Ron Kantowski rolls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway to check out the progress on a $30 million project
This is the 10-year anniversary of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, although the track isn't doing anything formal to mark the occasion.
When you're in the middle of a $30 million construction project that will dramatically change the shape of racing as well as that of the facility itself, there simply isn't time to relive the past.
Unless you know where to look for it.
Last Tuesday I found it beyond the new 20-degree banked turns, pit lane and retaining walls, beyond where the new media center, garages and infield "fan interactive area," which will provide spectators with an up-close and personal look into the garage area (for a fee, of course), are going in and shortly, up.
"What's all this?" I asked Jeff Motley, LVMS senior director of public relations, as the van in which we were riding rolled up to row upon row of neatly stacked broken asphalt piles behind the RV viewing area on the backstretch.
"That's the old race track," Motley said.
I asked if he could stop the van. We got out and picked up a few chunks of history. We shook them in our hands like dice, trying to cosmically deduce what part they may have played in the speedway's past. Or maybe only because they were hot and we weren't wearing gloves.
I was overcome with a sense of wonder as I held a jagged piece of asphalt in the palm of my hand.
This was part of the track on which Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth dueled to the finish in March's DaimlerChrysler 400. On which brothers Jeff and Ward Burton staged a door handle-to-door handle sibling rivalry in 1999. On which Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced Jimmy Spencer to the checkered flag in the '98 Busch Series race, emerging once and for all from his old man's shadow.
And what about that pile of rubble over there? The one with the paint chip. Could that be a souvenir of the car Randy LaJoie put upside down in Turn 4? Or all that's left of the Indy cars that Roberto Guerrero and Johnny O'Connell flipped end over end?
And what about this pile? No, not that one. This one right here. How do we know this wasn't part of the old start-finish line, where Arie Luyendyk stopped the watch at 226.491 mph to set the track record in an Indy car? Or where Britney Spears went 79.068 mph in a Petty Driving Experience car before she started getting pregnant?
I bent down, putting my ear close to the heaping pile of race track remains. I kid you not; I could literally hear the roar of the engines.
And the horns of two earth movers and a bulldozer headed right for me.