Tag Archives: Danica Patrick

NASCAR in Las Vegas Will Exceed Super Bowl Fan Draw

The many NASCAR driver meet-and-greet events and deafening varooms befitting plenty of exciting dirt track racing action all started yesterday in Las Vegas.  By the time the marquee Sprint Cup Shelby American on Sunday is over, an estimated 300,000 people will have experienced the roar of racing in their ears and smell of gasoline enticing their nostrils.   That’s four times the attendance at the Super Bowl, according to Chris Powell, president of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

For the Sprint Cup race alone – the biggest event of the weekend – in 2009 about 140,000 spectators saw the race.  That’s down from about 152,000 in 2008 and the record attendance of 156,000 in 2007. 

Regardless of the ending attendance figure this year, the significant question is if those people can translate into record spending.  Most Las Vegans are hoping and praying it does, giving their languishing economy a much needed economic bump. 

Out-of-towners hold the key trump card to this weekend’s economic prosperity, comprising 70 percent of the race crowd invading Las Vegas. 

Attempting to lure more tourists to the track than prior years, race ticket prices at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway have been greatly reduced this year. With more people attending, hopefully, that will translate into more ancilliary spending on goods and services. 

Las Vegas hotels will undoubtedly be the major economic beneficiaries. The recessionary price levels of hotel rooms that have plagued Las Vegas for the past year have virtually disappeared, albeit temporarily. The Riviera, mirroring what most Las Vegas hotels are doing, is jacking their weekend’s room rates to a whopping $224 per night.  But next weekend the Riviera will zoom back down to their customary $79 level. 

Budget hotel are also raising their rates, as well the higher priced Strip hotels, such as Harrah’s that is sold out all weekend, and Wynn Las Vegas and the Hard Rock Hotel, both sold out on Saturday. 

VEGAS.com reports their Web site’s hotel room sales are up 30 percent. 

Rolling up the total revenue picture, excluding gambling revenue, the associated revenues from last year’s NASCAR weekend raked in $107 million, according to the Las Vegas convention and Visitors Authority. 

But that doesn’t come close to 2008 revenue, when the haul was $134 million. Most don’t think this year will equal that level. However, should the heavy rain that is anticipated to blanket Las Vegas intermittently on Saturday postpone Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 race and cause the race to move to Monday, that might be just the silver lining needed to help close the revenue gap, keeping race fans in Las Vegas and extra day or two, perhaps aided in no small part by the dangling carrot of being able to see heartthrob racer Danica Patrick strut her stuff. 

Will this year’s racing events add up to yielding the top revenue producing weekend in Las Vegas?

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Danica Patrick, NASCAR, Sprint Cars & Food Mix in Glorious Las Vegas Weekend

Yes, there really is NASCAR racing in Las Vegas next weekend, Feb. 26-28.  (Did you really think it was just an outing to ogle Danica Patrick?) 

Dale Earnhardt Jr., though, isn’t getting overly excited about his late charge to a surprise second-place finish at Daytona.  After the season-opening Daytona 500, the restrictor plates are now off during the 1½-mile Las Vegas oval track races and the focus is back on the the kind of tracks that dominate the 36-race championship season.  

It can be anyone’s race. 

Earnhardt said he feels good about his team and crew chief Lance McGrew, who is starting his first full season after replacing Tony Eury Jr. last May and having the interim tag removed by Hendrick in late October. That gave them a whole off-season together to get ready for 2010. 

“We built a lot of new cars. We did a lot of hard work, Lance especially, during the off-season to put us in a position to bring better cars to this race and to Vegas and so forth,” Earnhardt said. “Just give me a good car and I can run real good.” 

“Everybody in the garage kind of feels like this is the start of the regular season. Daytona is so different than every other kind of racing that we do and of course it’s the Daytona 500,” said Jimmie Johnson, the four-time Sprint Cup champion and California native who has won four times at his home track. 

“Everybody is really interested and anxious to understand where we are with the cars,” says Johnson. 

The added good news is that even before the entire NASCAR contigent fully descends on Las Vegas next weekend, racing fans will get two opportunities to add a little dirt to their diet as the USAC Sprint and Midget Series and the World of Outlaws Sprint Series come to town.

The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host the United States Auto Club (USAC) on Thursday, February 25 and the World of Outlaws the next night for three thrilling A-mains between the two groups of talented drivers. 

To keep up your energy while walking endlessly around the track, don’t forget to first eat your fill before heading to the track, stopping by the NASCAR Café inside the Sahara.

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Red & Pink Gods Shine Down on Southern Nevada at Indy 500 Race

Victory was sweet today for Indy 500 racer Helio Castroneves.  Earlier in the week he faced down and won against the IRS in court, returned to Indy Car racing in a flash, won the pole position for the 2009 Indianapolis 500, and helped his Roger Penske teamates to a rousing victory in the pitstop competition.  Then, for the ultimate coup de grace, Castroneves went on to win today the 93rd Brickyard race by a 1.9819 second margin over runner-up Dan Wheldon and third-place finisher Danica Patrick on the 2.5-mile oval track. 

Castroneves is no doubt savoring the rare racing air, adding a third Indy 500 victory to his illustrious career, reaching a status that only eight other racers have reached.   And team owner Roger Penske is probably racing to another planet with the win being his fifteenth victory at the Speedway’s premier race. 

But let’s not lose sight of our good Southern Nevada performances in the race. 

Despite the race having five yellow flags and horrendous crashes, thirty-six year old Canadian Alex “Tag” Tagliani, who lives in Las Vegas, officially driving as a rookie for Conquest Racing in All Sport/Big Red car No. 36, achieved the honor of being the best-placing first-year man with his eleventh place finish.   

Tag has a long history of competition in the former CART series and was very fortunate to get the nod by Conquest to race, bumping fellow teammate Bruno Junqueira that really had the best qualifying time, but was not their prime racer. 

Talking at Saturday’s public press conference, Tagliani said, “I was so excited to drive that I didn’t really understand what I was missing by not being in the Indianapolis 500 race. Everything came along last year. Obviously, the two series merged, we have now just one open-wheel series. I finished the season with Conquest. That got me to run with them this year. When we arrived here in Indy, I definitely didn’t realize how big this race was.” 

Not to be outdone, fellow rookie Englishman Alex Lloyd, aka Pink Lloyd, racing the pink car No. 99 sponsored by HER (Healthy Energy Revitalizer, an energy drink for women) started in the middle of the fourth row with an impressive four-lap average qualifying speed of 222.622 mph, and went on to finish the race, finishing 13th. 

Lloyd’s car owner is Sam Schmidt from Henderson, Nevada. 

Only three other rookies finished this year’s Indy 500 race:  Tomas Scheckter, 12th place; Scott Sharp, 14th place; and Ryan Briscoe, 15th place. 

Both Tagliani and Lloyd finished ahead of many veteran race car drivers including A.J. Foyt IV and John Andretti. 

Thankfully, there were no serious injuries among drivers or crew in the race, although racer Vitor Meira was transported alert and awake to Indianapolis Methodist Hospital for further evaluation of back pain and released. 

The Indy Car series takes no break this week before returning to action this weekend at the famous Milwaukee Mile on June 1st.

(Prior Las Vegas Backstage Access articles on the Indy 500 race.)

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