Cup Race at the Las Vegas Karting Center in Sloan, Nevada.
February 3-5, 2000
"Live Every Day Like it is Your Last Day On Earth".
The traveling billboard for the Las Vegas Karting Center
(NOTE: If your browser shows broken links for the pictures, hit the "refresh" button a couple of times. And get rid of that 28.8 modem, for crying out loud, we are heading into the next millenium. Call your cable company or phone company and DEMAND a high speed Internet line immediately, or else you will sue as they are hindering your ability to read The NSX-Files)
(Quick update for Race #2 of the KRC series that happened on Feb 13th. We ran at the Streets of Willow Springs, which is the small track for cars, but the big track for the karts. Wayne out qualified me for the first time by a tenth of a second, so he was gridded about 6th or so. He was feeling pretty good about that. However, he had a horrible start. He usually gets good starts, but he ended up last coming into the first turn. He did a great job, and made it all the way from about 17 spot to 8th spot, and he was gaining ground on me. Unfortunately, the guy right in front of him hit the brakes a little too hard, and Wayne had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him. So Wayne locked up the brakes, spun off the track, stalled the kart, and that means, you guessed it, another DNF for him. I ended up taking 6th place. Jeff kicked both our asses in this race.) So after two races, Jeff has about 24 points, Wayne has 0 points, and I have about 40 points with three races to go.
Our next event is in Vegas with the KRC folks. The race is on Sunday, March 5th. However, the track is rented out on Saturday, so we can't practice on that day. KRC decides to have people come out on Friday morning to Sloan, Nevada, which is about 20 minutes from the strip in Vegas. Figuring that we need to be there early, that means we have to leave on Thursday night. Which means four days in Las Vegas, with the majority of our time spent gambling and racing. What could be better for me and Wayne? Here's the story......
KRC says that they will bring all the karts and equipment to the track, we just have to show up. Wayne and I fly out on Thursday night, and get a room at the Luxor. Since the Trinidad fight and NASCAR is in town, all the hotels are booked up solid. Wayne was able to get a room at the Luxor since he stayed there the last couple of times he was in Vegas, and he gambled a lot at the Luxor tables. If you go to Vegas a lot, and you spend a lot of time at the $25 or $100 minimum bet blackjack tables, the pit bosses will track your time and average bet. If you average about $50 bets for 4 hours a day, there is a good chance you will get a free room and meals for the weekend. The casinos figure if you gamble that much, you are bound to lose and thus help pay for not only the free room and meals they will give you, but also the weekly salaries for a couple of the employees at the hotel.
Wednesday, March 3rd.
Wayne, Larry, and I are at the gym. Wayne is getting real strong now, he is getting a couple of reps at 225 lbs on the bench press. Something is fishy here, he is out lifting me by 20 lbs, which he has never done in the seven years I have known him. Later that night, at softball, Wayne hits two spectacular home runs. He hit the ball farther than I have ever seen him hit a ball. Kinda peculiar. The weight lifting definitely helps out, I go 5 for 6 batting, and Wayne goes 6 for 6. We end up winning our softball game, despite the fact that only eight of use showed up, and the other team had a full ten people.
Thursday, March 4th.
We hop on plane and fly into Las Vegas. We cruise into the Luxor, check in, and eat. We start gambling at the $25 minimum tables for a couple of hours. Wayne wins $200, I lose $200. Totals: Wayne +200, Doug -200. I bitch and complain that there are no double deck or single deck blackjack tables in the entire casino, thus I don't feel that I can get my "rhythm" for the cards. After a couple of hours, Wayne says that he is going to bed up $375. Me, since I am in Vegas, I normally don't go to sleep until around 6:00 a.m. the first night into Vegas. I proceed to hit a couple of more casinos.
Mandalay Bay - I take the tram from the Luxor to Mandalay Bay. They have a couple of single deck games here. I proceed to quickly lose another $200 in about five minutes. This was mistake. Since my new rule is never lose more than $200 at any one sitting at a casino, I hop back on the tram, and cruise to the next casino, which is the Excalibur. Running Totals: -$400
Excalibur - more double deck tables here. Here, I have a little luck, and score about $600. It is now about 1:00 a.m. in the morning, so now I cruise back over to the Luxor. Feeling cocky, I then walk over to the $100 minimum tables to score some real money. Ooops, mistake, I immediately lose a quick $300. Time to leave the premises with at least $300 in profits. Running totals: -$100
Luxor - I play for a while at the $25 minimum tables. I get my ass kicked. Damn, time to go to bed, since it is 2:00 a.m., and we have to get up at 7:00 a.m. to get ready for the kart practice. Running Totals: -$300.
I get back to the hotel around 3:00 a.m. Wayne has unpacked all his toiletries in the bathroom of the hotel. I then notice about five bottles of pills and "vitamin supplements". One of them has in big letters, "ANDRO". That god damn cheating bastard. NO WONDER he is outlifting me by 20 lbs on the bench press, and no wonder why he is hitting the ball a country mile. He is taking that off the shelf Andro stuff that Mark McGuire was taking during his record setting home run season. I thought I was getting old and my body wasn't responding to the weights like it should. Instead, I am progressing at a normal rate, and Wayne is progressing at a "chemically enhanced" rate at the gym. I could also start taking that Andro stuff, which would then allow me to outlift Wayne. But I decide to keep going at the "natural rate", and forget about putting extra chemicals that could make my you-know-what shrink.
Friday morning, March 5th.
We get to the Las Vegas Karting Track, and it is a beautiful day. Sun is out, about 65-70 degrees, great weather for kart racing. I finally get my new frame in, and it is all setup to race with my old components bolted back on. Kart looks good, powder coated red instead of that ugly Tony Kart Celtic Green color. There is a school going on at the same time, and we are alternating with the school, 8 laps on, 8 laps off. We are getting lots of practice time in. I am kicking Wayne's ass. My kart feels pretty fast.
My kart, powder coated red, with Tony Kart Extreme frame, 125cc Kawasaki engine
One of the guys we are karting with is there with his wife and 8 month old son. Wayne is hanging out with them, making faces at the kid, etc. There are about 10 of us out there practicing, with another 10 people scheduled to arrive on Sunday for the race. In theory, the 10 of us there practicing should be way ahead of the other people that are doing the late arrival on Sunday, as this is a new track for most of us. Jeff was supposed to doing a Sports 2000 PRO Race with ACRL, but Raceaflais strikes him and Doug Ota. Doug Ota a month earlier trailered a bunch of S2000 body parts up to Fresno to get repaired and painted so they would look cool for the new season, as their race car was being prepared up there. The body work guy said, "No problem, I easily get it done in time". Ota also figured that since the mechanic was close by, he could sit on the body work guy and get the pieces done in time so the mechanic could setup the race cars. Unfortunately, the body work guy, like most body work guys, flaked out, and didn't get it done in time. So now Ota and Jeff don't have any race cars for their first event, which really sucks. I think that body work guys must breathe in too much fumes and it screws up brain, and they can't be depended on to do ANYTHING on time. So Jeff says that he will be out on Sunday to race with us. Wayne and I figure we will get lots of practice in, and then we can beat Jeff on Sunday.
The track in Vegas is a cool track, it has some pretty high speed sections and turns that are pretty hairy. It isn't as fast as Willow Springs, but this could rapidly become one of my favorite tracks.
Anyways, we are out there practice for about 5 hours, and my fastest lap is a 47.96, which I feel pretty good about. Dave is there, and he is ahead of me in points and is pretty fast, and he ran a 47.75, but he had an illegal gear in his kart. After switching the gear out, he is running low 48's. Wayne is running high 48's. I tend to do better on the high speed tracks, possibly because it doesn't require as much skill as it does stupidity, meaning on a high speed track it requires more balls to get fast lap times.
So here were are practicing, and Wayne and I take a break. A bunch of other karters are out there practicing, and we see someone go off the track after one of the high speed turns. We don't think it is a problem, as the guy is still upright in his kart seat, and we didn't see any violent spinning out or crashing. Someone goes over to help him out of the gravel pit and push start him, but then starts frantically waving for help. More people go over to help, and then suddenly there is a flurry of activity, people are calling 911, and running around quickly. Luckily, there just happened to be an EMT that was hanging out at the kart track, and he and buddy go running out to help. Then, from the pit area of the track, we can see the EMT dude doing CPR on the karter. Wayne and I are now going, "Holy shit, what happened?". His wife starts running out to all the commotion to see what happened to her husband, with her son on her backpack. Now this is really horrible, his wife is wigging out, with their child on her back, and the EMT guy is still doing CPR. The karter is 31 years old, and in what seems to be real good shape.
Wayne and I are now thinking, "Oh my God, did he crash at high speeds into the fence and we didn't see it?" This is a full on catastrophe. From our viewpoint, it seems that a fellow karter that we have been racing with for six months must have crashed and is now in serious condition. Now our lives are flashing before our eyes. I am thinking, "Shit, if Dagmar was here at the track and I crashed into the fence at 70+ mph, this is what it would be like. This is UGLY. This is Horrible. You can't imagine a worse scenario." Everyone else in the pit area of the kart track is staring silently across the track at the EMT trying to revive the karter. Ambulances now show up, as Sloan is about 10 minutes away from civilization. Then an air rescue helicopter shows up. Technicians are everywhere, trying to help the karter out. For years, Wayne has been saying that we would probably keep racing until one of us crashes and kills themselves, or ends up in a wheel chair. Racing is addicting, do to the element of danger that gives it the adrenaline rush. But we have to remind ourselves that this is a very dangerous sport. Now Wayne and I are thinking the same thing, meaning that maybe this karting thing is a litte too dangerous and risky, and we should take our bets off the table and stop doing the kart racing.
The helicopter airlifts the karter to the nearest hospital, and another karter takes the wife and child to the hospital. People are silently praying for the karter. A couple of people at the scene say that what they think happened is that the karter had a heart attack while racing on the track, and as a result of the heart attack, spun off harmlessly into the gravel. People who were on the track at the time said that there was no crash, that they guy kinda smoothly went off the track, as he couldn't breathe anymore. This is a huge tragedy, the most tragic thing that I have experienced. I mean, one minute the guy was there having fun with his wife and child, and then next minute he is airlifted to a hospital. We pack up our equipment, pack up the karts, and shut down for the rest of the day.
Later that night, Wayne calls and finds out that the karter didn't make it. We can't believe it. The guy was a great guy, friendly, real nice, good shape, nice wife and kid. He had everything going for him, and now he is gone. Wayne and I are just sitting in the hotel room, numb with sadness and in shock, totally depressed. After a, couple of hours, Wayne gets a call from an old girlfriend who lives in Vegas who was responsible for getting Wayne into AA and becoming the sober person he is today. He asks me if I want to go to dinner with them, and I tell him I will pass, as I am sure I won't be in the mood to talk to anyone. Perhaps she can at least get Wayne to cheer up a bit and deal with what just happened. Right now, I am pretty bummed out about the situation.
Paul Tracy's trailer that was at the Las Vegas Karting Center
Now it is about 8:00 p.m. I take a cab, and head out to play blackjack. At least I won't have to talk to anyone, and I can just use hand signals to the dealer as to whether I want to hit or stand, and maybe I can stop thinking about the terrible tragedy that I had just seen and experienced. I call the wife, and tell her how horrible it was. She reminds me that is why it is important to live life to its fullest, that you never know when it is your time to go. I hit the casinos in downtown.
Golden Nugget. -$200. Running Total: -$600
Four Queens -$100. Running Total: -$700
Fremont - +100. Running Total: -$600
Horseshoe -200. Running Total: -$800
Las Vegas Club. -$100. Running Total: -$900
California. +800. Finally I get a decent streak where the cards are hitting. Running Total -$100. But I am still totally depressed about today.
Mirage. -$200. Running Total -$300.
Bellagio. +600. Running Total +$300.
Venetian. +200. Running Total +$500. Then something finally happens that gets me to feel a little better about life in general. I cruise by this lounge at the Venetian around 3:00 a.m., and there is the most incredible band that I have ever seen playing in a bar. They are called Jon Morvay's East Coast Connection. Normally, a band with one good singer is hard to find. But this band had four female singers, and they each alternated as to who was singing lead, and the other three would be backup singers. So one female would sing an Alanis Morsette song, the next would send Aretha, the next would sing Meredith Brooks, the next would sing a disco song, then one would sing a Janice Joplin song. All of them had great stage presence. And then this big black guy gets on stage and starts belting out some songs with the four females as backup. He is out there singing Motown songs like Jackie Wilson's "Your love, is lifting me higher, than I ever, been lifted before" in a truly inspirational, gospel way. Plus he has all the classic singer moves like James Brown and Bruce Springsteen. I mean the band and singers were cranking, and having a great time on stage, as if they KNEW they were awesome, and that they KNEW they were the best band in the world at that precise moment in time. It seemed that there were a couple of bachelorette parties that happened to walk by, and they saw how good the band was, so all these girls hopped onto the dance floor and were dancing and singing along with the female singers. It was one of the most joyous occasions that I have seen people having, and it put a smile on my face. I ask one of the female singers if they ever play in Southern California, but she says that they are booked in Vegas pretty much all year round at the Venetian, Mandalay Bay, or the Mirage, and other big time casinos. I would almost fly out to Vegas with the wife just to watch this band.
6:00 a.m. I finally make it to bed, but not before losing $150 in the Luxor casino before I got on the elevator. Running total +$350.
The next morning, Wayne and I make it out of the Luxor at about 2:00 p.m., after sleeping until noon. Then we make the rounds.
Bellagio. +100. Running total
Venetian -$150. Running total +$300
Fremont. -$100. Running total +$200
California -$200. Running total +0.
Four Queens -150. Running total -$150.
Sam's Town -$250. Running total -$400.
Rio - no double decks, everything out of the shoe. We bail immediately.
Uh oh. We are both getting our ass whupped at the blackjack tables. We head back to the hotel room at 10:00 p.m. We have to go racing at 9:00 a.m. in the morning, but I figure I will rest a bit at the hotel room, and then start up with the Venetian, playing blackjack and listening to Jon Morvay's East Coast Connection. I figure if I get four hours of sleep I will be okay to race. Unfortunately, Wayne and I seem to be emotionally exhausted from the incident yesterday, and the fact that we are getting our ass kicked at the tables. We both crash until 7:00 a.m. the next morning.
Sunday, March 6th.
Damn, the forecast is rain. But this could be good. If it rains in the morning, then Jeff and the other real fast guys that didn't practice on Friday won't get practice time on a dry, fast course. And then if it dries up for the race, maybe I will have a chance at finishing higher than my usual 6th place or so.
It sprinkles in the morning. Then it rains a little harder. You can tell when it rains a little harder, as during a light sprinkle, everything is fine on the track, but then when it starts raining harder, you see 8 guys spun off the track. We don't have rain tires, so once the track gets wet, it is very difficult to keep the kart on the track. We never really get a chance to practice under good conditions for very long. When it is raining hard, we head towards the kart shop that is on the premises at the track. I find a table, pull out a wad of cash, a deck of cards, and start dealing blackjack until the rain stops. After about 40 minutes, I end up taking about $60 from Wayne, $8 from a babette, and come out about even with Jeff. During the drivers meeting at lunch, we all have a moment of silence for our fallen comrade.
Freezing our ass off in the pits
The weather looks bad. The KRC folks want to get the race in before the big storm hits. Instead of qualifying for fast lap time, they want to do a random pea pick for gridding positions. Wayne, Dave, and I protest, and want to run qualifying sessions. Especially since us three ran pretty fast in practice on Friday, and we know the track pretty good, which gives us a slight advantage. Of course the people that were not at the track on Friday want a pea pick. We debate back and forth, and then Bryant says that a pea pick is better, that since it is sprinkling, the track conditions are changing quickly, and the track won't be the same for all four qualifying groups, so it would be unfair. Okay, good point, we do the pea pick. We have about 18 drivers. Bryant picks number 48 or so. Ha ha ha. Serves you right for convincing us to do the pea pick. Now you are at the back of the pack. I pick a number of of the hat. I get number 68. DAMN. Now I am behind Bryant. Turns out I am gridded about 14th out of 18 drivers or so. We now will have one heat, and then the final race.
We grid for the race, and it is starting to rain harder. Green flag drops, and I see Jeff go from 13th place to about 5th place on the first turn. The first turn is chaos, slippery, people out of control, people spinning off. I make it through the first turn okay. After about 4 laps, I try to concentrate on finishing the heat, as people are spinning off and stalling their karts everywhere. If you spin, you must gun the engine and grab the clutch that is by the steering column, or else the kart will stall, and you DNF. There are no restarts in kart racing. After about four laps, I get behind Wayne. Wayne rips around a turn, and spins out. I turn the wheel quickly to avoid hitting him, which causes me to slide and spin, and I grab the clutch too late. I stall it. Wayne stalls it. We DNF on the same turn. This sucks. We suck. Meanwhile, it is raining harder, and about 10 other people stall it. Red flag is waved, race is over, I guess due to unsafe conditions.
We regrid, and KRC decides to put us in the same starting position as the previous heat. This is now the final race for points. If you DNF, you get 0 points, which really sucks. It is still drizzling. KRC reminds us to be careful, it is slippery. Green flag drops, and we are off. Jeff is in offensive mode, he bombs into the first turn. I take the cautious route, as since I have been in Vegas for four days, I won't want my final race for points to end on the first damn lap. A couple of people spin out. On the next lap, I spin out, but I quickly grab the clutch, rev the motor, and get back on the track. Damn. Next lap, I spin out again. It is raining harder. I grab the clutch in time, wait for people to go by, and get back on the track. Damn, now I am in last place, with the exception of the people who spun and stalled the kart. Jeff laps me. DAMN! I do a couple more laps, and then spin again, but I grab the clutch in time. I do a couple more laps, and spin again, and catch it. Jeff laps me again. DAMN! Wayne laps me. This sucks. I spin again, but grab the clutch in time. The track is drying up a bit. I count at least 8 people out of their karts because they spun and stalled it. Okay, let's do some calculations. 8 people have spun and now have 0 points for this race. Jeff has lapped me 3 times. Even Wayne lapped me once. So I must be at the back of the pack of the people who have not spun out and DNFed. All I need to do is finish the race without stalling the kart, and I will get points. If I choose to go fast, I take a chance at spinning out and getting no points. I choose to make sure I just finish the race. Jeff laps me again for the 3rd time. DAMN, I will never hear the end of this. Finally, the checkered flag drops, and I finish 25 laps in the rain without spinning out and stalling the kart, which means no DNF for me. I end up taking 10th place. Bummer. But at least I scored some points towards our mini championship between me, Jeff and Wayne. Jeff takes 2nd place overall, and Wayne takes 8th place for this race. So after 3 races, the approximate point total is something like Wayne 17 points, Jeff 48 points, and me 53 points for our mini championship with KRC. Wayne keeps rubbing it in that he kicked my ass at Buttonwillow (well, actually, I DNFed), and now he kicked my ass in karting at this track. So he figures he is on a two game winning streak.
Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
Our plane flight is scheduled to leave at 8:30 p.m. I insist on getting a hotel room by the airport, so I can take a shower and relax before hitting the blackjack tables and gambling some more, and then getting on the plane. Wayne say this is ridiculous, let's just gamble and hop on the plane. I explain to Wayne that I am freezing from having it rain on me all day, and I can't gamble properly unless I have taken a shower and shaved, so my mental state of mind is good. We get a room at the San Remo for $89 bucks, so I can take a shower. While I am taking a shower, Wayne gets killed for $300 at the San Remo black jack tables. He now calls it the $389 shower.
I get out of the shower, and we take a cab to the Hard Rock Casino. We get killed there. I mean killed. Wayne loses $450. I lose $450. Running total -$800. We violate the rule of never losing more than $200 at any one casino. Wayne is starving, and wants to get pasta at a restaurant in the Hard Rock. The pit boss wants to give us a free voucher for dinner. I grab Wayne by the shirt and pull him out of the casino. I tell him we can't eat here, because when we are done eating, we will make one last stop at the blackjack table, and we might lose $600 each at this casino. We can't do that. We go eat at some greasy spoon place off the strip, and then head back to the hotel. We get back to the hotel, lose a couple more hands, and then give up and head for the airport. We get there, and the ticketing agent says that our flight has been delayed due to weather, and no other flights are open for tonight. Oh Great. A Southwest plane from Vegas to Burbank overshoots the runway and ends up going out of the airport, across a busy street, and stopping about 10 feet before the Chevron gasoline pumps. Wow, that was almost like a Die Hard move. Back to the San Remo hotel. Looks like we have to battle it out in Vegas for one more night. Wayne is bummed, as he is now down about $1200. He decides to watch a movie in the hotel room. I can't ever resist the lure of the blackjack table. I know I can beat the dealer.......so..
I head over to the Venetian. Bummer,
the band doesn't play there on Sunday night. I play blackjack there for a
good two hours, alternating between the $25 minimum table and the $100 minimum
table. I end up winning about $400. Running
total -$400. I call Wayne, and he says
he went downstairs and won $300, and came back to the room and watched a
movie. He is calling it quits for the night. I head over to the
Bellagio. I lose $200 real quick. Running total -$600.
Back to the Venetian. I stay about even. I cruise back late to the
hotel and go to sleep around 3:30 a.m.
We hit the tables before catching a 9:30 a.m. flight. Wayne scores $400, and I score $200. Now Wayne is only down about $400 total, and doesn't feel too bad. I end up losing about -$400 for the trip also. Not too bad, considering I played about 24 hours of blackjack, mostly at $25 and $100 minimum tables. Except our 9:30 a.m. flight is late. At noon, our plane comes in, due to weather problems in Phoenix. Other flights on America West get cancelled. But now there is a maintenance problem, and the crew is trying to find a spare part. Crew gets spare part. Crew puts on part. Finally, we board the plane. It is now 2:00 p.m., or about 17 hours after when we initially wanted to go home. We laugh at the other poor passengers who are still at the terminal, their planes either late or broken also. We are on the runway, but then the pilot says that there is a malfunction, so he returns back to the terminal. Shit, we are stuck in Vegas again? Wayne's cell phone is ringing off the hook employees and customers calling every couple of minutes. Wayne needs to get back to work ASAP before his business goes bankrupt.. As the plane is going back to the terminal, I am on the cell phone trying to get reservations on the next America West flight out of Las Vegas. Other passengers don't have a clue, they are going to wait in the cattle call at the check in desk to get their flights changed. Maybe if they raced, they would understand about getting stuff done as fast as possible, and would figure out that a phone call gets you ahead of 100 people that physically stand in line. I run over to another America West gate, and try to get our tickets issued for the flight I reserved minutes earlier on the cell phone. But it turns out it is Allegiant Air, some little known airline, and they are flying to Long Beach in 10 minutes, and I can buy a ticket on their empty plane for $90. Hummmm.....take a chance at staying with America West for their next flight with hundreds of angry, stranded customers, with planes that have defective parts, or take this $90 bet, and get to Long Beach, and then take a cab home. We do the $90 bet, and finally make it home.
Wayne just got his braces off. He now thinks he has a movie star smile.
It is an end to an emotionally and
physically exhausting weekend. We are scheduled to drive the trailer to
Laguna Seca on Friday morning for an Alfa Romeo event, which is less than four days away. We
decide to pass on going to the Alfa event, as three race weekends in a row is
way too hard on the body and mind. And besides, my engine is still blown
up....we would have to get Larry to beat Raceaflais and get a new engine
installed in three days, and we won't take that bet.....
I remember a quote from a Springsteen interview, when asked why he and the band work so hard on the stage night after night with their 3+ hour long concerts, and he replied that when he and the E Street Band go out on stage, they play their hearts out like it will be the last concert they ever play. He said something like, "There may not be a tomorrow." Good words to live by. Make sure you tell your loved ones every chance you get how much love them, and live every day like it will be your last day on earth. Cause there might not be a tomorrow.