Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | 4:32 p.m.
This weekend, NASCAR makes its 16th visit to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Since 1998, it has pumped billions of dollars into our economy. Last year, NASCAR was a nearly $250 million boost to Southern Nevada from four days of events, including Sam’s Town 300 and Kobalt Tools 400 during the weekend.
“It’s much more than race tickets, lodging, rental cars and concessions,” said LVMS President Chris Powell. “It’s about employment. We employ thousands of people on race weekend. Our fans also contribute to employment across the valley, including servers, bartenders, skycaps, taxi drivers and valet personnel who make their living from tips. Part-time workers supplement the family income with race-weekend employment. This event affects just about every worker in town.”
Our Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says 71 percent of fans come from out of town, which guarantees hotel room rates and rental cars on a sold-out basis. “NASCAR weekend has attracted millions of tourists to Las Vegas,” said former Las Vegas Mayor and current LVCVA Host Committee Chairman Oscar Goodman. “Our visitors are from around the world.
“When NASCAR first came to Las Vegas in 1998, merchants and hospitality executives were afraid the fans would merely go to the track, watch the race and then go home. That simply wasn’t true. NASCAR Weekend, from a revenue and employment standpoint, is one of the biggest annual events in Las Vegas, and it continues to grow.”
During the Sprint Cup event, the speedway property swells to become Nevada’s fourth-largest city, employing 2,000 extra people to work the event weekend. In 2012, more than $130,000 was paid out to nonprofit groups who operated concession and souvenir stands.
Some 400 airmen from Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases volunteer for the event. Their units are paid by LVMS, as are law enforcement, fire and traffic-control personnel during NASCAR Weekend -- even the workers who place orange cones on Las Vegas Boulevard and I-15.
That economic growth has risen steadily and solidly over the years. In 1998, it was $116,240,600. By 2011, it was edging close to $200 million and then last year eclipsed $240 million.
NASCAR Weekend kicks off today when South Point hosts the Sprint Cup haulers who will create a tourist bonanza driving the weekend racecars along The Strip to LVMS. The parade of more than 50 18-wheel haulers will thunder from the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign at 6 p.m. and then travel 5 miles to the former Sahara before driving onto I-15 for the final leg to LVMS.
Also tonight, hometown track hero Brendan Gaughan will sign autographs at South Point, and LVMS plays host tonight to the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars on the Dort Track. We’ll have a rundown of NASCAR events on Thursday, including celebrity appearances and autograph signings with drivers.
Jimmie Johnson is favored to win Sunday’s big race. Jimmie won in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010. He also is favored by LVH’s sports book to win the entire 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship. Our hometown race hero Kyle Busch, who won in 2009, is listed at 8/1, tied with defending series champion Brad Keselowski. Kyle’s brother Kurt is 75/1, and Daytona 500 pole-sitter Danica Patrick is listed at 500/1. Last year’s 400 winner, Tony Stewart, is 12/1.
Kurt is hoping his “Lucky 13” start will finally let him fulfill a career dream of winning his first Sprint Cup victory in his hometown. He said: “Not too many people beat the odds in Vegas, but after 12 attempts of trying to win, I think I’m overdue.” He shouldn’t be too down, though, because in those 12 races, he has earned $1.3 million.
Check back over the next four days for our NASCAR coverage. Contributing photographer Tom Donoghue will be at the track, and I’ll be announcing out there Sunday, with Marie Osmond singing the national anthem and the cast of “Rock of Ages” at The Venetian entertaining 100,000-plus spectators. I’ll handle driver intros and will be on NASCAR Radio from Pit Row and Neon Garage.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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