Cars n' Stars: Las Vegas 400

5 March 1998

Notes and quotes from Glitter Gulch; the town that never sleeps; and a
talk with the boss man of the Vegas 400, Richie Clyne.

It was obvious at the outset of the Vegas 400 that Ford Taurus race
cars would dominate the accident free race. Super stars Jeff Gordon
and Dale Earnhardt could do nothing to be competitive, they just kept
dropping further and further back in the pack, as if they were having
engine problems.  So, naturally, before the race was over, the Chevy
contingent filed protests saying the Ford's spoilers and quarter
panels were illegal.  Monday morning after the race NASCAR said, "we
hear you Chevy and we will act accordingly prior to next week's race
at Atlanta."  The Ford guys will have to lower their rear spoiler
one-quarter inch.

Car owner Richard Childress (Earnhardt) said the Ford's were not stock
cars, but were custom built from the ground up by Jack Roush, and that
they even moved the steering column to make way for a bigger motor.

In the pace car for the race, we saw singer Tom Jones and Wayne Newton
appear in the winners circle.  Four Army F-18 jets made a pass to open
the cermonies, after which a sky diver with a huge American flag
plunked down in the infield.  Police estimated the four day crowd at
280,000, with over 120,000 on hand Sunday.

The back straight has a perfect viewing setup for motor homes, but it
is also plumbed for water, electricity, etc for an additional 50,000
seat grandstand . . . so said track boss Richie Clyne.  He also said
the man responsible for designing and building the 1.5 mile oval was
Bill Moss, who also helped build Talledega, Alabama's superspeedway.
The purse was $3.2 million and Mark Martin got a big chunk of that.

Asked about noisy neighbor problems, Clyne answered that they was no
problem, as the track's neighbors were noisier than the race cars.
Nellis Air Force Base is across the street, and Clyne says there's a
love affair between the two entities.  31 million people will come to
Las Vegas in 1998, and if the Speedway--which has 42 event schedules
this year--provides good entertainment, they will get their share of
the entertainment dollar.  Over 80% of Sunday's crowd came from
outside Nevada. Rooms were scarce, as were busses and limos.  The sky
box suites were sold out, and at the Truck Air Suite company, owner
J. Laverty entertained his employees and customers while Showboat
Casino executive Steve Waldman went sponsor hunting for his Mexican
rally/road race activities.

Each pit has some sort of sign/symbol hanging on a pole over the
stopping area so the driver knows where he is supposed to be.  Citgo
signs, MacDonald's arches, etc.  The pit for Remington sponsored Rick
Mast had a target with a bullseye and shotgun holes.  The new
Speedworld interactive operation at the Sahara packed'em in.

Stock cars on TV make great viewing, but you really have to witness a
big time NASCAR race in person to see racing show biz at its finest.

ELSEWHERE, Boyd Coddington of Boyds Hot Rods and Boyds Wheels is going
bankrupt.  All assets are to be auctioned.  Alex Zanardi will appear
on Letterman Monday, March 16.

CART driver Dennis Vitolo crashed heavily at Homestead during a
practice session and was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in
Miami.  He should be OK before next week's season opener at Homestead.

The FF2000 season will wind up with a race at Pikes Peak Raceway
September 26-27.
 
Did you know that racecar spelled backwards is racecar?

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel
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