Las Vegas Notebook

Las Vegas 400 Notebook By Dave Rodman - NASCAR Online LAS VEGAS (March 1, 1998) - Ford's Taurus made an emphatic statement by grabbing the top-seven positions, nine of the top-10 spots and 13 of the top-15 in Sunday's Las Vegas 400 NASCAR...

Las Vegas 400 Notebook By Dave Rodman - NASCAR Online

LAS VEGAS (March 1, 1998) - Ford's Taurus made an emphatic statement by grabbing the top-seven positions, nine of the top-10 spots and 13 of the top-15 in Sunday's Las Vegas 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

As expected, post-race comment was directly proportional to the manufacturer's hat one was wearing.

"There isn't a basis yet (for a change)," Roush said. "They haven't taken any cars to the wind tunnel. The Taurus certainly wasn't competitive at Daytona. The 24 car (Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet) won the race at Rockingham and we had a really good stint of cars here...

"It makes good debate for the media and maybe it's a point of contention for the fans, but I'd be really disappointed if there's a change. If, in the ultimate consideration of the wind tunnel numbers that come off the cars, NASCAR decides there's an imbalance there, I'll support that."

Chevrolet team owner Larry McClure was much more direct in his assessment.

"They need to take at least an inch of spoiler off those Fords and an inch off the nose of them and we might be competitive," said McClure, whose driver, Bobby Hamilton, finished 20th -- the fourth Chevrolet Monte Carlo to cross the line. "The only way Earnhardt got where he did (eighth) was because he took two tires on that one pit stop.

"I don't think our (Chevy) guys have forgot how to drive. We didn't have any downforce today. We started about dead last (41st) and finished 20th -- under the conditions that was a heck of a job."

Mark Martin had the line of the day in Victory Lane following the Las Vegas 400, when he turned to entertainer Wayne Newton -- who kept a high profile most of the day -- and said, "What are you doing next Sunday? Could you come to Atlanta and hang out with us -- we love you!"

Of course, the PRIMESTAR 500, round five of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, is next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bill Elliott's crew performed an engine change on Sunday morning when the McDonald's Ford crew discovered metal fragments in the engine oil. Elliott made good use of the new powerplant by running the top-10 all day and finishing ninth.

Traffic approaching Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a concern to most people concerned with the event, but police officials said at 2 p.m. Sunday that race fans had made it to their seats in time for the start of the Las Vegas 400.

"The highway patrol is very, very pleased," said Steve Harney, public information officer for the Nevada Highway Patrol. "Even though we had heavy traffic at times, we got everyone in here who wanted to see the race. The race fans did exactly what we asked them to do. They were patient." Although police officials said the longest wait they were aware of was one hour, some attendees reported two-hour trips from downtown, which is typically a 20-minute ride.

Harney said police estimates of the crowd were 120,000, which would break the mark for the previous high attendance at a sporting event in Nevada of 67,000. That was the IRL race at LVMS in 1996. Speedway officials estimated crowds totaled 250,000 for the five days of the event.

Las Vegas personalities -- but also household names -- dominated the list of honorary officials at the inaugural Las Vegas 400.

The national anthem was performed by country music group Sawyer Brown, prize fight announcer Michael Buffer intoned his signature "Let's get ready to rumble" statement, the command to start engine was given by Grand Marshal Wayne Newton and Honorary Starter was Clark County Commissioner Lorraine Hunt.

38 Special performed a concert in the trioval grass following the completion of the event.

NASCAR President Bill France said during the Las Vegas 400, "We at NASCAR are overjoyed with the city's and fans' enthusiasm for NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing. The track did a great job in hosting our drivers ... Ralph Englestad and Bill Bennett are to be saluted for their efforts in seeing dreams of hosting NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing in Las Vegas become a reality."

Several NASCAR Winston Cup drivers and personalities at Las Vegas Motor Speedway provided some very happy moments this weekend for E.J. Rosas, four-year-old Southern California child who is suffering from leukemia and whose dream was to meet NASCAR driver Mark Martin.

Rosas, who attended the weekend's activities with his family courtesy of Ronald Galippo, president of the Debbie Chisholm Memorial Foundation. Young Rosas also met Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte, along with ESPN commentators Dr. Jerry Punch and Bill Weber and Rusty Wallace's PR man, Tom Roberts, and received numerous other autographed souvenirs.

Kenny Wallace has seen his share of disappointment this year already, having missed the Daytona 500. He got another dose of it on Sunday when he finished 42nd after completing just 179 laps.

"We were sitting there running about eighth and the motor just blew up," said the driver of the Square D Ford. "Keith Almond gives me great motors but it's a shame to come all the way to the West Coast and go out like this due to a part failure. The team's just having a hard time getting consistent. You think you're doing everything it takes to show your stuff and you have a part failure. We'll just go to Atlanta next week and try to get it again."

Dale Jarrett fell all the way back to 27th in the unofficial NASCAR Winston Cup standings when "something happened in the engine -- it dropped a valve or something," he said.

"These things are going to happen and we just have to keep digging. Eventually, everything will go our way, but I'm disappointed with the outcome."

Jarrett completed 219 laps.

Ricky Craven's top-10 position in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings took a beating thanks in part to a single-car, fifth lap spin coming out of Turn 2. It was the first spin under race conditions by a NASCAR Winston Cup car at LVMS. Craven fell to 14th in the point standings after losing a lap early and finishing 27th.

The days leading to the inaugural combination NASCAR Winston Cup and NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was relatively incident-free, but two single-car accidents in NASCAR Winston Cup practice Saturday sent drivers Michael Waltrip and Chad Little to back-up cars for Sunday's Las Vegas 400.

Little's No. 97 John Deere Ford tangled with Bobby Hamilton in Saturday morning practice.

"We were in a tight group and Bobby (Hamilton) got in the back of me. I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose," Little said, " ... it was just close."

Waltrip simply hit the Turn 4 wall when it appeared a tire was cut.

"I don't know what happened," Waltrip said. "We were starting 36th so who cares about going to the rear."

Waltrip was right, basically, as he said the team took "the engine, rear end gear, all four springs, shocks, camber and caster and put it in the back-up car and finished 14th in the Las Vegas 400.

California gold rush prospectors had nothing on Joe Falk's LJ Racing NASCAR Winston Cup Series team in its effort to reach Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The team's tractor and transporter were towed into LVMS' garage area Thursday by a heavy-duty wrecker at about 1:45 p.m., 45 minutes after the four-hour practice for this weekend's Las Vegas 400 NWC race had begun.

"Someone backed into the tractor at a truck wash in Kingman and busted the radiator," said crew chief Doug Richert of the mishap in the Arizona town located about 120 miles from Las Vegas.

While the crew was expecting the unit to arrive sometime after noon, its appearance "on the hook" created a bit of a stir in the garage when the 51st car to sign-in for the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup race at the 1.5-mile showed up.

"The car is the same one we had at Rockingham," said Richert of driver Kevin Lepage's DNQ at the GM Goodwrench Service Plus 400 at North Carolina Speedway last weekend. "It's all set up and ready to roll. We'll get plenty of practice."

Sure enough, Lepage rolled onto the race track just after 2:45 p.m. The extra effort was rewarded by a 35th place starting position in the Las Vegas 400 as Lepage was one of only two NWC Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates to make the race, and posted a 28th place finish.

Harry Peterson, 72, of St. Joseph, Mich., the father of NASCAR Winston Cup Series Chief Inspector Steve Peterson, passed away Thursday due to complications from heart surgery. Services will be held March 4 in Benton Harbor, Mich.

Jeff Gordon was another driver who went the "extra mile" to aid a five-year-old boy, Seth Wynne of Las Vegas, who is a "huge" fan of the defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion.

The local NBC TV affiliate did a story on the child, whose room is fully decorated with a plethora of Gordon paraphernalia.

Gordon, who was already in town for the Last Vegas 400, saw the piece on TV and invited Seth, as well as his father and mother, Tracy and Tina, to the race as his guests.

Included in the family's package was a visit to Gordon's motorhome, a garage tour and race tickets. Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Kenny Wallace , Kevin Lepage , Ricky Craven , Doug Richert , Mark Martin