A special thanks to all of the celebrities, participants and bowlers and
sponsors for this first-time event! We look forward to making this an annual event
and continue the wonderful support from this fantastic community and all
December 2, 2008 was the night of the Annual Speedway Children's Charities Grant Ceremony and Tree Lighting Ceremony at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was a lot of work, but the night was a huge success. We've been planning for this event since late summer and it was great! We got the tables set up, the presents wrapped and the tree decorated for the big night.
Smiles and excitement were everywhere! This is one holiday event where kids can be kids, and adults can be happy to have brought them to a party and thrilled to receive additional funds to help assist them with their respective charities!
The Las Vegas chapter of Speedway Children's Charities distributed $290,000 to 54 local charities. Santa hopped off a Richard Petty race car, specially decorated with holiday lights, and posed for pictures with all the children. Each child received a gift along with a candy cane and their photo with Santa.
There is nothing more heart warming then to see a little child's face light up when they receive their holiday gift! The event also featured a visit from Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a heartfelt speech by LVMS President and General Manager Chris Powell, performances by Culture Shock- Las Vegas dance troupe and 9th grade vocalist Malia Civetz. Magician Mr. Dixie Dooley also surprised the kids with thoughts of 'now where did it go?'
Making a difference in a child's life is the focus of Speedway Children's Charities and Tuesday night did just that and SCC-LV strives to do it again and again every year!
Hey there everybody! Hope the beginning of the holiday season finds you well. It's December 1st and there are only 24 more days of shopping for those presents! Yikes!! And no, I am not even remotely close to even starting my shopping!! I cannot believe it is December already...where did the time go? Better yet, where did the racing year go? This past weekend was the last big event at the track until next year. This was my first year to partake in the fun and festivities at the drag strip. The annual Thanksgiving weekend of five straight days of racing was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it rained the first two days, so everything had to get packed into three days. It was crazy, but I can't wait until next year!!
We had the Duel in the Desert event, which was a great weekend of racing. There weren't too many rocks that came flying up to the flagstand, but the couple that did, definitely lefts a few marks. But in all, we had a ton of cars and some great racing.
The weekend before the Duel, I learned firsthand, how much hard work goes into the racing at the drag strip. I gained so much respect for what everyone does at that track. I know what to expect at the Bullring or the superspeedway since I have had a few years over there, but I now understand what a tough job it is to be a part of the racing over there. Don't get me wrong, I have worked over at the drag strip before in lots of different capacities. Let's just say, those of you that have been over to The Strip, know about the water box. During the Lucas Oil Division event, I spent two days there. But for those of you who still have yet to come over to the drag strip, the water box is where the cars do their burnouts to clean off of any rocks or debris that have gotten on their tires while they were driving from the pits to the start line. And I wish I had a picture to add to the blog, but I was covered in so much rubber and dirt that I looked like I should have been working in a coal mine. It was very comical. It was a blast though!!
Yes, I am a circle track girl at heart...and always will be. It is basically where I fell in love with this sport we all enjoy. But I have to tell you, if you ever get a chance to come out to watch the drag races at The Strip, please do so. The racing takes a little getting used to if you head out to watch a bracket race (for example) - but the strategy that goes on and the sheer power that are in some of the cars is just fascinating. I am still learning each time I go to the track, so any tidbits that I learn, I'll pass on so you will know what is going on too if you are new to drag racing like I am!!
But one weekend wasn't all about racing. I spent five days with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews at Disneyland. It was such a great time that it was tremendously difficult to get on the plane Sunday night to come home! I truly have to admit, that it is really difficult to be cranky or grouchy at Disneyland. Yes, the lines are sometimes long, but when you go and see the smiles on everyone's faces...it is truly, the happiest place on earth. Well, let's say the West coast since Disneyworld is lots of fun too! It was great to get out of Las Vegas for a week or so and spend time with my family. When race season is in full swing, it is sometimes hard to take a weekend and get out of town. But it was definitely a great trip and I can't wait to go with my family again.
Now, it is time to get ready for the holidays. I am looking forward to my first weekend off from racing with a little bit of sadness. I love race season...whether it is at the Bullring or The Strip...being at the racetrack is like visiting my extended family each weekend.
So, it is now time for all of us to rest up over the next few weeks and be ready to go for another fantastic 2009 race season. So I will try to find something to keep me busy for the next month or so...I'll let you know next week if I found anything to keep me busy!
Don't worry, I am not turning into a straight line-racing girl, circle track girl through and through...I am just learning that any type of racing is really cool!