Hometown Heroes: Nascar Camping World Truck Series at LVMS

20130928_175048Written and photos by Jake Conlee

One of my favorite things in Las Vegas is to uncover all of the awesome things that are aside from gaming, nightlife and glamour of this sparkling “Jewel of the Desert.” Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the outward attractiveness of what our city embodies, but there is something to be said for what else Las Vegas has to offer. As you may or may not know, I am a true fan of the automobile and the way that Las Vegas showcases cars, in every way, shape and form. From the stationary beauty that is within the walls of the Art Goldstrom and Family collection, to the rumbling of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on a NASCAR Race weekend, or the reverberating hammer of the gavel at a true Concours de Elegance at the auction that is Barrett Jackson Las Vegas; this city truly loves it’s cars. And it loves racing even more.

In the mid 90s, Las Vegas was undergoing an incredible amount of economic, social growth and development. No longer was it just the novelty of gambling, casinos, shows and the mob. It proved itself to be  an important transportation and logistical hub, realizing it’s ideal location between the major cities of the Midwest, and the Major Cities on the West Coast, the large corporations, infrastructure and transportation followed suit. I remember reading that at one point between 1994 and 1997, there was in upwards of 13,000 new residents per month. (Which, I am not completely sure about, but it does convey my message). It was around this point that ground breaking began on the state of the art, Multi Use Racing Complex, known to us as LVMS.

I can recall a trip in 1995 out to the Gambler Nationals at Las Vegas Dragway. Not the massive fortification and imposing Grandstand that looms over the surrounding area, the bleachers were more reminiscent of a Middle School Football field’s. The wind was unrelenting and would shut down the track for half the day. The closest structures were the newly built up Petro Truck Stop and Travel Center, even the offramp from Intersate 15 was just a craggy side road dumping you off onto something just this side of a gravel track. With the new state of the art facilities at LVMS, also came an Intermediate (1.5 mile) Superspeedway, which would cater to the powerhouse Racing Series of NASCAR, CART and Indy Car racing. This was a track designed to promote incredible speed and challenge the drivers to get the most out of their cars on this track.

20130928_174944It is truly a wonder to behold; as majestic and bewildering that the Las Vegas Strip can be, there is not many sights in this town that can parallel the incredible view standing on the infield of the Super Speedway, looking back at the Grandstands, and all across the Las Vegas Valley. Every September, LVMS plays host to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. This is an amazing incantation of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing Series, but they use trucks. Racing versions of fullsized American and Japanese light duty trucks. It is truly an incredible sight to witness in person, these unmuffled, howling trucks, some qualifying at speeds in excess of 175mph.

Words cannot describe the spectacle that 4000 pounds of pickup truck, sliding around the track at 150mph plus, with 28 other trucks all racing for the checkered flag. The only proper way to describe it is to imagine a 150 mile an hour train that sounds like an explosion as it moves. As the trucks race into the pits, the crackle and rumble of highly engineered and high horsepowered V8 engine shatters the air, ear protection comes highly recommended. The combination of LVMS’ imposing fortification, the fleet of Nascar Camping World Trucks, the procession and assemblage of Racing fans cultivates a very surreal and almost overwhelming experience. Not in any sort of negative sense, but the kind of experience that is so spectacular, you have to take a step back and take it all in for a moment. This very special and memorable experience is not just for the likes of media and racing affiliates, but simply everyone.

LVMS creates an intimate fan experience where the fan can enter the “Neon Garage” in the dead center of the Super Speedway and houses the racing teams, pit crews and Trucks. And from what I hear, Las Vegas’ Speedway facility is the cream of the crop amongst racers.

Click here to view photo gallery.

Over the race weekend, I was able to have a few words and a bite to eat with some members of the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) team:  #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Silverado Ty Dillon, Las Vegas’ very own #62 South Point Hotel and Casino Silverado of Brendan Gaughan and ThorSport Racing #88 Menard Toyota Matt Crafton. It wasn’t too long into our conversations that these guys aren’t bred and born racers (with the exception of the young impresario, Dillon).

Brendan Gaughan is the continuing legacy of the Gaughan family from hotel and casinos of the 60s and 70s, and had many other opportunities in different sports throughout high school and college, all the while being a part of his family’s off road racing programs. It was learned that he would pursue racing as a career after a few young driver mistakes and a hard lesson learned from a long time Gaughan Family friend and Crew Chief. Which is an interesting choice, considering that he was a Collegiate athlete, attending Georgetown University, playing both football and basketball. But it was decided after experiencing the taste of  speed, the racing experience and a bit of success, that he would stick with it.

20130928_175012Matt Crafton told me the story of his father’s garage, Danny’s Auto in Tulare, California. Tulare California is known as the Agricultural Center of California, so I find it interesting that a professional racing driver come from such a seemingly non racing city. Beginning his racing career in a simple racing kart, earned as a present, it would prove to be the vehicle to launch him into other successes in racing. Racing all throughout his childhood, he would eventually graduate (but never leave behind) from Karting into midget and the Featherlite racing series, after filling in for his father for a few races. Speaking with him, he tells me how he and his father always built their own racecars in Danny Crafton’s garage, and how he didn’t leave Tulare until 2004. He also doesn’t have the media swarming him for every last word, and it seems that the incognito suits him well. He and his wife now have a 6 month old daughter, and he tells me that the undercover status affords him to be able to drive his own Diesel Pusher Motorcoach to 18 out of 22 races. I believe it suits him well, because Matt Crafton is the current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader, and the coolest part about it; you would never even know.

This weekend was another incredible example of Las Vegas at it’s best. Racing under the lights, with beautiful weather, a family friendly and fan oriented racing experience, with the hustle and bustle of the Strip and Downtown, comfortably in the distance. A true breath of fresh (racing fuel and burning rubber) air, that gets us outside and enjoying something that isn’t typically the norm in and around this sparkling “Jewel in the Desert.”

www.nascar.com/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/standings/results/2013/smiths-350.html

www.nascar.com/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/matt-crafton.html

www.nascar.com/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/brendan-gaughan.html

www.nascar.com/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/ty-dillon.html

Jake ConleeJake Conlee is a California native that has been blessed with the gift of restlessness. With an undying fervor and passion for what he does not yet know, life is a constant adventure. Truly fearless in implementation of wandering down less trafficked roads, this has led to many ordinary days turning into a treasure hunt. Emblazoned on his arm, the self photographed sign of this incredible City of Sin. He loves this city so much, a mural of Las Vegas is currently under development on his arms. If you need to know about anything in Las Vegas, if he doesn’t know the answer, he will find out for you. He loves Las Vegas, the good, the bad, but mostly the nostalgic. He’s also a sucker for a good hunk of meat. He is, most of all, a father of two girls, 12-year-old “Vern” and 18-month-old “Chuck”

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