March Madness, Car Race-Style: NASCAR fans make a pilgrimage to Las Vegas for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400

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Story by Alan Snel Photos by J. Tyge O’Donnell

My, how things have changed in a year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

A year ago, only 12,000 fans were allowed onto the giant NASCAR circuit during the speedway’s spring race due to a COVID-19 pandemic that killed 957,000 Americans.

But today the doors are wide open and racing fans are back in action amid an extremely busy sports industry weekend in Las Vegas where everything from college basketball tournament hoops UFC and WCC at Speedway race car competition and Golden Knights hockey, is on point.

The Speedway has a tattoo bar in the fan area and the usual showgirls accompany live music and fans sign the finish line.

The racing facility has two NASCAR weekends a year, and the spring race usually attracts more tourists. There are expected to be over 75,000 fans over the three-race weekend which kicked off on Friday. Today’s crowd seemed strong, with a rough estimate of around 50,000 people watching the 267-lap race. The venue eliminated grandstand seats and added luxury seats a few years ago.

The race had a nice local touch as Ethel M Chocolates sponsored the Kyle Busch car.

Former Raiders great Marcus Allen is also the race steward. “Riders, start your engines,” Allen told the riders.

It’s not a NASCAR race and invocation without a reference to Christ in the pre-race prayer. The NASCAR crowd demo here is reminiscent of the December NFR rodeo crowd in Las Vegas.


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