Thursday, March 6, 2014 | noon
Fans packed the Strip on Wednesday night to kick off NASCAR Weekend with the Hauler Parade, which brought traffic to a slow crawl — far off the 185 mph speeds the racecar drivers will probably hit this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue, who captured the shots of the cavalcade along our world-famous Las Vegas Boulevard from the staging area at South Point to the new SLS hotel being constructed at the former Sahara site.
Thanks also to L.E. Baskow of the Las Vegas Sun for his photo gallery. The trucks that carry the cars and the equipment then peeled off onto I-15 for the final miles to LVMS.
At this moment, William Hill bookies have set 8-5 odds for hometown hero Kyle Busch to win Saturday’s Nationwide Series Boyd Gaming 300, although he’s never won it on his home track. He’s the all-time leader with 64 victories in the Nationwide and last won here in the Sprint Cup Kobalt 400 in 2009.
Six-time NASCAR Sprint champion Jimmie Johnson is favored to win Sunday’s big 400 as a 7-1 favorite. Hometown drivers Kyle and Kurt Busch are listed at 10-1 and 20-1, respectively, for Sunday.
Kurt broke the news this morning that for the first time since it was last attempted in 2004, he will try for a double same-day victory in the Indy 500 and then jet to the Coco-Cola 600, the longest on the schedule, in North Carolina on May 25. The 35-year-old Las Vegas veteran would be the fourth driver in NASCAR history to attempt the seven-hour racing feat, and it will be his first time driving at Indy.
My pal Tony Stewart attempted the near-impossible challenge in 1999 and completed 1,090 miles of the total 1,100. However, in 2001 finishing sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte, he became the only NASCAR driver to conquer the challenge.
Kurt says as May 25 looms, he’ll commute between the two tracks for practice sessions. He has hired a nutritionist and a martial arts instructor for physical training and mental focus drills. He has set up today a website, KurtBuschDouble.com, for fans to track his stamina training and shuttles between the tracks.
Today, NASCAR institutes a new set of race rules, and the drivers will be on the track for practice that’s open to fans for free from noon to 4 p.m. Afterward, several drivers will take part in a Q+A about the new dictates: Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers, David Ragan and Danica Patrick, who will pilot her #10 Aspen Dental Chevrolet on Sunday. My friend NASCAR Sirius radio host Claire B. Lang will be at the Monte Carlo broadcasting live with drivers Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip and Matt Crafton.
Current standings have Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his #88 Chevrolet in first place with 90 points and one win from Daytona; Brad Keselowski in his #2 Ford in second with 84 points; Jeff Gordon is third in his #24 Chevrolet with 80 points; and Kevin Harvick is fourth with his #4 Chevrolet and one win from Phoenix.
Our colleague Ray Brewer, the Sun’s senior editor for sports, posted Tuesday a rundown of where and when to catch your favorite NASCAR drivers while they are in town.
Here’s my Royal Robin Rundown of NASCAR weekend highlights:
THURSDAY, MARCH 6
Phoenix race winner Kevin Harvick will host a Happy Hour autograph signing at Stratosphere, and Brendan Gaughan, who drives our South Point-sponsored Chevy #62, will bring fellow NASCAR drivers Ryan Newman, Brian Scott and Ty Dillon for autograph sessions at South Point tonight.
Before the free REO Speedwagon Race Jam concert on Fremont Street on Saturday night, racer David Ragan will hold an autograph session nearby at the D Las Vegas. The NASCAR drivers auction to benefit Speedway Children’s Charities with driver Clint Bower and Fox Sports’ Jeff Hammond is at Sam’s Town.
FRIDAY, MARCH 7
Neon Garage at LVMS opens at 10:30 a.m. for VIPs to watch mechanics’ preparations. After practice for both weekend races, we’ll learn the Stratosphere Pole qualifiers for Sunday’s 400.
SATURDAY, MARCH 8
The final 400 practice is 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and is followed by the Nationwide Series driver introductions. UNLV student Sarah Shelton, who won a Fox 5 superstar contest, will sing the national anthem. The command to “start your engines” precedes the 200-lap, 300-mile race.
SUNDAY, MARCH 9
It’s a grand spectacle on the track, in the air and onstage. I will MC the driver introductions and the Kobalt 400 starting track ceremonies as Fox begins its coverage. Our Strip headliners “Million Dollar Quartet” from Harrah’s will perform a pre-show and sing the national anthem as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds roar over in split-second timing and tight formation.
The 267-lap, 400-mile race starts at high noon.
We’ll have live Twitter reports @robin_leach from Neon Garage, the driver meetings and on-track ceremonies. Then check back with us Sunday and Monday for reports and photo galleries of the track heroes and as we go up close with all the celebrities.
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.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
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Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Located South of the Strip, South Point is a hot spot frequented by locals. The hotel-casino is decorated in a Pacific Coast feel, with golds, reds and browns, mixing an island feel with the ambiance of Southern California.
Guests rooms feature 42-inch flat screen TVs, iPod docking stations and plush linens. Outside, the property features landscaped gardens, a hospitality to entertain poolside and a sand volleyball court.
When it comes to gaming, the South Point has more than 120,000 square feet of casino games, as well as a separate race books and sports books, a bingo and poker room. South Point also has some family friendly features, like a 64-lane bowling center, an arcade and a 16-screen movie theater.
Dining options range from an upscale meal at Michael's Gourmet to ice cream at Kate's Korner. The 24-hour Coronado Cafe is the perfect spot for a late-night craving, which include six midnight to 6 a.m. "graveyard" specials. Other restaurants include the Big Sur Oyster Bar, Don Vito's, Garden Buffet, Seattle's Best Coffee House and the Del Mar Deli.
One of South Points more unique features is the Equestrian Center and Arena, a first for Vegas. The Equestrian Center holds a variety of events, from college basketball to Championship Bull Riding.