Column by John Bisci, LVMS Public Relations Manager
"When I was your age...."
How many times did you hear that line - usually delivered by your parents - while growing up?
Well, I'm not your father, but I am a race fan - and NASCAR is coming to town Feb. 27-28 for the 400-mile Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300.
When I was a kid, fans drove long distances to the tracks, parked the car and then sat around waiting for something to happen. There wasn't much to do or see until the event started. If you were lucky, a local high school marching band performed prior to the opening green flag. When the race ended, you hopped back into the family car for the long ride home. Although the racing was good, the total experience left much to be desired.
In the mid-1990s, NASCAR exploded into the nationwide, major-league sport we know it as today. That explosive growth sparked a demand for distractions and amenities comparable to baseball and football venues. The millions of new NASCAR fans caused a crushing demand for access to its stars, the drivers.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway was constructed during the NASCAR explosion (in 1996) and underwent a substantial overhaul in 2007. The track now offers an experience befitting Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world.
It isn't hard to convince auto racing fans to come to Las Vegas because there is so much to see and do here. And when NASCAR fans take over the city during the last weekend of February there is a non-stop flurry of activity to keep them blissfully occupied.
Many drivers will participate in autograph sessions at local hotels and casinos. Joey Logano, NASCAR's 2009 Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year titleholder, will appear at a local Home Depot on behalf of his sponsor. Race cars and simulators will be stationed at hotels, supermarkets and retail outlets. Traffic on the Las Vegas Strip will halt as the NASCAR haulers (the colorful 18-wheelers that carry the race cars and equipment) rumble into town on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. (Remember when the circus train came to town?) All these activities are free to the public.
The speedway boasts the ultimate fan experience: the Neon Garage. Fans are able to stand safely within inches of their favorite drivers and cars and take in the hectic activity in NASCAR's "locker room," the garage area. The Neon Garage also is home to non-stop live entertainment (on the center stage) and the speedway's victory lane. Neon Garage ticketholders are invited to celebrate right along with the winning driver.
Speedway Children's Charities will host two events: a track walk and a NASCAR driver auction. The driver auction will take place at Sam's Town Live! on Feb. 25. The highest bidder on each driver will have the opportunity to ride around the speedway with him (in front of a crowd of 150,000 of their cheering peers) during the pre-race driver introduction ceremony. The track walk for charity, led by a top NASCAR driver, will take place on the 1.5-mile superspeedway at 8:30 a.m. on race day.
What other sport allows fans to peer into the locker room and walk on the home court?
And if NASCAR alone does not offer up enough of a racing fix, the most rabid fans will find themselves at the half-mile Dirt Track for USAC and World of Outlaws Sprint Car racing on Thursday and Friday night, watching alcohol-burning machines broadslide through the turns amid the delightful aromas of hot dogs, fried dough and Italian sausage.
It's a great time to be a race fan, especially in Las Vegas.