One of Las Vegas' most popular sports figures will give the command to start engines for the Feb. 28 Sam's Town 300.

Lon Kruger, who has guided the UNLV men's basketball team to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths, will serve as grand marshal for the annual NASCAR Nationwide Series event.

"We're honored to have Coach Kruger take part in this event," said LVMS President Chris Powell. "He coaches the most popular sports team in the valley, and we have the most popular sports event in the valley. Given that the Rebels will be in one of the most critical parts of their season, we really appreciate Coach Kruger taking the time to come out for this event."

Kruger, who is in his fifth year as UNLV coach, has led the Rebels to two consecutive Mountain West Conference championships. His 2006-2007 team advanced the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Kruger has also served as head coach at his alma mater Kansas State, Illinois and Florida as well as the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. Kruger led Florida to the Final Four in 1994.

"Las Vegas is such a great city for sporting events and we're thrilled to be involved with NASCAR's weekend here," said Kruger, whose squad has a bye that weekend. "We're definitely looking forward to being a part of the race. It's going to be a unique opportunity."

Tickets for the Sam's Town 300 are on sale by calling the speedway at 1-800-644-4444 or logging on to The Sam's Town 300 will lead in to the next day's Shelby 427 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. Tickets for Shelby 427 also are on sale.