Las Vegas 350 September 26, 2009

NASCAR Racing: Las Vegas 350, Camping World Truck Series

I was invited to join some friends to attend and watch the NASCAR Racing: Las Vegas 350, Camping World Truck Series on September 26, 2009 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It was my first trip to the LVMS in nearly 15 years, the first time since the construction of the super-raceway – the 1.5 mile tri-oval Nascar track. Johnny Sauter, number 13, basically dominated the race. He lead early on, then dropped back a lot during pit stops and slowly brought himself back into the top 5. Following the final yellow with 21 laps to go, Mr. Sauter was 3rd. A dozen or so laps later he was in first. And since his truck, simply put, was better then the rest and he drove away from the pack gaining as much as a truck length each lap around the track to finish.

The following represents my observations during the event: (in no special order)

  • The race is a 350 yet the track is 1.5 miles and they run for 146 laps. This comes to 219 miles, approximately 131 miles short of the calling. Is this new math or just Nascar Math? Does this really do Nascar fans credit? I can already hear a new line of Nascar Jokes in the making. Of maybe it is the race you get to take home after taxes?
  • The “trucks” look less like trucks then any truck I have ever been around. About the only thing that makes them look like trucks and not like Nascar cars is a square front end. And, I would like to add, not a one of them had a single piece of furniture in the back end that they were hauling for a friend. Or a spare tire being locked in by a 6 foot piece of logging chain. Or a riding lawn mower – see notes farther down. Also, none of them were 4-wheel drive. How can you get more then 10 trucks together and not have a couple of 4-wheel drives? Makes me think this is somehow rigged to favor 2 wheel drive trucks.
  • The Trip from the parking areas to the gate was almost as long as the race. In fact, I started to wonder if Las Vegas 350 was actually code for how far you had to walk to get to your seats. This would actually fit from what I have heard from all the people that have attended the Nascar/Las Vegas 400. It was formally the UAW/Dodge 400, but I guess that was before money issues at Chrysler and massive layoffs by UAW members thanks to the government bailout’s required closing of auto plants. Who got bailed out again? Attendees of the 400 reported having to hike even farther then we did. I should note that shuttles were being provided, but to get to the shuttles from our parking was half the walk to just walk to the gate anyway.
  • The hike up the hill from the gates to the seating is where shuttles are really needed. Not a one in sight.
  • Craftsman (Sear’s truly American Quality Tools) is an official sponsor of the race. Yet after every pit stop a crew member would get a broom and carefully sweep the entire pit stop box. Craftsman makes one heck of a shop vac. I am sure if Nascar asked them to, Sear’s would make a version called “Pit stop Vac” and provide it to the crews. To be fair, it would likely be the same unit just with a 25′ hose, a different label on it and higher price tag. But think of the selling opportunity: what auto race nut not spend the extra $500 to get a pit stop vac over a plain old run of the mill shop vac with a normal length hose? Offer a version with Nascar Car Numbers and Pictures of the drivers and you could easily bump the price another $100~$150, and all that pre-tax. There is an economic stimulus package for you! [It’s not a shop vac, it’s a Dale Jr, #88 Turbo-Charged, no-restrictor-plate super-pit vac!]
  • Each “truck” is pushed by 5 to 6 crew members from behind the wall and across access routes to an area in front of the start/finish line for driver introductions. Consider, these people are in the business of propelling machinery as fast as possible for a distance of 100s of miles, yet use caveman techniques to travel a few hundred yards. You would think that in the 50′ semi-trailers they travel in, someone would sneak a quad (or Sear’s riding mower?) into the trailer and then they could “pull” the truck into place without risking medical injury to a crew member. Where’s OSHA when you need them?
  • During the pre-race unfestivities, I watched with amazement as the pit crews pushed heavy tool/pit stop carts into place. Some of these monsters required 3 or 4 fit individuals to propel the behemoths. I have to consider – most if not all – of the crew members have advanced engineering/automotive training, even college degrees, yet how come not a one of them has figured out how to mount a small electric motor and a couple of old spare batteries to the cart so it can push itself? Or better yet, the same Sear’s (an official sponsor of Nascar) riding mower could be used to pull the pit stop carts that pulled the trucks in the issue above.
  • This, of course, could lead to a whole new Nascar racing series: riding mower racing! {The Las Vegas 5, a 2 lap race around the 1.5 mile tri-oval on riding Lawn mowers. Pace mower to be provided by Uncle Bob with his Ace Hardware push mower. The winner will get a nice trophy for display, the losers will be assigned to mow the infield after the race.} In case you are wondering why the race is called the Las Vegas 5 when it is only 3 miles, the same way the 350 is only 219 miles, Nascar Math.
  • I noted that Nascar has an official ____ (fill in the blank) sponsor. You name a subject, they have it covered. An official tools sponsor. An official tire sponsor. Official sponsors for batteries, gas and oil. An official Credit Card – until it is time to pay them then they are a little more accepting. Official sponsors for cellphones, long distance, internet and (I would guess) smoke signals. An official camping trailer and rv maker sponsor. An official chocolate sponsor. An official bottlewater sponsor. An official soft drink sponsor. An official energy drink sponsor. An official beer sponsor. An official hotdog sponsor. Of course, official Ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, tomatoes and relish – hold the mayo – sponsors. (I may have heard an official heartburn sponsor, but I am not positive.) Sponsors for paper towels, napkins and a**wipe I am sure were also named off. An official car insurance sponsor was announced (like they would insure any of the trucks on the track). And the list goes on.
    I am not naming these sponsors because they are not official johncarter.com sponsors, at lease yet. If you work for one of these companies and want to help out, give me a call. Free samples of most items appreciated.
  • The one official sponsor I did not note: Official Lawn mower/equipment puller sponsor, but that may soon be coming. Smile you're on candid website
  • Why do they let big car drivers in this league? They do not let UNproven drivers into the Sprint Cup races, yet they let these proven drivers come back down to play where rookies and newbies are trying to learn and build experience. I understand car sponsors want to draw fans and the belief is that big name drivers will draw big crowds. The LV350 shown not entirely true – the stands were well under 1/2 totally full and the infield pit camping areas had like 5 campers – and I bet a couple of them belonged to people related – directly – with trucks and drivers in the race. There were several trucks/drivers that clearly where out classed. I am sure that is partly the sponsor’s money behind them but I am equally sure it was driver experience. I am in the minority but when I attend racing, I want to see racing and not just by two or three cars/trucks for the title, but the entire field for every spot possible. That is not possible when you put major players up against those with limited experience. Plus does it not place the high dollar drivers at risk of mistakes by lesser experienced drivers who are more likely to make a mistake? Consider this – do you want the Cup Series race to be missing 3 key drivers because they are in the hospital after a Truck or Nationwide race crash caused by someone young and stupid? You want to draw people out and make money for the sponsors and for the race in general? Have the big-race drivers attend the Truck and Nationwide races – as fans, in the stands, and be available for autographs, etc. Many fans will show up (and buy tickets and $3.00 waters) just to also get autographs. You don’t need all the drivers at every race just 3 or 4. And you can spread the duty around so each driver only has to kissa** with fans 1 or 2 races a year. And here is a sub-thought, have the Truck and Nationwide drivers at the Cup races – again in the stands and signing autographs – where they will build their own following, a following that will come out and buy $100 tickets to watch them race the big race when they get the call for that big ride.
  • To the dismay of the many who like to complain, I would like to thank the combined local and state law enforcement groups and the private security forces under Nascar’s/LVMS’s authority that (1) made the entire event safe for everyone and (2) did an orderly job of getting the 10s of thousands of spectators – including a few that consumed a little to much of the official beer sponsor’s products – out of the area. Yes it took a long time, but the planning and coordination of the various groups made it a hell of a lot faster then it could been. Lets be fair, you can not move 10,000+ motor vehicles from a small area in a matter of minutes no matter how any roads or travel lanes you have available. I toast the efforts of traffic control with one official beer sponsor’s product. Wait I can’t drink, so one official bottlewater will have to do.
  • I am not certain who started the “Nascar Burn Out” where the winner creates a lot of smoke and pollution after the race by spinning their tires while applying front brakes. I am not certain I prefer it. I guess I miss the old days when a race winner would stop and gentlemanly receive the checkered flag from the flagperson and then do a victory lap around the track holding out the flag as all the fans – regardless of who they rooted for – stood and applauded them. My website, my opinion – thank you.
  • This race was the first race (according to the announcers) where Lamborghini cars served as the pace car. This raises a few sub-points
    • Is this the first race where the pace car could actually out run the racers?
    • If point one is true, why not race the pace cars and let the race trucks be the {slower} pacecar?
    • Did the driver of the pace car have to push it out to the track the way the pit crews had to push out the race-trucks?
    • The pace cars cost something like $400,000 each and there where two of them. Does that explain a $3.00 bottled water and a $4.00 hotdog?
    • By the way, the cars were likely used as pace cars because they were, in my opinion, rather ugly colors. One was a burnt brown orange that reminded me of something my cat left for me on the carpet. Maybe it was primer colors because I would hope that if you pay that much for the car you can get any color you want.
  • Back to my complaint that the trucks are not real trucks. I think that in the future each truck has to be hauling something in the back and during at least one pit stop they have to unload what they are hauling and load something else back in. And if it falls out on the track during the race the pit crew has to runout on the track and re-load it while dodging traffic, the same us real folks have to do it when we are hauling stuff home from Sear’s (an official Nascar Sponsor).
  • What I won’t do is complain about the amount of trash and garbage that race fans left all over the parking lot because they were too lazy or to immature to clean up after themselves. This, of course, included beer bottles – some broken intentionally, boxes originally filled with beer and sodas, various used paper products involved in food transport and eating and, at least one, used diaper where the parents figured the ground was good enough for disposal, well good enough as long as it was not their job to clean it up. Oh wait, I did complain after all. I hope it was this race and not typical of all races and especially NASCAR races. If it is typical of NASCAR races, what does that really say about race fans? And if this is normal NASCAR fan attitude, it may be a while before I again attend such events. I do not desire to be associated with people that have less respect for other people’s property then they expect people to have for their property. Clean up after yourself! You give NASCAR a bad name, you give race fans a bad name and you give Americans a bad name. Please direct your responses to this comment to someone who cares, response to my feedback form will be deleted.
  • And my final observation – who invited the tri-oval, or more accurately who invited the name? Is this more new math or more Nascar math? When I was learning my 3 R’s (reading, rit’ng and rithmatic) it was either an oval (something roundish with no hard corners but maybe a couple of extended length sides) or it was triangled (something with three straight sides and 3 corners). What is next? Rebuild Dover or Talledaga into a hexa-square? It will still be considered a square-oval track but with 6 sides and 6 turns.

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