Friday, November 17, 2023

RETRO: A Brief look at Motor Racing in Las Vegas

As will Formula 1 come up All Seven’s this time round?


The United States Grand Prix has a long running, meandering history. Having been held at eleven different venues since the inception of today’s modern era Formula 1 World Championship in 1950.


Beginning at Sebring in 1959. The USGP has been contested at Riverside, Watkins Glen, Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Austin and Miami.


In 1976, the United States became only the second nation after Italy in 1957 to host two Grands Prix in a single season. And then in 1982 became the first nation to ever hold three Grands Prix in a season. When the United States Grand Prix West, (Long Beach) Detroit Grand Prix and Caesars Palace Grand Prix were part of that year’s Formula 1 calendar.


“Sin city’s” first major paved racing facility was the long defunct Stardust International Raceway, in Spring valley With a 13-turn, completely flat three mile road course and Quarter-mile Dragstrip being built and operated by the Stardust Racing Association. Which was an offshoot of the Desert Inn and Stardust Hotel’s attempt to lure visitors to it’s operations.


The track hosted the United States Road Racing Championship, (USRRC) Can Am, Trans Am, USAC and NHRA between 1965-71.


Inonically the Stardust Racing Association was Disolved on April 1, 1968, one day after the USAC Championship Car series contested it’s lone event, the Stardust 150. Won by Bobby Unser driving for Leader Card Racing, aboard an Eagle-Offenhauser.


The second major Open Wheel Racing event in “Los Wages” (Las Vegas) was the 1981 Caesars Palace Grand Prix. Held on a temporary circuit laid out in the Caesars Palace Hotel’s parking lot. Which has come to be revered as one of Formula One’s worst Grands Prix!


Alan Jones driving for Williams, the reigning F1 World Champion won the inaugural event. With Nelson Piquet clinching the first of His eventual three World Championships by finishing fifth at Las Vegas.


The following year saw Michele Alboreto win for Tyrrell, before Formula 1 abandoned the event. With Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) taking over the event between 1983-84.


Yet the two IndyCar races were held on a modified course that was turned into an “Oblong” Oval, with Mario Andretti and Tom Sneva winning respectively – before the event was cancelled.


The Indy Racing League (IRL) held the inaugural event upon the brand new Las Vegas Motor speedway’s (LVMS) 1.5-mile Tri Oval Super Speedway on September 15, 1996, with Richie Hearn the winner. As Hearn’s lap of just under 25 seconds at 219.192mph holds the record for fastest lap.


As the IRL would host races thru 2000, before it’s arch nemesis Champ Car contested to races between 2004-05 on the Super Speedway’s Oval. Twinned as a Double Header event with NASCAR’s PickemUp’ Trucks, le Hamburgular’, neeSealmeister B’, aka Sebastien Bourdais won both year’s Saturday night events.


Hopefully Formula 1 won’t take a page out of RASSCAR’s play book by nauseatingly droning on about being the first Street race in Las Vegas. Since that honour actually goes to the long defunct Champ Car World Series (CCWS) instead. As it’s funny how I knew that IndyCar had once raced on Sin city’s streets, since I was a Champ Car devotee. Even if I took to calling it Chump Carz’ towards the end – prior to the long overdue Mergification…


As my foggy memory says this is also the year I bought a plane ticket for Arizona to attend Champ Cars race around Phoenix’s Downtown Streets, which was subsequently cancelled. Not to mention that Chinese IndyCar race that never happened…


Yet I can find only sparce details on that race held over Easter weekend on April 8, 2007. Champ Cars season opener, seeing the debut of the brand new Panoz DP01 chassis, with 17 cars competing.


The race was held on a 2.448 mile 14-turn temporary street circuit in the Freemont district, with temperatures reaching 91 degrees Fahrenheit.


Reportedly Street parties were held along with a Poker contest, and luminaries Jay Leno and John bon Jovi were on hand. With race day attendance estimated at 40,000 exceeding temporary Grandstand seating…


Will Power, driving then for Derrick Walker’s Team Australia alongside rookie teammate Simon Pagenaud, the reigning Champ Car Atlantic champion, had a breakout weekend. As Power clamed Pole and led the most lap, 38 of 68 enroute to His first IndyCar victory.


As Power became the first Australian to win an IndyCar race while dominating the race. Finishing nearly 17 seconds ahead of Minardi Team USA’s Bad Bobby D’, aka rookie Robert Doornbos. And Sugar Ray Tracy’, PT’ or simply Paul Tracy third for Forsythe Racing some 27-plus seconds behind.


Indy Cars latest foray to Las Vegas was the ill-fated “Who’s Your Daddy” 2011 World Sweepstakes which saw the death of Dan Wehldon and doesn’t need any further discussion than that…


Then between 2013-15, the Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) raced on the Streets of Las Vegas’s Prominade, twice being the series season finale. Since I know I “watched”, err listen to at least one of those races when Andretti Autosport teammates Tanner foust and Scott Speed were vying for the title.


Yet you’d have to argue that this year’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix is the most serious effort to date for racing on the Strip, around it’s neon marquee landmarks. And Liberty Media, owners of F1 have sunk at least a cool $250m as in Millions to acquire property for said event!


But I’m sure it’s going to be a disgusting “Dog ‘n Pony” show with the Rich And Famous coming out of the woodwork!


Whilst I sincerely Hope that Liberty Media won’t repeat an encore, and even glitzier rendition of that thoroughly disgusting “rope-Ah-dope” LL Cool J’ Miami “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” Pre-race introduction!