Guide to Burning Money, Gas and Rubber in Las Vegas December 30 2013, 0 Comments
On a Saturday night in a dimly lit Las Vegas casino, a man in his early 20's wearing sunglasses and high on drugs walks up to the roulette table. Plopping down a crumpled $20 bill, he receives some chips in exchange.
High as a kite, sunglasses man couldn't even figure out what his favorite number was, but after some help from his table mates, he finally picked 35 and the marble began to orbit the roulette wheel. The marble landed on the number 4, and the dealer scooped up all of sunglasses man's chips. Indignant, sunglasses man put another $20 on the table, which he quickly lost on the next spin. He repeated this many times, pulling out a new $20 bill each time. After emptying his wallet, he finally left the table.
In a matter of 15 minutes, sunglasses man had lost about $200. Throwing money down a gambling money pit might be rationalized as an entertainment cost, but before you get high and go gambling, might I suggest a few other highly entertaining ways to burn money in Vegas?
1) Las Vegas Motor Speedway Tours. If you're staying at a hotel on the strip, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is about a 25 minute cab ride away, but it is well worth the trip. Inside and around it, you will find a paradise for automotive enthusiasts. Las Vegas Motor Speedway offers tours of the track and has a gift shop full of NASCAR apparel and memorabilia. The 1.4 mile oval track is the most well-known, but they also have two road courses, a dirt track, a drag strip and more. They also host all sorts of racing series from NASCAR to NHRA to the Red Bull Air Race. For more information on tours, click here.
2) Dream Racing. Through the tunnel leading into the infield of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, is Dream Racing. As you step inside the front doors, you are greeted by a swanky lounge and gift shop. In the back are classrooms for pre-track driving instruction. There are also simulators with 3D screens to learn the car and the course before heading out to the track. For $189, you can have 5 laps around a road course in a BMW M6. For more money, you can upgrade to a more expensive car, or choose to do more laps. There are a wide selection of Porsches, Ferraris, McLarens, Lamborghini's and others to choose from.
Topping the list of cars to choose from in terms of price are their race-prepped Ferrari F430 GTs. It's not the cheapest entertainment in Vegas, but you can certainly lose more money in Vegas in worse ways. And if you dream of owning one of these supercars one day, you ought to sample one before selling a kidney for one, right? You can catch more details on their website here.
3) Richard Petty Driving Experience. Right next door is the Richard Petty driving experience, where you can drive a 600 hp NASCAR on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval. Ride-alongs start at $159, and if you want to take the wheel, prices start at $549. We like that all cars come equipped with manual transmissions, in contrast to other driving experiences that only offer shifting with flappy paddles. We saw customers doing some hot laps around the oval with the throaty V8 at full song. Like playing a pickup game of football on the Dallas Cowboy's field, there is something cool about driving a NASCAR on the same track that the NASCAR series runs on.
If modern muscle is more your style, the Richard Petty Driving Experience also has a program where you can take each of the cars shown here through their paces. You'll record 0-60, braking, top speed, and cornering G's. If you are in the market for any of these cars, this is not a bad comparison test to help you make that decision. For more information on the Richard Petty Driving Experience, click here.
4) Exotics Racing. Just down the street from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a corridor full of other cool stuff for automotive enthusiasts. Exotics Racing is one of the outfits there. Unfortunately, no exotic dancers are involved, but they do offer track experiences in exotic cars. They have a wide selection of cars, and prices start at $199 for 5 laps.
While watching these exotics laps the track, we suddenly heard squealing tires and looked up to see a Corvette screaming out of the paddock very sideways. One of the unique options is to ride along with a professional driver who will drift a Corvette around the course. What a tough job to hoon supercars around a track for a living.
But if you want to do the hooning yourself, Exotics Racing also has a drift school. Mini Coopers have skates put on the rear wheels so that the back wheels have no lateral grip. In a slow, controlled manner, the cars can be "drifted" around a cone course. Okay, so it's not really drifting since the back tires aren't putting up smoke, but it still looks like heaps of fun and a good introduction into oversteer. You can visit their website here.
5) Insane Speed. Just across the street from Exotics Racing is one serious shop called Insane Speed. Out front was a 947 WHP Supra that was featured on the cover of Tuned Magazine, and more recently Japanese Performance Magazine. Insane Speed focuses mainly on high end, ground up builds for Japanese cars. Their lobby is covered wall to wall with magazine covers and magazine articles that their cars have been featured in. The owner of the shop, Todd was very friendly and took me on a tour around the shop.
Despite working on Japanese cars mainly, Todd is also working on a '58 Impala. A turbo has been added, and all the plumbing is custom fabricated in-house. From the looks of it, they do some quality work, and customers from all over the US come here to have modifications performed on their cars. If you're in the area, it is definitely worth a stop to poke your head in and see what they are working on. You can see some of their work and their latest news on their Facebook page here.
6) US Legend Cars West. US Legend Cars is another speed shop just across the street from Exotics Racing that builds and preps Legend Cars for its customers. They don't have a huge number of cars to look at, but if you're in the area, it is worth a peek. The Legend car was designed in the early 90s to create a lower-cost spec racing series. They use air-cooled motorcycle engines, and their diminutive size to cut cost. Now, Legend cars are raced all over the world. For the tourist in you, they also do sell some shirts featuring Legend cars on them. You can visit their Facebook page here.
7) Fighter Jets. This has absolutely nothing to do with cars, but most guys that like fast cars can appreciate fast aircraft. If you are at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the right day, you can see aircraft from nearby Nellis Air Force Base performing exercises in the area. We saw some F15s making some low passes and flying formations. Nellis Air Force Base doesn't offer public tours, but sometimes their exercises create an impromptu air show for people at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The cost is about $25,000 per F15 per hour. Since you paid for it already, you might as well enjoy the show.
8) Shelby American Factory and Museum. Shelby American used to be located near Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but they have moved to just south of the strip. They have a large gift shop for visitors, full of Shelby merchandise. Wall art, apparel, scale models and trinkets abound. At the time of this writing, the museum portion had not been set up yet, but is planned.
Inside the visitor's area are windows that allow visitors to take a peek into the operations of the Shelby factory, They have everything from Raptors to Shelby Cobras. Like a kid touring the Willy Wonka chocolate factory, it is cool to see the magic going on at Shelby.
This is a Shelby Cobra shell displayed in the visitor area. The lines of the car still look good 50 years later. This was the only exhibit on display at the time of writing, but more cars are planned. Admission is free, unless you find yourself leaving with a Shelby keychain or a Shelby Mustang GT350.
9) Carspotting. Exotic and rare cars abound in Las Vegas. What else are the high rollers going to pull up to the casinos in? We saw this Murcielago parked outside a casino in the valet lane. Experience the thrill of finding a rare or exotic car and walk away with some cool photos to add to your collection.
Vegas has so much more to offer than just the strip. For the automotive enthusiast, Las Vegas can provide bucket list thrills if you have the money to play. We don't like to see our money go up in smoke, but if we must, we prefer for the smoke to be coming from the rear tires of a Ferrari F430. If you love cars, the next time you're in Vegas, consider venturing off the strip and ticking a few boxes off your bucket list.
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