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Las Vegas remains
major stop on NHRA

Oct 21, 2003 5:15 AM

Can you feel the thunder?

The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosts the NHRA Powerade series this weekend for the AC Delco Las Vegas Nationals. In its fourth season of hosting events, this will be the second NHRA event this season that Las Vegas has held. It’s apparent by the enormous turnout by the fans that Las Vegas is a hit with the NHRA as well.

If there is anyone out there who has never been to an NHRA Drag Racing event, it is an absolute must attend. It doesn’t matter if you’re a racing fan or not. For the simple entertainment value of being awed by the earth-quaking breath taking excitement of the thunderous Nitro powered engines, it is without a doubt the best show in Las Vegas.

The Friday Night qualifying sessions are probably the most exciting because the power is much more enhanced than any other day sessions as the visible flames explode from the pipes lighting up the track. Beyond the actual rumbling thrills on the track, part of the greatest NHRA drag racing experience comes off along the rows of pits where the crews work feverishly tearing down the entire engine, cleaning it, and putting it back together in roughly an hour.

Unlike any other major racing series, every ticket is a pit pass and accessible to all. The drivers freely sign autographs throughout the day which is something rarely seen today in any professional sports. It is the perfect inexpensive sporting event that an entire family can go to and be entertained like no other.

Adding to the excitement for adults is the opportunity to wager on the events. For each of the events that have been held in Las Vegas the last four years, wagering has been available for the three major classes at Station Casinos sports books. Odds to win and matchup wagers have been a big hit with long time fans and have helped make fans of auto racing enthusiasts who just like to wager.

The wagering also attracts some of the teams and drivers themselves who like to give themselves some extra incentive to win over the weekend. Las Vegas is the only stop on the tour where wagering is made possible which adds to the lure.

This season, Stations is offering a few more propositions, one of which is asking if the Top Fuel track record will be broken. It seems like every time they visit, someone is breaking the record. Currently, Doug Kalitta holds the record at 4.499 seconds, which he set in the spring earlier this year. Yes is a -180 favorite. If the record falls, it will likely happen on Friday night where the temperatures will be much cooler.

Two of the major three divisions have already crowned their season champion, but the Funny Car title is still up for grabs between Whit Bazemore and Tony Pedregon. There is a matchup available for betting with Pedregon a slight -120 favorite to advance further.

One of our all-time favorites is out of retirement and we’ll be able to see him race one more time. Mr Las Vegas, Kenny Bernstein (3-1), has taken over the Bud King Top Fuel ride for his injured son Brandon. It took him a few runs to get back in the groove, but now he is on fire. He’s won two of the last three events and looks to win again where he’s won more than anyone else.

The Pro Stock division is generally the most competitive of all the major classes, but this year Greg Anderson (3-2) has just crushed the competition. He has nine wins on the season and will attempt to sweep the Las Vegas season this weekend.

NASCAR heads to Atlanta

The NASCAR Winston Cup series travels to Atlanta this weekend for the second time this season. In the first race, we saw a repeat of what we’ve seen five other times in Atlanta -- another Bobby Labonte win. Labonte (8-1) has six wins on the track in 21 starts, an unbelievable accomplishment. He is the active leader in wins and money in Atlanta.

Jeff Gordon (8-1) has three career victories in Atlanta in almost the same time span as Labonte. Gordon drove in the 1992 season finale for his first career Winston Cup start. Oddly enough as his career began, that same race was also the final start for Richard Petty. Gordon’s last Atlanta win came in the spring of ”˜99 giving him two straight wins on the track. Of late, Gordon has been very good in Atlanta finishing in the top 10 in 6 of his last 7 starts including a second earlier this year.

Tony Stewart (8-1) and Ryan Newman (7-1) have been on a tear of late. In the March race, Stewart finished fifth and Newman tenth. Newman is in much better shape for Atlanta this time around.