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Nadine and I attended the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) yesterday, March 6, 2011. It was Nadine’s first NASCAR race and my third, Michigan and Riverside being the other two.
You could say I am not a huge NASCAR fan; I watch some races on TV but I’m just not riveted by NASCAR.
As I said on Facebook, seeing a race in person is both the best and worst way to watch. It is the best because you can watch the whole field, not just those the network wants to focus on. I spent a lot of time watching Robby Gordon even though he finished 31st out of 43 finishers. Robby started 38th, spun on the second or third lap, and chased the field throughout the race. After almost every restart Robby was dead last. He’d fight his way up the field gaining six or seven spots and then it would be déjà vu.
I like Robby Gordon because he strikes me as a throwback. I could be wrong, after all everything I know about him comes from media, mostly TV. He just seems like a guy who lives to race, and he’s done just about all of it on this continent. I remember watching the Indy 500 a long time ago, one of A.J. Foyt’s last. A.J. had some problem and he kept coming into the pits, finally climbing out of the car and wailing away at some part with a hammer before climbing back in and roaring back on the track. I see Robby Gordon as a modern day A.J. except he’s never reached the heights Foyt did.
So why is watching a race in person the worst way to see it? It can be boring. The TV coverage is edited to keep things exciting. They focus in on cars bobbling, rubbin’ on others, pushing for position, the scrum of pit stops, and yes, the crashes. Good TV coverage can turn a ho-hum race into a nail-biter.
LVMS is a 1.5 mile “tri-oval” so the action is fast. It’s hard for the untrained eye to pick out specific cars especially after the leaders start to lap the tail end of the field. That’s another plus for TV – they can laser in on a specific car.
Carl Edwards won the race; Tony Stewart, who lead the most laps and should have won but for a dumb pit mistake and penalty, was second. Juan Pablo Montoya came third.
When you go to a NASCAR race it’s hard to believe this nation is in a recession. Attendance for the Kobalt Tools 400 was around 140,000. The Las Vegas media said it is the single largest event in Las Vegas. The previous day’s Sam’s Town 300, where Danica Patrick finished 4th, drew about 100,000. A large portion of those in attendance wore some form of clothing touting their favorite driver. Most may have been tee-shirts but many sported jackets (some leather), hats, back packs, seat cushions, coolers, cups, scanners (so they can listen in to the chatter between driver and crew chief and/or spotter), and for all I know underwear. A good percent of these fans consume large quantities of beer along with munchies.
We didn’t have the best seats and although ours were comped they had a face value of $49 each. When you add in all that the average fan spends per race it amounts to a very pretty penny. (Yet they complain about the cost of gas for their SUV?) Recession my behind.
The drinking at the race was astounding. When you go to a ball game booze sales are usually shut off well before the end of the game. Not so at the race. There was a group of 30-something guys in front of us who were pretty gone by the end of the race.
Luckily a large portion of the fans either came by charter bus (every casino had packages) or RV (there were more RVs than I’ve seen at a RV sale). Hopefully most of the drunks crawled onto a bus or napped in their RV before getting on the road.
As a new Las Vegan (how can we be Vegans when we eat so much meat?) the most important part of the whole weekend is how much money it brings in – between $175 to $200 million.
Did we enjoy the race? Yes. Will we attend next year? Probably not. Humungous crowds are not our thing. I do enjoy races so we might take in at least one NHRA event. There are a ton of other events – Super Mods, Mods, Midgets, etc that should be exciting. I’d like to take in some night racing (especially during the summer months).
There is much more to Vegas than just the casinos. If you’re wise with your money you don’t need to go home broke. The casinos can actually save you money; if you gamble away a small amount they might comp you a room or offer a great package on an even such as NASCAR.