Cars line up for review before a NASCAR race in Las Vegas in early March. Such events draw at least 150,000 fans from around the U.S.

There is but one word to best describe the NASCAR race at Las Vegas a few weeks back, and it's "overwhelming."

Everywhere I went at this event, I stood in absolute awe, from looking over the grandstands at 150,000-plus fans to getting caught in the huge crowds on traders row; from seeing cars go 200 mph to watching pit crews change tires in seconds.

I wondered what it took to put on such an event and was given the comparison of Las Vegas with Atlanta.

At the Atlanta race last year, the weekend work crew numbered about 5,000, and I'm sure the staff at Las Vegas could easily have been larger.

At Atlanta, fans bought 5,800 hats, drank 4,500 bottles of water, and ate nearly 12,000 hamburgers and 5,500 six-inch hot dogs.

And at Atlanta, on race weekend, there were more than 1,350 toilets, and, again, very likely more than that at Las Vegas.

A quarter of those fans, surveys show, traveled more than 300 miles to attend the race. Some of those I interviewed traveled several thousand miles. One family was from New York, another from South Carolina and another from Florida. Of course, there where those closer to home — Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and California.

Inside the gates were lines of vendors selling everything from lemonade ($5) to Philly cheese sandwiches ($7) to onion rings with dipping sauce ($8), and all had customers lined up waving their $20 bills.

Equally fascinating were the things going on inside the oval, things few fans saw.

Take tires, for example. Each car gets 10 sets or 40 tires per race. Each of those custom tires cost $400, which can amount to $16,000 in tires per car.

Inside the garages are cars worth more than large houses, and there's not just one but several spare cars in custom 53-foot haulers that also carry an 8,000-pound tool box and any and all spare parts a car would ever require.

They tell me that approximately 1,800 workers travel from race to race with these teams, and on site are approximately 150 administrators, officials and support staff personnel from NASCAR.

Walking pit row you can see the very reason this oval racing is so popular.

It's impossible to snap a photo of a car without fixing on and panning with the car for at least a quarter of the track.

Blink and you'd never know the car passed at nearly 200 mph. Trying to write down race order of more than two or three cars as they pass is impossible. You rely, as do those in the stands, on the lit-up leader pillar.

Equally as amazing were the members of the pit crew. Imagine, in 12 seconds, they removed and replaced 20 lug nuts, removed and replaced four tires, filled the gas tank and cleaned the windshield.

Then there are the acres and acres needed for parking the cars, trucks, motor homes and trailers. Traffic is tied up for hours after the race.

And all of this went along without a glitch — fans arrived, watched the race, bought their hot dogs and T-shirts, and left. Drivers made their 167 laps, collected whatever honors were due and left in order to make it to the next race in a week.

And it starts all over again.


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