The Land of Hopes and Dreams

Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, March 2, 2018, 9:40 a.m.

Ooh, Las Vegas. Ain’t no place for no poor boy like me.

Those are the words of the late Gram Parsons, a favorite songwriter of mine. He wrote another song, quite a bit more complex, called “Sin City.” Parsons, who died of a drug overdose before I had even heard of him, was a bit like Bob Dylan. His songs were quite profound. I just didn’t always know what the hell he was talking about.

If you’re interested, listen to “The Return of the Grievous Angel.”

By Monte Dutton

Racing. Oh, yeah. Racing. NASCAR is at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the cars go around and around, somewhat like a roulette wheel, and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds often swoop about in the air above. Las Vegas Boulevard runs right past Nellis Air Force Base on the way to the track. I expect putting on a show in the skies above the track is a P.R. bonanza for the USAF.

There’s an excellent chance you’ll see a feature this weekend about a racer going up in a fighter plane learning new lessons about going fast and upside-down. I even went up in a transport plane once. I got to watch it being refueled in mid-air. It was many years ago, when more than TV mattered. Just imagine if it was now. I could tweet photos. I don’t go there, or up there, anymore. A pity.

Kyle Busch leads a pack of NASCAR Trucks during practice. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

At the first Vegas race, in 1998, I went to a sports book and looked at the odds for the (then) Busch Series race and discovered what I supposed was quite a betting opportunity. The next morning, I was chatting with another driver in the series, one who’s quite famous now, and I mentioned the bet.

“Damn,” he said. “I’d like to get in on some of that action.”

It occurred to me that, in most sports, competing for one team and betting on another might be frowned upon. The driver said it as if it never occurred to him. My guess is that more careful heads have prevailed since back then when racing in Las Vegas was new.

The planes to Vegas were always full of people talking about the time when they had five dollars to their name and went home with ten thousand. I never overheard anyone talk about the time they went there with ten thousand and came home with five. Such people exist, though, or else there’d be no way to pay for all those bright lights on the Strip.

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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