NASCAR Weekend 101

More than 300,000 people will gather at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. Here’s a few things to know if you’re going to be one of them.

Anyone attending the NASCAR Weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 2-6 should heed one piece of advice: Plan to stay as long as you can.

“Fans don’t want to treat this like a football game where you show up 15 minutes before kickoff and leave 15 minute after the game ends,” says Jeff Motley, LVMS vice president of public relations. “When you come to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for NASCAR Weekend, there is so much to see, ranging from the displays to the race action and the post-race events.”

The weekend began early with LVMS’ half-mile dirt track hosting the Las Vegas World of Outlaws Nationals on March 2 and 3. March 3 also features a practice session, noon until 2 p.m. and 3-5 p.m., for the Nationwide Sam’s Town race that takes place two days later. Beginning at 6 p.m., a parade featuring the NASCAR Sprint Cup team trucks will make its way up Las Vegas Boulevard from the South Point hotel-casino, turn west on Sahara Avenue and then cruise up to LVMS.

Action at the track March 5 includes noon running of the Sam’s Town 300 Nationwide Series. The race will include Sprint Cup regulars Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin and Joey Logano.

NASCAR Weekend culminates March 6 with the nationally televised Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 400, beginning at noon. Forty-three cars will clock 267 laps around the 1.5-mile speedway for an event that was first introduced to Southern Nevada in 1998.

The field for the Kobalt Tools 400 will feature five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, a former off-road racer who has captured four of the last six LVMS Sprint Cup events; Las Vegas natives and brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch; and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, to name a few.

And NASCAR Weekend is more than just a weekend of racing. Considering that an estimated 80 percent of the 325,000 fans who attend are from out of town, it’s a huge shot in the arm for the economy. “Once the fan is done at LVMS, he or she gets to enjoy the other attractions that Las Vegas has to offer,” Motley says. “They can walk up and down the Las Vegas Strip or visit Fremont Street downtown. No other city in the country has what Las Vegas has to offer.”

The success of NASCAR Weekend is at least partly the result of an effort to modernize LVMS. When Speedway Motor Sports chairman Bruton Smith purchased it from Las Vegans Ralph Engelstad and Bill Bennett in late 1998, he promised to do just that. The Neon Garage—among the $27 million in improvements completed for the 2007 season—is the most visible example of the push to provide a better fan experience. The new complex enables fans to walk above the garages and watch crews work on the cars through glass ceilings, and also has areas for live entertainment and concessions. And at the end of a race, Victory Circle hosts the winning drivers in close proximity to fans.

“The Neon Garage gives the fan the opportunity to be closer to the drivers than any other track in the country,” Motley says. “It’s unlike anything else you will find.”