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November 28, 2014

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Six ways gearheads can get their thrills in Las Vegas

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John Katsilometes

Fans are introduced to the car used in the Richard Petty Driving Experience at LVMS.

For drivers with visions of NASCAR racing in their heads but commuter cars and minivans in their garages, Las Vegas is a playground.

The city is home to numerous businesses offering motorists a chance to get behind the wheel of out-of-the-ordinary vehicles, from exotic sports cars and NASCAR competition machines (see John Katsilometes’ story on the Richard Petty Driving Experience) to heavy machinery.

Here are some of them. Note: Not all of the following operations are offering driving opportunities this week. Their tracks are located at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which is being used exclusively for NASCAR Weekend. But the businesses are open most of the year.

    • Street-legal racers

      Exotics Racing School provides a fleet of production cars from some of the world’s most elite manufacturers, including Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren and Aston Martin.

      With a valid driver’s license and the means to pay for packages that start at $199, motorists can take laps on a speedway road course. Those who just want to ride along with a professional driver can do it for $99.

      More than 40,000 guests have taken a spin through the school since it opened in 2009.

      Website: www.exoticsracing.com

      Phone: 702-405-7223

      Status: Track is closed, but reservations are being taken.

    • A driver is seen racing in a one-seater dune buggy during one of the racing adventures offered by the Las Vegas Desert Racing Academy.

      Dune buggies

      The Las Vegas Desert Racing Academy offers an opportunity to experience off-road racing in custom-built, all-terrain vehicles featuring full roll cages and harness-type seat belts.

      Think souped-up dune buggies, not the jacked-up, modified pickup trucks used in some off-road racing.

      “Those (trucks) have about two feet of ground clearance, so when you’re going over the terrain you might as well be in a jet,” said Scott Bradford, vice president of operations for the academy. “Here, you’re eight inches off the ground. We let people kind of get a taste for what it’s like to drive something fast over some nasty terrain.”

      Drivers can choose from vehicles seating one to four people, with packages ranging from 15-minute jaunts to two-hour excursions. Prices range from $99 To $799.

      Website: desertracingacademy.com

      Phone: 702-644-2808

      Status: Open

    • Heavy machinery

      Dig This is like a sandbox for grown-ups, complete with a bulldozer and excavator that visitors can operate.

      A session in the bulldozer costs $249, and time behind the controls of both pieces of machinery goes for $449. For those prices, visitors receive training and orientation — as well as a Breathalyzer test — and a chance to operate the equipment.

      Dig This is located at 3012 S. Rancho Drive, near Palace Station.

      Website: www.digthisvegas.com

      Phone: 702-222-4344

      Status: Open

    • Ferrari race cars

      Dream Racing, a speedway-based racing experience, puts drivers behind the wheel of Ferrari F430 GT competition cars. These are not street-legal vehicles, but rather are built and tuned for road course racing. Packages ranging from $179 to $499 allow drivers to take laps with an instructor in the passenger’s seat. Drivers also are given classroom instruction and a session in a 3D simulator with an instructor.

      Laps in street-legal sports cars also are available in packages starting at $199.

      Website: www.dreamracing.com

      Phone: 702-637-1520

      Status: Track is closed through March 14, but reservations are being taken.

    • Indy-style race cars

      Participants in the speedway-based Mario Andretti Driving Experience drive single-seat, open-wheel cars like those driven in Formula 1 and IndyCar races. Instructors communicate with drivers through two-way radios, and each participant works with a crew chief who provides driving instructions and safety training. Packages start at $364.99.

      Website: www.andrettiracing.com/MARE/locations/lasvegas.html

      Phone: 877-722-3527

      Status: Track is closed, but reservations are being taken.

    • Rentals

      Vegas is home to several rental car operations offering practically any exotic car you can name – Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Bentley, Lotus and many, many more.

      Just Google “Las Vegas exotic car rental” and get your credit card ready. Warning: It’s going to get a workout. With some cars priced at a four-digit daily rate, this isn’t like renting a Ford Focus.

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    1. There are way more than six ways... Let's add: The Auto Collections - a car museum, go for a drive on rt 159 with it's awesome scenery, rent a Harley, tread lightly in the desert with a 4x4, Shelby American by the speedway is a good for a couple of hours and so many more!