MONTE DUTTON - OUT WHERE THE DESERT SPARKLES
Darlington Raceway is as precious to NASCAR fans as Lambeau Field to connoisseurs of professional football. Indianapolis, though often derided by the stock car faithful, is the most famous place to race cars in the country and likely the world.
Next? Viva … viva … Las Vegassssss!
Sure, fans go to see the race, but they don’t go to Vegas just for the racing. They hit the casinos, not to mention the lavish shows. Once I left the track and headed to the Hoover Dam, then got back in time to see Willie Nelson at the Orleans. Another time a friend and I drove through Death Valley.
When I was writing about the racing, I found it necessary to experience the area. Some places I stopped to smell the roses. In Vegas, it was more the perfume. In lots of places, I played golf or went to ballgames.
There were lots of reasons I enjoyed daytime races. One was being in the ocean by mid-afternoon after the July race at Daytona started in the morning. From NASCAR’s point of view, night racing was great because the reflective color schemes and sparks flying looked cool in prime time. Another reason was that night racing eliminated the nightlife and put fans in position to spend most of their money at the track.
The races in Las Vegas are at night. Whaaaaattttt?
The Monster Energy Cup race is Sunday night? Monday must often be bleary-eyed in Las Vegas, but not for this. What in the name of Wayne Newton is going on here?
Thank goodness for the few, the proud tracks that have never erected lights.
The days when fans would fly across the country for racing and racing alone are obviously gone. They’re still out there, but there aren’t as many as it takes to pack a grandstand anymore. Las Vegas used to have an edge over Fontana and Phoenix out west because of the place, not the race.
Once upon a time, a few of my peers ridiculed me because I always found Vegas a bit much. It was fine once year – now twice – but even while I was playing the slots, and checking out the sports book, and playing blackjack, deep in my soul was a feeling that Sin City was America at its worst. Not only did it it have an Eiffel Tower, and a hotel built like a pyramid, and a Statue of Liberty, but they were all within a couple blocks of one another.
It made this onetime farm boy from South Carolina feel like lying on a couch and having someone feed him grapes.
But that’s the market. Millions go there. It’s more like thousands, tops, where I live, and most of them come to town for ballgames.
It seems a shame for NASCAR to pass that up. I am, however, well aware that I am not typical. Not only that, but I am not even there.