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October 23, 2014

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Win or lose, fans here for the atmosphere

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Leila Navidi

Fans watch while on top of their RVs in the infield at the Shelby 427 Sprint Cup Race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

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With NASCAR in town for the Shelby 427 Sprint Cup Series race, thousands of fans turned the infield at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway into a weeklong party.

The actual race is only part of the fun. Race-goers also take part in the festivities that accompany the action on the track.

“It’s not just about the race, it’s about the weekend,” Las Vegas resident Randy Humphrey said.

Tailgating is serious business for NASCAR fans, and Humphrey’s group of about 30 friends didn’t skip out on any frills. They arrived at the track Monday afternoon with all of the necessities: a grill, television, video games, plenty of food and beer -- even a pool table.

“Last year was the first year we brought the pool table, and it was a big hit,” said Humphrey’s friend, Dean Mills. “So we had to bring it again.”

Mills’ group had more on the dining menu than burgers and hotdogs. It also brought along 20 pounds of crab legs, 30 lobster shells, 10 pounds of tilapia and 20 rib-eye steaks.

“We all bring some food and beer, and everybody shares,” Humphrey said.

The infield of RVs has all the makings of a friendly, albeit lively, neighborhood. Kids ride through the rows of motor homes on their bikes and dogs bark as fans enjoy the race.

Tailgaters bring plenty of toys to keep them occupied throughout the weekend. One group had air hockey and foosball tables. During the race, fans move their chairs to the roofs of the RVs.

“NASCAR fans are pretty cool people,” said Pepe Maxwell, from Camano Island, Wash. “You come in without knowing anybody and end up making friends.”

Maxwell and his wife help liven up the nightly party scene by playing music as he plays bass and harmonica and his wife plays guitar. Saturday night they attracted a crowd of about 70 people as they put on a show, he said.

“They were great,” Mills said. “We had a big crowd here last night.”

Many of the tailgaters made their homes at the Speedway for the weekend, and the nights transformed into a party scene.

“At nighttime it’s a little wild,” said Karen Gaither, from Bakersfield, Calif.

Many of the tailgaters make the race an annual affair. Regardless of who wins, they’re more interested in enjoying the atmosphere than whether their favorite driver crossed the finish line first.

“We always have a good time,” Mills said.

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