By Matt Kelemen
It can be said that for 360 days out of the year NASCAR Weekend turns into Las Vegas. Last year, the Neon City south of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway underwent a transformation back to Entertainment Capital of the World after the long weekend concluded. Fifty-one weeks and three days later, things finally get back to normal as the Hauler Parade on March 6 kicks off from the Welcome to Las Vegas sign at 6 p.m. Other NASCAR cities don’t host anywhere near the year-round entertainment and events Las Vegas does, so dominating this field is no small accomplishment.
While the new Generation 6 vehicles being introduced for the 2013 Sprint Cup Series may provide some unexpected highlights and upsets, the six-figure population of racing fans returns to familiar events and atmosphere. Distractions for down time between Thursday’s practice runs (free), Friday’s Stratosphere Pole Position qualifying time trials, Sam’s Town 300 on Saturday and Kobalt Tools 400 on Sunday include the Neon Garage, where drivers can be observed fine-tuning cars, and the midway, with live music.
This year Jimmie Johnson, representing Hendrick Motorsports, may be the one to watch after his valiant effort to catch up to last year’s Kobalt winner Tony Stewart. With the initial kinks worked out of the Generation 6 cars, the Kobalt Tools 400 should be a defining race, establishing how last year’s Sprint Cup Series champ Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart will perform for the rest of the season.