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Some events on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series schedule are referred to as “destination races.”
When fans visit venues such as Martinsville, Darlington or Talladega, the races and the events surrounding them can literally be the only game in town.
Other areas offer a “Bright Lights, Big City” aspect, with many entertainment options often encouraging fans to transform their race weekend into a weeklong vacation.
Infineon Raceway, for example, offers the opportunity to visit California’s scenic wine country during the month of June.
Fans preferring their beverages with a little more malt than grape can either celebrate or drown their sorrows, depending on the ever-unpredictable fortune of the Cubs, with the Wrigley Field Bleacher Bums when the series visits Chicago in July.
The favorite vacation destination on the circuit, however, is Las Vegas. The appeal of the Las Vegas strip cannot be over-exaggerated. It defines glitz and glamour. It is the power company’s dream date, visible even from outer space.
For the NASCAR fan, Las Vegas is the ultimate combo platter of fun, where you can get some Reutimann with your roulette and a side order of blackjack with your Biffle.
In fact, you could almost compare the overall race weekend experience to a round of the hottest game going, Texas Hold 'Em.
Your initial hand determines whether you start the game from a position of strength with a pair of aces or find yourself at the rear of the field with an unsuited deuce and three. Regardless, you must play the hand you’re dealt, for that is the nature of the game.
What happens next is a combination of luck, skill and proper decision-making ability.
In the early going, some merely choose to check, sitting back and watching their fellow competitors patiently while trying to figure out what they may or may not be hiding.
Others are more aggressive players, willing to take a larger chance on a lesser hand and fearlessly attempting to bluff their way to the front in the process.
This is a strategy that sometimes pays off, depending on nerve, the ability to correctly read the competition and the quality of one’s poker face.
The game changes as additional cards are revealed. What begins as the worst hand imaginable can be transformed into a winner by the simple luck of the draw and the skill of the player.
Those same aces that appeared to be such clear winners in the early stages of the game may find themselves defeated by nothing more than a random pair of deuces, as a combination of small developments during the game can ultimately lead to the full house otherwise known as victory lane.
In NASCAR’s version of a casino, there is little room for the half-hearted player. Every game is no-limit. Every player goes all in on every hand. They know that only one can triumph on any given Sunday, but all are willing to take the gamble. Forty-two will lose, but in the end, everybody wins.
Even in Las Vegas, it is still possible to find a sure thing.
Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations at Darlington Raceway. She currently lives in Florence, S.C. Contact her at email@example.com.