NASCAR’s gamble on Las Vegas Motor Speedway is rock solid

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I’ve been to NASCAR races across the country with the sole purpose of being entertained, not so much by the race itself, but by the environment a race creates.

I can say – without any hint of hometown bias – that Las Vegas tops them all.

When you look at all the elements that make a trip fun, Las Vegas is hard to top against any city in the world, even without a NASCAR race. There are places like Daytona and Bristol that capture more of a NASCAR feel, or historical places like Richmond, Darlington or Charlotte where you can almost feel the roots of the sport creeping into your soul, but after that, what are you going to do?

Are there hundreds of restaurants catering to all ends of a budget? Are there dozens of places your kids can have the time of their life at? Or how about just a quality hotel to stay at with little fear of bed bugs invading your NASCAR weekend? Unlike anywhere else, Las Vegas answers all those questions with a resounding YES.

It doesn’t matter whether you come with your family, buddies or by yourself, there is always something for everyone, which is why over 150,000 people cram into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway every March while other tracks are seeing declines.

Fans want to maximize their dollar on the few vacations they get over a year and Vegas gives them all an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

We have another amenity here in Las Vegas that appeals to some. Gambling.

Casino tables with be jumping all night long with little fear of losing this type crowd to the plush clubs where the new generation seems to spend all their money and time at in Las Vegas. Gambling isn’t a new experience to people from all over the country with all the Indian casinos sprouting up, but there’s no place you can roll the dice in such style and luxury as Vegas.

The one gambling equation that is purely unique to Las Vegas is actually being able to bet on the race. Sports books around town appeal to the masses by offering propositions on the race in Super Bowl-style propositions.

Most sports books offer odds to win on the weekly races with a small few offering head-head matchups. But when the Vegas race comes around, every book works diligently to put up as much as they can because the demand far outweighs the supply compared to the other races.

Las Vegas sports books can expect to do 95% more volume for this weekend’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup races than for any other race this season, minus the Daytona 500. The only reason Daytona has so much volume is that the betting is open for almost six weeks before the green flags drops and they capture all the new daily visitors over that time.

Jimmie Johnson comes into this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 400 as the 7-1 favorite not just because he’s won at Las Vegas four times in the last seven years, but his top competitor doesn’t look to be as strong.

Carl Edwards won at Las Vegas last year for the second time, but struggled last week at Phoenix, a track he had the best car at for three straight races prior. It’s not an indication that Edwards will do poorly, but it is a sign that his program might not be as good for the next few weeks which is why he is 8-1 and not the favorite.

Matt Kenseth is a two-time Las Vegas winner and finally might be able to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy his Daytona 500 victory after being paraded around the county on a publicity tour last week. He’s a great candidate this week just because of his success last season on these types of tracks where he won at Texas and Charlotte, the 1.5-mile sister tracks of Las Vegas.

LVMS remains one of the few tracks Tony Stewart has never won at, but he’s been real close with two second place finishes. Last season he had the victory snatched out of his hand late with a lengthy final pit stop in a car that was head and shoulders above everyone else.

Stewart won five races in last season’s Chase after not winning any in the first 26. Three of those victories came on 1.5-mile tracks.

It’s an entirely new season with changes to the car with electronic fuel injection and changes to Stewart’s team with Steve Addington taking over as crew chief, but Stewart should be in goods hands this week. It was Addington who lead the way for Kyle Busch to win his Cup race in his home town in 2009.

Kevin Harvick has a 13.2 average finish in his 11 Vegas starts, the first of which was his initial Cup start after taking the ride over for Dale Earnhardt. The city is also a special place for the Bakersfield, CA native because it is where he and his wife Delana got married. The couple is expecting their first child this season with hopes adding to the excitement by finishing the year off with Harvick’s first championship.

In order to get that championship it starts with tracks like this that dominate the schedule. Whoever does well in Las Vegas sets the tone to who will be good for the remainder of the season. Stewart and Edwards finished in the top-2 at Vegas last season as well as season points. In three of Johnson’s Vegas wins, he went on to win the Championship.

Other drivers we should expect to do well this week include Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle. Kahne looked to have the best car last week at Phoenix, but hit the wall early on to ruin a great opportunity at a win.

Enjoy the race weekend everyone and good luck with all your bets. Most of all, enjoy the city to its fullest and let it all hang out. Remember, there’s no last call in Las Vegas.

Be sure to check on-line at GamingToday.com for my Saturday practice notes as well as a few matchup selections for the race.

 

 

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