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LV 400 II?

Mar 4, 2003 6:33 AM

All indications from several Sports Books is that Las Vegas sports books have set another record for handle on an auto racing event.

Last week’s UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400, at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, was the sixth Winston Cup race held at the facility that was brought here by the late Ralph Engelstad and Bill Bennett.

The wagering aspect is good and it keeps growing every year, but the economic impact the race has on the city for one weekend is worth millions. Engelstad and Bennett had no guarantee of a Winston Cup race ever coming to Las Vegas, but built the track anyway in hopes of eventually luring one. After another great sellout weekend on the Speedway and in all the hotels, Las Vegas should honor the contributions these two visionaries had by bringing the city’s greatest event to fruition.

On an absolutely beautiful day, Matt Kenseth came away with a dominating win by over 10 seconds. Kenseth opened 20-1 and closed at 8-1. Local driver Kurt Busch was the overwhelming choice of bettors across the city, but finished 38th.

The annual handle increases has more to do with the visitors becoming more familiar with how to wager. As with any sport, it’s somewhat intimidating for a first time bettor coming to the window. However, once they get the hang of it regarding propositions and parlaying match-ups, their interest is stimulated. Once they win a ticket on a race, they’re hooked.

Saturday’s Busch race was won by Joe Nemechek, a 12-1 choice of Las Vegas Sports Consultants. Interestingly, Terrible Herbst Sports Book had Joe 40-1. Terrible also listed Steve Park at 75-1, even though Park was driving the No. 8 car owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr that won at Daytona two weeks ago. Park came in fourth.

Race favorite Jeff Burton, before having his car catch on fire, was en route to what might have been his second straight Vegas Busch win. No one was even close to Burton before the fire.

Vegas, take 2?

Rumors are filling the air. Because of the success Vegas has had with the visiting fans and the great TV ratings, talk is that next year Vegas will get a second date. The battle for the additional date could be a head to head choice against California Speedway in Fontana. The California track (40 miles southeast of Los Angeles) has the upper hand not only because of the media market, most importantly, but because of owner ISC.

Both ISC & NASCAR are owned by the France family. But if ratings and pageantry count for something, Vegas will win in a landslide. Las Vegas is the overwhelming travel destination for fans and drivers alike and has the highest television rating for any race other than Daytona.

The rumors were stirred by the absent fans at rainy Rockingham prior to the Vegas race. The North Carolina track has two races a season and it is believed that one of the dates will be moved out West.

Back to Atlanta

This week, the greatest show on earth travels back to the Deep South when they hit Atlanta. The favorite is Dale Earnhardt Jr. (5-1) because of his great combined performances at the similar sister track in Charlotte. Though Junior has never won at either Charlotte or Atlanta, he has been on the brink several times and always fast in practice and qualifying.

Junior also has motivation for another reason. When asked about how he’d do in Atlanta after a great Vegas run, Junior said, "I always want to do well in Atlanta, that’s where my daddy’s got all those wins." The late Dale Sr. won nine times at Atlanta is still is the track’s all-time money winner.

The most productive active driver in Atlanta has been Bobby Labonte, who opened at 8-1. Labonte has 10 top-5 finishes in 20 starts, including five wins. Last season was Labonte’s worst as a Winston Cup driver so his past success at Atlanta could spark a comeback year.

Look for things to be different this week.

Kurt Busch (8-1) won the fall race last year. Busch ended his streak of dominance last week, but should get back up on his horse. His Roush teammates haven’t fared too well at Atlanta lately, but have at Charlotte.

Mark Martin (12-1) does have two Atlanta wins, but none since 1994. Jeff Burton (20-1) has finished fourth on three occasions. Also, look for the Joe Gibbs duo of Labonte and Tony Stewart (10-1) to fare well. Stewart is the defending champion.



TOP 5 Finish Prediction

#18 Bobby Labonte 8-1

# 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr 5-1

#20 Tony Stewart 10-1

#97 Kurt Busch 8-1

#24 Jeff Gordon 8-1