Friday, July 4, 2008 | 3:23 a.m.
Car racing enthusiasts kicked off the Fourth of July holiday festivities early on Thursday with the annual Night of Fire at the Bullring of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The night's events were filled with food and thrills, with a 76-lap race, a "car bomb," where a Jet Car enflamed a beat-up hearse, motorcycle tricks and a fireworks display worthy of America's birthday.
Although many spectators attended for the fireworks, racing was the main focus of the evening. Emerald Opipari, who sang the national anthem to open the evening's events, said she enjoyed watching drivers work their cars around the track at dangerous speeds -- all while hoping no one would get hurt.
And Opipari knows a bit about the racing world as her brother, Mario, was the 2007 champion for the Charger division at the track.
Mario didn't participate in Thursday night's races, but he's in second place for his division this year.
When fans weren't in the stands cheering on their favorite driver or observing the latest wreck, many were purchasing a second beer or hot dog at the nearest concession stand.
Part of the proceeds from vendors went to fundraisers, such as one for the Arbor View High School band. One volunteer, Preston Stuart, said the band's booster club was invited to participate this year and some band members volunteered to help at the concessions.
July 4 Special Section
But when it came time for the fireworks, speedway gift shop manager Theresa Rogers opted to view the fireworks from her post at the gift shop, rather than join her family in the stands.
"[The view] is not as good as the grandstands, but I like to be around the crowd and the atmosphere," she said.