Optimism and excitement were the common themes that flowed through NASCAR's West Coast Media Day at The Bellagio's Hyde night club in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney joined Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell, Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen and Phoenix Raceway President Bryan Sperber to speak to the media at the exclusive club. NBC's Kelli Stavast hosted the event, which featured a Q&A session and one-on-one time with the assembled media.
The speakers answered questions about the upcoming 2017 NASCAR season, which begins on Feb. 26 with the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. LVMS' Kobalt 400 is the season's third race on March 12 and will be followed by the Camping World 500 in Phoenix on March 19 and the Auto Club 400 on March 26.
Powell was happy to welcome the drivers and other guests to the Las Vegas casino for the special media day.
"West Coast fans are really passionate about the sport, and this is the time of year when we really get excited about NASCAR coming west," Powell said. "We feel that Las Vegas is one of the most highly anticipated events on the NASCAR tour, and we've been doing it now for 20 years. Each year, we try to come up with new wrinkles to enhance the fan experience, and we do a lot for our fans.
"We get excited for NASCAR to come to town, and it pumps a lot of money into the local community. I'd like to thank all of the drivers for coming out here today, and we're looking forward to watching them all compete here."
Larson, who drives the No. 42 Target/Credit One Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing, is ready for the season to begin.
"I'm excited, and we have almost all of our team back," said Larson, who earned his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory last year in Michigan. "This offseason was the first time people haven't asked me when I am going to get my first win, so now we can focus on going and getting the second and third. Hopefully, we can start the year off well, have a solid season and get a couple wins."
Suarez, who will drive the No. 19 Arris Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, knows he has a lot to learn after moving up to the highest level following Carl Edwards' retirement and his NASCAR Xfinity Series championship from a year ago.
"There's been a lot going on the last couple weeks," said Suarez, who will be a Rookie of the Year favorite this season. "I was happy and excited to celebrate winning a championship down in Mexico with my family and friends, and then the call for the Cup ride came. I was like, 'Is this true? Is this happening for real?'
"I'm starting to learn all of the little details and how different it is between the Cup and Xfinity guys, and hopefully I can get up to speed as quickly as possible. I'm super excited, and I feel like we're ready to go."
Blaney drives the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford for Wood Brothers Racing and is looking forward to NASCAR's West Coast swing.
"I love coming out West, and Vegas, Phoenix and Fontana are some of my favorite places to go," said Blaney, who had nine top 10s last season. "I didn't really know the tracks out west until I came to them last year, but it's been a lot of fun."
LVMS' 2017 NASCAR Weekend at kicks off with Stratosphere Pole Day on Friday, March 10, continues with the NASCAR Xfinity Series Boyd Gaming 300 on Saturday, March 11, and finishes with the 20th Kobalt 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, March 12. All children 12 and under get in free on Friday and Saturday with a ticketed adult and can attend the Kobalt 400 alongside a ticketed adult for just $10 on Sunday.
Call 1-800-644-4444 or log on to www.LVMS.com to order tickets.