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October 30, 2014

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Race day in Las Vegas: Kobalt Tools 400

The biggest single-day annual sports event in Sin City occurs March 9 when the NASCAR Sprint Cup race comes to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

2013 NASCAR racer

Fuel economy: About 5 mpg at full speed

Horsepower: 865

Width: 76.5 inches

Height: 53.5 inches

Length: 208 inches

Weight: 3,200 pounds

2013 Toyota Camry L model

Fuel economy: 28 mpg

Horsepower: 178

Width: 71.7 inches

Height: 57.9 inches

Length: 189.2 inches

Weight: 3,190 pounds

IF YOU GO

When: March 7-9

Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Information: For tickets, call 800-644-4444 or order online at www.lvms.com.

About: Highlighted by the Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the event also includes the Boyd Gaming 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.

The race draws about 250,000 fans annually, and there’s no reason to think attendance will be off this year.

Buckle up.

I don't care about NASCAR. How does this affect me?

• Your bottom line: Either directly or indirectly, it could help put money in your pocket. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimated the race generated $240 million for the Las Vegas economy in 2012, the last year for which the estimate is available. Seventy-one percent of fans that year were from out of town.

• Interstate parking lot: Depending on where you are, traffic can be hellish. Stay south of the speedway and you’ll probably be OK. Get near it on race day and all bets are off. Last year, a fatality on Interstate 15 just after the race caused hours of delays.

• Around town: You may see a driver or a race car even if you don’t buy a ticket, and there’s a good chance you might bump into a food or drink special for NASCAR fans. There are multiple events leading to the race, including a parade.

Cheating in NASCAR

There’s often more happening than meets the eye at a NASCAR event, and it’s referenced in an old quote from the sport.

“If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

Decades after early stock car drivers first started fitting their cars with unauthorized parts to gain an edge, NASCAR teams are still finding ways to cheat. A recent example came in September 2013 at Richmond International Raceway, when Clint Bowyer reportedly spun out on purpose to force a restart and help give an advantage to a teammate. Bowyer denied wrongdoing, but NASCAR levied a $300,000 fine against his team.

Here are some other ways NASCAR drivers have bent the rules:

    • WEIGHTY ISSUE

      In 1952, driver Tim Flock was busted for having fake roll bars in his car. The bars were made of wood and painted to look like metal. The purpose was to shave weight. Other methods have included placing helmets and radios made of solid lead in cars during weigh-in, then taking them out afterward and replacing them with the real thing.

    • FUELED BY DECEPTION

      NASCAR racers have used jet fuel, nitrous oxide injectors and other underhanded means of juicing up their gasoline tanks, which in turn makes engines run faster. Another crafty fuel trick: One racer built a fuel tank with an inflatable ball in it. He would inflate the ball when inspectors checked the tank’s capacity, then deflate it afterward. That allowed the tank to hold more fuel.

    • SPOILS OF VICTORY

      Illegal modifications to spoilers and other surfaces of the car decrease downforce in straightaways, making the car run faster, and increase force in turns, improving handling.

    • NOT SHOOTING STRAIGHT

      Darrell Waltrip, former champ and now a broadcaster, got caught putting BBs in the hollow tubes of his car’s frame before weigh-in, then pulling a trap door and jettisoning them afterward. Why? The BBs allowed the car to comply with a minimum weight requirement, but ditching them made the car lighter than the others in the field. A lighter car has a speed advantage.

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