Friday, March 5, 2010

NASCAR in Vegas - Saturday

After Friday's arrival, an afternoon at the track, a towed car, and an evening in Vegas, we started Saturday with two logical destinations: (1) Breakfast at IHOP and (2) a re-load of Schaefer at Lee's. Check that - we actually went to Lee's for beer first. Then we got a short stack of cakes, eggs fried over well, bacon extra crisp, and a pot of stout coffee.

After breakfast and the B-double E-double R-u-n, we had to make the obligatory stop for a photo-op at the most famous landmark in Vegas.

From there, it was back to Las Vegas Blvd. for the 10 mile haul out to the speedway for the Sam's Town 300 Nationwide race. Turns out, Sam's Town is some sort of off-strip hotel/casino and not that big ass club store where you can get a boat load of frozen steaks, a pallet of Cokes, and an upright popcorn machine. Who knew!

At first, the drive down the strip is pretty cool. Bellagio, the Eiffel Tower at Paris, the grandeur of Venetian, the swankiness of The Wynn, and even the novelty of the Stratosphere. But from there, Vegas gets...uh interesting...and then pretty skanky.
  • Oh hello wedding chapels.
  • Well that's cool, folks can get married with Elvis and Tim McGraw stand-ins.
  • Tattoos while you wait - a novel concept. I'm sure that business model is going to slaughter the mail-order service.
  • The world famous Palomino Club - hmm, I wondered where you were.
  • Convenience stores selling 3 quart bottles of Icehouse beer for $4.99.
  • Quite possibly the largest flea market I've ever seen - covered from one end to the other with local Hispanic residents.
  • The Golden Nugget, the Silver Nugget, and even Jerry's Nugget!
Soon, we were back at the scene of the crime. Perhaps against better judgment - but relying on the assurances of parking volunteers - we parked in almost the identical spot as we had just 18 hours earlier.

Off we headed to get our scanners updated for the 2010 season, preview the crowd, check out the lines at the Danica trailer, and stop by the Speed stage. Good timing for us as Speed was taping NASCAR Smarts - perhaps the single worst piece of NASCAR programming ever to air... except of course when one is there and can yell out "whooooo!"

The Vegas episode pitted Kyle Petty and Rutledge Wood against Mike Wallace and...uh, yes that's him...Carrot Top.

Did I mention NASCAR Smarts may well be the worst piece of NASCAR programming ever to air? Well, perhaps aside from any TV interviews over the years with Ward Burton. Anyway...

We found our fantastic seats in the Richard Petty Terrace only to be greeted moments later by rain as driver introductions took place. Not surprisingly, the driver getting the greatest volume of cheers was to start way back in 30th-something place - Miss Prissy Britches herself.

Now, look closely at that expression if you can. Or maybe you saw her on TV. She easily had the longest souvenir trailer lines, easily got the loudest reaction of all the drivers, and got almost unanimous cheers vs. jeers. Yet, she smugly gave the flippant Queen of England wave and moved on. I haven't seen a face with less of an expression since my own when someone asked me "hey man, would you prefer a punch in the gut or a poke in the eye?"

Once it became apparent the race was going to be delayed because of the rain and track-drying efforts, we headed for what is arguably the coolest aspect of the Vegas track - the Neon Garage.

Once inside this controlled area, we were able to view all of the Cup garage bays, listen to bands covering classic rock hits, monitor the track drying progress on a million big screen displays, see the action around the team haulers, get all the concessions and souvenirs you could want, etc.

Perhaps coolest of all was recognizing we had the opportunity to be front and center near victory lane once the races ended. Here's the "before" shot:

One trend I'm really enjoying in this early part of the 2010 NASCAR season is the embracing of the past. Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett were brought to Vegas for multiple autograph sessions. (Sadly, we missed them all.) And restored cars of Junior, Ned, David Pearson, and Fireball Roberts from the 1960s were on display.

The Volunteer state of Tennessee was well represented. I was there representing Middle Tennessee, and old school dealerships East Tennessee Motor Company and Chattanooga's Furlow Cate Ford were on David Pearson's 1969 Torino and Ned Jarrett's #11 from 1965, respectively.

With all the complaining today about the COT, aero push, cars not looking like recent race cars much less stock cars, etc., I thought these little details of Junior Johnson's 1963 Chevy were interesting:

Fuel filler on rear of car with conventional gas cap:

Factory window cranks:

Driver's side door mirror:

After digging the old school cars, we toured the garage area looking at the current cars. Here are a few examples of what we found.
  • A.J. Allmendinger in the famed #43 running a Valvoline retro scheme reminiscent of Mark Martin's Valvoline days with Roush.
  • Kasey Kahne's Bud Ford - amazing how much better he ran and finished after returning to the all red scheme vs the white Olympics theme.
  • Tony Stewart - Until you've seen in person the Old Spice red metal flake color on Smoke's car, you haven't seen perhaps the sharpest color on a race car since the combination of Petty blue and STP's fluorescent competition red on the #43 of the 1970s. A photo can't do it justice.
The other car we wanted to check out was the entry fielded by Tommy Baldwin Racing and sponsored for the weekend by Kardashian Fragrance. One, my friend was once a neighbor of a guy who works for TBR so we wanted to keep an eye open for him. Two, the whole Kim Kardashian scene intrigued me.

I'll be the first to admit I really didn't have much of a a clue who she was, why she had a show, why she was famous, etc. Seriously! I don't know her. I don't know the TV show. I have no interest in it at all. Until I found this picture. OK, so she's now got my attention thank ya very much. Mercy.

After seeing her and the Chevy upon which her image was emblazoned, I quickly reached the conclusion Kim has some pretty awesome "front end geometry" and a pretty incredible wing out back.

Knowing the car was painted pink and pimped out a perfume, I guess its only appropriate it was driven by a driver named Bliss. Far better choice to represent Kardashian I suppose than someone named Curtis Dysfunctional III.

After seeing what we wanted, it was time to return to the grandstands and watch the Nationwide race once the track was ready. Plenty of seats were available so we decided we'd park in the seats near the start-finish line.

The race was a much better one than Sunday's Cup race. Part of the reason is the design of the cars. Another reason was the urgency of the drives to race to the half-way mark. More rain was in the area, and most thought the track would soon get drenched again.

Sure enough a caution flew after half-way, and tons of fair-weather fans thought that was the end of it. But we could see some clearing and held our seats. Plus, I've waited through more "weather windows" at tracks like Charlotte, Talladega, Bristol, and Darlington than I care to count. A bit of rain in the desert wasn't going to deter me from staying until they finished or called it.

The race did indeed go back green, and NASCAR was successful in running all the laps. Kevin Harvick had a beast of a car - especially as he sailed through turn 4. He overcame a bad pit stop earlier in the race, and his #33 Rheem Chevy took the checkers under the lights.

As soon as the checkers flew, we immediately headed for the Neon Garage to stake a viewing position. We were pretty fortunate to get in a good position for some victory lane photos.

After the victory lane celebrations ended, we crossed back to the grandstands and strolled to the parking lot through the now-empty Richard Petty Terrace. The speedway folks did a very cool thing by labeling all the pillars with images from the King's history.

From there, it was time to clean up and head back to the strip. Following a shower and change of clothes, we visited the Stratosphere and multiple establishments in Caesar's Palace before returning to Excalibur. Along the way, yada yada yada took place and we struggled to answer the bell for Sunday morning.


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