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March 23, 2019

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NASCAR preview: Danica Patrick’s debut; first look at Gen 6 high-speed cars

Danica Patrick at LVMS on 3/9/12

Tom Donoghue/

Danica Patrick at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, March 9, 2012.

2013: NASCAR Hauler Parade

The 2013 NASCAR Hauler Parade on the Strip on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. The vehicles started the event parked at South Point. Launch slideshow »

Danica Patrick at LVMS on 3/9/12

Danica Patrick at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, March 9, 2012. Launch slideshow »

NASCAR fans in Las Vegas get the first look today of the new Gen 6 cars in the Sprint Cup Series practice sessions, and they should witness new track speed records and Danica Patrick’s debut here. Best of all, entrance at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is free.

After Wednesday night’s spectacular Hauler Parade along the Strip, the star drivers can’t wait to start their engines for the Gen 6 debut at LVMS. Kevin Harvick noted: “The cars are obviously really fast because they have more down force. Everyone’s anticipation of getting to Las Vegas and getting all of the cars on the racetrack at the same time is pretty high.

“No one can tell you exactly what’s going on. You don’t really know what will happen until you get out there. The test today will give us a direction. It’s going to be interesting, and we’ll see very fast high speeds.”

Driver Kevin Hamlin added: “Las Vegas is a fast track with quite a bit of banking. It will be the first race for these new cars, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react when you get around another car.

Ford driver Greg Biffle said: “It takes a lot to win at Las Vegas. Track position is key. We learned a lot at the Charlotte test in January that will help us out in Las Vegas with this new 2013 Gen 6 Ford. The 1.5-mile tracks have been our strong suit in the past. I’m jacked up about heading to Las Vegas. I love that racetrack, and I love to gamble. We run really well there.”

Greg, who will be driving the #16 American Red Cross Ford on Sunday, is visiting Sunrise Children’s Hospital today. “I’m not a firefighter or an EMT, but I know that as a blood donor I can save a life,” he said. “The gift of a blood donation cannot be replaced by anything else in the world, and it means a world of difference to those in need.”

Las Vegas Sun Sports Editor Ray Brewer posted a rundown of the celebrity events that start today and run through to Sunday’s big 400 Kobalt Tools Spring Cup race. Additionally, NASCAR drivers Denny Hamlin and Nelson Piquet Jr. celebrate Las Vegas race week at Tag Heuer in Crystals on Friday.

A five-day conference starts today for NASCAR partner Growth Energy, a Washington, D.C., ethanol advocacy group. NASCAR is racing with Sunoco Green E15 (15 percent American Ethanol blend), a high-performance U.S.-made bio-fuel that reduces emissions of toxins by 20 percent at LVMS.

Additionally, there are several other green efforts under way: Coca-Cola and Miller/Coors will have millions of bottles and cans recycled; Safety-Kleen will recycle the race’s used oil; fans can recycle their used phones with Sprint; and Creative Recycling will take other electronics and laptops at the track. Even UPS trucks have a system in place to reduce exhaust particle emissions and trailer with solar panels for its power. A battery-powered UPS mini car will make pickups and deliveries all weekend from the track for drivers and crews.

Racing at the superspeedway begins Friday with Stratosphere Pole Day. The NASCAR Nationwide Series takes center stage Saturday with the annual Sam’s Town 300 at 1:15 p.m. The purse is $1,308,760 for 300 miles over 200 laps. Jeff Burton, who won in 2000, 2002 and 2007, holds the race record with 135.118 mph. He is the only driver to have swept Sam’s Town 300 and Kobalt Tools 400 in the same weekend (2000). Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make a rare Nationwide Series start Saturday, and two local drivers, Kyle Busch and Brendan Gaughan, are racing.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 starts at noon Sunday on Fox. It will take 267 laps for the 43 drivers to race 400.5 miles with a $6,431,603 purse at stake. Kasey Kahne holds the qualifying record from last year at 190 mph. I will MC the driver introductions and am on NASCAR Radio from the Neon Garage and Pit Row. Flamingo headliner Marie Osmond will sing the national anthem, and the cast of The Venetian’s “Rock of Ages” entertains pre-show.

It’s a double debut: Danica makes her first Spring Cup start at LVMS, and this will be the first race on a 1.5-mile track for NASCAR’s Gen 6 car. Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte, who are expected to drive, have competed in all 15 cup chases at LVMS.

Follow us live on Twitter on Sunday @robin_leach for all the race-day events, including the drivers meeting. Then on Monday, we’ll have sensational race photos and aerial shots from contributing photographer Tom Donoghue.

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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