Monday, Feb. 22, 2010 | 11:30 p.m.
Traveling to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week for events associated with the NASCAR weekend will be easier than years past.
The drive will be improved — and possibly less time-consuming — because of the recent completion of a project to widen Interstate 15. The speedway, in northern edge of the Las Vegas Valley about 12 miles north of downtown Las Vegas, is best accessible by Interstate 15, taking exit No. 54 onto Speedway Boulevard.
The two-year long project finished ahead of schedule by 10 months, only causing traffic problems for two race weekends instead of three. The early completion was a relief for speedway officials.
"Race fans want to get out to the speedway as quickly and timely as possible," said Chris Powell, the speedway's president and general manager. "They don't like a lot of delays, so we went into sort of a hair-pulling mode."
Roughly 150,000 fans are expected for Sunday's race. Those drivers won't have to navigate through construction zones on the interstate like the past two years.
"(The construction) wasn't really as bad as we thought it might have been last year and this year we expect it to be free-flowing," Powell said.
The speedway's Web site has maps and directions, as well as videos to show people the best way to get to each parking lot depending on where their seats are.
Despite the easier access, officials are still encouraging fans to use mass transportation.
Bus company Coach America will have 120 buses providing access to the raceway from hotels on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday.
Coach America will have 30 buses available after the race to haul people back, more than tripling the amount of buses used post-race last year. That should cut the bus travel time from nearly three hours last year to one and a half hours this year, company officials say.
Bus tickets will go on sale Wednesday at the Tropicana, Treasure Island, Riviera, Hilton and Golden Nugget.
Another tip for travelers is simple: leave early.
"There's a lot to do here at the speedway during the course of the morning, so we ask fans to come out early, get situated and enjoy the day here at the speedway as well as stay late," Powell said. "If you're not in too big a hurry to get off the property and get back to what awaits on the Strip, then fans can enjoy a lot of entertainment in our neon garage and those kinds of things and they don't have to get too involved in the thousands who are leaving at the checkered flag on both Saturday and Sunday."
Officials also remind people to be smart when driving on race day and not to drink and drive.
"We'll be paying particular attention to drunk driving this year," said Metro Lt. Chris Ankeny.
The department will have two mobile DUI units working this weekend, Ankeny said.
"Have a good time, but also be safe during this event," Nevada Highway Patrol spokeswoman Chelita Rojas said. "Everyone likes to have a great time, but also make sure you have a designated driver, that way you're not getting in trouble later."
And, if you want to avoid traffic completely, for $500 you can get to the speedway from the Strip in about 10 minutes in a helicopter.
"There is not much traffic up in the skies that they can't get around, so it is certainly a quick way to get to the speedway," Powell said.