5 THINGS UTAHNS NEED TO KNOW BEFORE THEY ATTEND A NASCAR RACE
The national association of stock car auto racing has been turning left and burning rubber for 75 wicked fast years. The history and the fans of the sport have been predominantly located in the deep south for some time, and NASCAR is still often associated more with Alabama and Florida than it is with Arizona and California. Regardless, the association has taken major strides in bringing Americas premier auto sport to the west, and continues to do so. If you look at a modern NASCAR schedule, you’ll notice stops in Los Angeles and Sonoma for California or Phoenix hosting two races including the season finale. For Utahn’s the closest they get to shaking and baking is when the sport visits Las Vegas early in the season on March 3rd, and deep into the playoffs on October 20th.
If you own a calendar or even a phone, you may have noticed that the sights and sounds of NASCAR are once again on the horizon for Sin City. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is well known by the people in Utah whether you’ve been to a race or passed it on the freeway on your way into Vegas, it’s very hard to miss. Let’s say you’ve recently watched Talladega nights and you feel like injecting a little bit of hot nasty speed into your veins, I’ve got five things you need to know before your visit to LVMS.
- How fast is it?
You may have scrolled through the channels once or twice on a Sunday afternoon and paused on the race for just a moment. You likely thought that these cars don’t even look like they are moving that fast, in the same way you look at a football field on TV and say, that doesn’t even look that big. There are some things you truly can’t appreciate until you witness them live, speed being one of those things. According to LVMS.com, the “track features 20-degree banking in the turns and 9- to 12-degree straightaways, and NASCAR's elite can reach speeds nearing 200 miles per hour.” Trust me, these stock cars are as fast as they are loud. (yes, this is my way of telling you to bring earplugs)
- How many fans can it fit?
There is no such thing as home or away games in NASCAR. You get 36 races on the season and a multitude of different locations and tracks. No track has more than two race dates, meaning opportunities to witness a race in a season only come around twice at the maximum, sometimes once. This makes it necessary to fit as many people as possible into a speedway. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway the capacity has been trimmed in recent years but still seats a stout 80,000. For perspective that is 15,000 more than a packed Allegiant stadium on a Raiders game day, or 28,556 more people in Rice Eccles to watch the Utes. If you prefer basketball analogies, that would be 61,694 more people than what the Delta Center can hold for the Utah Jazz. Racing fans come in all sorts of varieties, and you’ll get to witness all 80,000 of them in high-definition October 14th-15th.
- Is it just one race?
Yes, but also no. Race Weekends in NASCAR typically are comprised of three different series that race on Friday through Sunday. Friday is typically reserved for the Craftsman Truck Series, which is the NASCAR racing you love in in slightly slower truck body vehicles as opposed to your normal stock car. Saturdays are for the Xfinity Series, which returns to slightly dialed down stock cars. These two series are what can be seen as feeder series to the main event on Sunday which is the NASCAR Cup series. This is the main event, with the big names, big sponsors, and the most speed. Think of the first two in the same way you view the NBA G league, or the MLB and its farm system. It’s a group of drivers trying to make it to the highest series, it’s fun and competitive and often more aggressive and mistake filled than the premier series due to drivers being willing to try unique things as they strive to make a name for themselves. As a bonus tickets are typically easier to find and quite a bit less. October 14th will feature the NASCAR Xfinity series in Vegas, while Sunday the 15th will put on the South Point 400 for the Cup series. The Truck series will not come to town for playoff weekend this year, making it two races for Las Vegas on Saturday and Sunday.
- How long has Las Vegas been a NASCAR city
Despite NASCAR making concentrated efforts to expand westward, the schedule still tilts heavily to the south and even the Midwest. This makes NASCAR in Vegas somewhat of a rare treat as of now. “In 1998, the track gained a race on the NASCAR Cup schedule for the first time, Mark Martin taking the win in the inaugural Las Vegas 400 in front of 120,000 spectators The profits from all the NASCAR events totaled $40 million for the local economy.” (racingcircuits.com) It’s been 25 years of racing in the Vegas for NASCAR and the action has increased in that timeframe. Las Vegas was only awarded one race on the yearly schedule from 1998 to 2017. For the 2018 season, NASCAR awarded Vegas a second race over New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which continues to this day.
- Tell me about the Neon Garage!
Id love too. Imagine you’re a hardcore Utah Jazz fan, and prior to tipoff, the organization lets you down into the locker room to watch the players get ready, followed by you trotting out on the court during shootaround to hang with the guys as they gear up. Inside looks into your favorite sports such as the described scenario are hard to come by. Not everyone will get that chance or opportunity. NASCAR tries to remedy that by allowing access to the drivers and cars as much as possible. Enter the Neon Garage. “The Neon Garage is the perfect combination of Vegas and NASCAR! Enjoy live entertainment options, watch Victory Lane celebrations, tech inspections, and get up-close during driver Q&A's throughout the weekend. A Neon Garage Pass also grants access to a NASCAR-approved viewing area behind the team pit boxes near Pit Road. Fans in the Neon Garage can enjoy free Wi-Fi all weekend long! And kids 12 and under get in FREE!” (LVMS.com) The Neon garage is like a zoo for racecars. Walkways provide unique looks down into the garage area where teams and crews tune up and work on the race cars themselves. You can watch the race from the grandstands, but you can get to know the contestants and machines up close and personal beforehand, which only adds to the experience. If you’ve never been, a little sightseeing in the neon garage will allow you to pick your favorite car to cheer on before the green flag drops.
The NASCAR Cup Series, South Point 400, is set for 12:30 Utah time next Sunday the 15th of October. Tickets can be found at https://www.lvms.com/events/south-point-400/