Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

-March 4
-March 5
-March 6
-March 7
In 1971, Hunter Thompson wrote, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." The book would go on to define a new type of journalism known as 'Gonzo Journalism.' A style that is unedited and characterized by the use of quotes, sarcasm, and humor. Here's your warning: Please note that these reports, written in 'Gonzo' style, are bound to offend someone. They are presented here to give you an unadulterated look at Las Vegas. If you are easily offended, or if your name is Jerry Falwell, please click here to exit this page.

That being said, let's proceed. Here are Brian's daily reports from a quiet little town in the Nevada desert written in the style made famous by Hunter Thompson.


Sunday, March 7

Track Action

I had expected a relatively dull race like Vegas was in 1998. But, from the outset, it was different. Johnny Benson's lack of skill brought out the first of many cautions. Next up was Michael Waltrip, who just "lost it" in turn two. And then Kenny Irwin went into the wall of voodoo in turn two. An entertaining event that came down to the final laps. Jeff Burton had the strongest car on the track, but Ward was trying to hold him off.

From a Jeff Gordon perspective, a brotherly wreck would have been great, but third place is fine. That's better than the car ran all day. The DuPont team showed improvement compared to what they did in 1998. And they got back into the points hunt as well.

This was the day everyone was looking forward to. I didn't even need an alarm clock as I was up at 6:30 am. The freelance writer, who only 24 hours ago was looking quite shit-faced, was waiting for me. We got to the track at 8 am. I worked hospitality for two hours and picked up a few new contacts. "You'll call me this week, right?" Yeah, I know how that song goes. By 11 am, the cars were on the grid. I ran into Gary in the garage area. He looked busy so I didn't bother him with a small wager on the race. Nevertheless, he spotted me and came over. "Who do you want?" he asked. "Give me Gordon, Martin, and Jarrett for a hundred," I said. "You can have the field." Deal. Within a few laps of the green flag, I heard a voice in my headset, "Trouble on the frontstretch. They're spinning." Tony Stewart's day was going to be a short one. Thanks Mr. Benson. Bill Elliott and Kenny Wallace had their days end early; thanks Mr. Irwin. Over my headset, I heard, "28 started it. Lost it off two. Yates' boy... that son of a bitch." I kept my eye on the DuPont car for most of the afternoon. He started 11th, moved up, fell back, and wound up battling in the top five at the end of the day. Gordon had a decent day finishing third; though not earth-shattering by any stretch. Third place was probably more than that car could do. I watched Dale Jarrett coast into the pits past the halfway point. "Ah shit, why can't that team calculate gas mileage?" Todd Parrott is Buddy Parrott's son, right? Well, that boy has a lot to learn.

Jeff Burton pulled away from Ward Burton at the end to win. I found Gary and handed him a "Franklin." I talked to one driver after the race. "How was it out there?" I asked. "The car was off a bit. But the racing was intense. More cautions than I thought there'd be," he said. I downed a Coors Light and made a few calls. It felt like a long day... but it was only 4 pm. Eric got a free ride to the airport and I got stuck in race traffic for my trouble. Finally got back to the MGM at 7 pm. I walked in carrying the "free shit" I accululated at hospitality at the track. On the way up, a woman in the elevator asked, "Did you go to the game today?" Huh? Game? I'm writing this final report around 7:30 pm, before I check out of the MGM, return the rental car at McCarran, and board a late night flight. It was a fun few days in Vegas. I won some money, got the full Vegas experience, and had a great time in the process. Yeah, this was a good weekend. Hope you enjoyed the reports. I'm not a writer and don't even claim to be. Just a big Hunter Thompson fan.


Saturday, March 6

Track Action

After the morning Winston Cup practice, second round qualifying began. Kyle Petty didn't make the race. There's a surprise. In the BGN event, the crowd roared when Dale Earnhardt Jr passed Jeff Gordon. The only other time the crowd seemed to rise was when Gordon passed Earnhardt later in the race. That's a look at the future of NASCAR. Round One went to Gordon. He didn't win, but fourth is a decent finish for a new team's debut effort.

The scenery at this track will take your breath away. You look around and all you see are mountains. A constant reminder that you're in the desert. More than anything, it reminds you that this is a travelling road show. The same faces each week, just different places.

Last night was interesting. Venus, one of the 'women of the night' in Las Vegas, was standing on Las Vegas Boulevard saying, "80 bucks. Who wants me? 80 bucks." If there were any takers, it was after we had gone to dinner. Still can't get over the open advertisements for prostitution around here. You do that in other parts of this country, you get your ass thrown in jail. Anyway, today was a track day. I woke up just after seven and called Eric's room. No answer. I got dressed and walked down the hall to knock on the door. After a few minutes, the door opened and the freelance writer had an obvious hangover. "You look like a million bucks," I said. "Too many beers... and too much liquor... just .... too much," he said. "Well, we have to get to the track. It might not matter to you, but I have work to do." With that, he realized the situation and said, "Ok, I know I look shit-faced now... but give me five minutes and I'll be fine." Five minutes later, he emerged from the room looking well rested. I didn't ask.

We arrived at the track shortly after 9 am (and a McDonalds sidetrip) and caught the tail end of practice. I did the hospitality rounds for a few hours (amazing the free shit you can get on a racing weekend) and then walked to the end of the garage and spoke to a veteran driver. "Second round is coming up," I said. "We're hoping. But we're also packing up," he said. Within an hour, they had finished packing up and were ready to head back to North Carolina; a DNQ. This is business; lest you ever forget it.

As the crowd filtered in, the Busch cars were rolled onto the grid. Shortly before 1 pm, a driver wearing a blue Simpson driving suit and Ray-Bans, strolled down pit road. The driver would be making his debut with a new team. Jeff looks confident. Ron walked up and said, "Who do you like?" I said the only name that I could see in victory lane, "Mark Martin." He replied, "You can have Martin, but I want Gordon and Burton." Deal. "Uh, for how much?" I asked. "I don't know. How 'bout two?" Like I said, I can't see Martin not winning... "You're on." The race, for the most part, went as expected. Long green flag runs... and Mark Martin in victory lane. Winston Cup final practice began soonafter. Ron walked up and looked furious. "You son of a bitch. You knew something," he said. "Yeah, I knew Mark had the best car." I found Eric (looking rather pale I might add) and left the track after practice. Got stuck in the traffic tie up (only 20 minutes though). Headed south on I-15 and was at the MGM by 7. Tomorrow's a big day; I have to get up early for "sponsor indexing" at the track. After that, it's the "main event" race, and then a late night flight from McCarran. But after dinner tonight, I'll stop by the casino again. This is after all my final night in Vegas and my last chance to be drawn in by the neon.


Friday, March 5

Track Action

The day started with Busch series practice. The Pepsi Chevrolet was the center of attention. I hear the driver is pretty famous. After BGN practice, the Winston Cup cars took to the track for a practice session. Las Vegas has a unique shape. It looks like a larger version of Rockingham. But the racing groove is a lot wider. And the scenery is much nicer. In Winston Cup qualifying, Gordon qualified 11th. Probably a little further back than he envisioned. No time to dwell on it though. Gordon was on his way to change uniforms. The GEM debut was upcoming.

After Bobby Labonte claimed the pole for the Winston Cup event, Busch qualifying began. The second car on the track was the GEM #24 Pepsi Chevrolet. A damn good lap time that irked one Busch series veteran. All a part of racing. After all, Casey Atwood started the BGN season with two great efforts. Well, he failed to qualify at Vegas. This business can kick your ass anytime.

Gordon's lap was second fastest during qualifying. Tomorrow's BGN race is Gordon's first since 1992. But, it's the first race for GEM. Pretty good debut so far.

Wake up call at 7 am. I broke out one of my newly unwrapped shirts. The kind of shirt that screams, "I'm affiliated with a company that sponsors the automobile event that nobody around here has even heard of." There was a feeling of anticipation as we headed north on I-15 to Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 9 am. It's the feeling you get when you're about to arrive at a place you've never been before, but have heard great things about. The drive itself is interesting. The Geo Storm handles the road better than I ever envisioned. Yes, a lane change at 75 miles per hour certainly tested the handling of the car. "Are you nuts?" Eric asks after I make the lane change. "Just testing the car. It's good," I said with an air of confidence. He looked scared shitless, but I did have control of the car the entire time. Scout's honor. You realize very quickly that you're in the desert, in the proverbial "middle of nowhere." Surrounding us are mountains. Suddenly, the Speedway appears almost out of nowhere. The vast mountain expanse gives way to a large concrete structure. We have arrived at Bruton Smith's newest acquisition, Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "Ready to have fun?" Eric asked me. Fun? Was he serious? Fun was yesterday. Dammit, I have to work today. "Yeah, fun... whatever," I replied. We passed the gate and into the tunnel.

I had a two hour morning meeting that went into overtime; hate when that happens. I caught the end of Busch practice. The Pepsi car turned one of the fastest laps. Not bad for a new team with a driver nobody ever heard of... at least they never heard of him in the dining room of the MGM. Walking through the garage, I chatted with one Busch series veteran after the session ended. "You see where Gordon is on the speed chart? Looks strong for the pole," I said. "No shit. Isn't he great?" was the reply. Ok, so maybe not everyone is thrilled about having the Winston Cup champion in the Busch series. As it turned out, that driver failed to make the Busch race. Too bad. My heart is really aching that he failed to make the race. If you believe that, I'd like to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

Winston Cup practice allowed us to grab lunch. Bruton Smith spares no expense; even on qualifying day. The quality of food has improved at the track. No longer do I need an angioplasty after I attend a race. In the mid-afternoon, Cup practice ends and the BGN cars take to the track for a second practice session. I pass by the Skoal Bandit. Kenny had a good practice run. I saw Gary and we made a wager for the pole. I took Schrader, he took Gordon for $200. As much as I hate betting against Gordon, this time I am. Good to see the Skoal car looking the way it should.. in green; not blue, and not maroon.

As Cup qualifying unfolds, I realize that Schrader isn't fast enough to beat Gordon's time. I take out four "Grants" and hand them over. "Give me a chance to win it back on Sunday," I tell Gary. "If I still have it by then. We're going to Vegas later," he tells me. I asked which casino. "Excalibur. Heard good things about it," he says rather confidently. Sucker. "Las Vegas is like Jeff Gordon. You might think it just looks good and will be easy to beat, but it will kick your ass and take no prisoners," I said. "I dropped $250 last night in less time than it takes to run 5 laps." No comment from Gary.

After Winston Cup qualifying ended, Gordon walked through in his Pepsi uniform. Busch qualifying was beginning and he had drawn a low number. I must say, it was neat seeing the Pepsi Chevrolet on the track. His speed was over 165. "Better than I thought he'd run," one Busch driver mutters as he walks to his car. "That time will fry our ass today." Not wanting to press the issue with a guy that probably won't make the race (he later failed to make the show), I walked away thrilled at the lap that Gordon just ran. I caught up with Eric as the sun lowered in the western sky. "All week he's saying that he's hoping to be fast enough just to make the race," Eric says of Gordon's comments earlier in the week. "And now he's on the front row. Why couldn't he just say he was gonna beat everyone's ass?" Well, I guess you could chalk it up to humility. I don't know.

The mountains at sunset are a great sight. We got back to the MGM at 6. I had a conference call at 6:30 that was less than interesting. "How's Las Vegas?" the boss asked during a lull. "Uh.. it's... pretty good. We've been very busy," I sheepishly said. I was sipping a Budweiser and having an important phone conversation. Dr. Gonzo is in his element. Aint business great? I'm typing this before heading out to dinner and maybe a casino sidetrip. This is Las Vegas after all.


Thursday, March 4

Track Action

There was Winston West qualifying at the track. But, I didn't arrive until mid-afternoon and wanted to see the city. There'll be plenty of action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway over the next 3 days. The track is north of the city just off I-15. "You can't miss it," the woman at the rental counter told me. I hear that Jeff Gordon's going to be busy this weekend. The Busch race and the Winston Cup event. Pace yourself Jeffrey.

I've never been to Las Vegas, unlike most of the people I've spoken to on the plane. "I lost my damn shirt the last time I was there," Will Turner says. He's sitting across the aisle from me and I struck up the conversation after I noticed the 'GM Goodwrench Service' logo on his shirt. I didn't wear my logo shirt today. Technically, it's my day off and I have to wear a logo shirt for the next three days. Today I'm just a tourist. "Going to race, sir?" I asked. "You bet. Meeting a few friends for the weekend and we're gonna watch that number three win on Sunday." Turner's a Dale Earnhardt fan, though he admits that Dale's best days are behind him. "But he's still got another victory in him. You wait and see." Ok, I'll wait. I bring up Jeff Gordon's name. He smiles and says, "That little son of a bitch. If Dale coulda caught him at Daytona, they'd be peeling that DuPont car off the wall. Rusty shoulda beat his ass after that race." "He won the race though, give him that," I quickly respond trying not to start a arguement. "Yeah, that pass on Rusty was the shits, but he won it," Turner said. He muttered "he won it" twice under his breath. As if he's still having a hard time believing it. The weather in Las Vegas is nice. About 70 degrees and sunny. A smooth landing at McCarran Airport, a trip to the rental counter (a blue Geo Storm. Life is good), and I'm on my way down the Las Vegas Strip. There is nothing like driving on the Strip. If you have the means, I highly recommend driving it once in your life.

Even in the afternoon, the MGM Grand looks like a Saturday night party. I'm carrying an extra bag for computer equipment which pisses me off when there's no bellman available and I'm hauling that crap to the elevator. At that point, I'm cursing the s.o.b. that convinced me to bring the fiber optic gear (so, where's my per diem!?). But it only took 5 minutes to hook up the cellular modem. Since I'll be at track every day after this, today's the only day to enjoy the city. I met up with Eric and headed down the Strip. We went to college together and he's in town for a vacation. I haven't seen him in almost two years, but we kept in touch via email. The 90's. What a time to be alive. "Entry level sucks. But you have the best time," he says in talking about his job. I don't want to discuss work today... since that's what I'll be doing for the next few days. Within seconds on the street, I'm handed a piece of paper. Since when does a whorehouse advertise? Well, prostitution is legal in Vegas. Gotta say, the advertisement is not for the underage. We kept walking and went into Caesars Palace. Lester Polyester has arrived. Five will get you ten... I had $350 in my wallet and was feeling pretty confident as I sat down at the Blackjack table. Won the first hand, lost the second, then walked away. After a Jim Beam interlude, it was back to the tables. Amazing thing about casinos is that there are no clocks. Not that time ever entered into my mind; though I did have a conference call at 9 tonight that I couldn't miss. And after a few stiff drinks, you forget you're even wearing a watch. Shortly past 5:30 (I asked a woman at the slot machine for the time), we cashed in. I walked out with $1100. Not a bad day. On the streets of Vegas, you get a pretty good cross section of people. The guy handing out the prostitution ads is still there. But he's got competition now. Is it me or is this the furthest you can get from the NASCAR world? Down the street, the volcano erupts. Now I know where I am. I walk past a few cross dressers. They do look like women. To each his own. Dinner at the MGM... very cool. Eric asked the waiter if he's been following the NASCAR stuff in Vegas. "The what?" he says. "You know, that car race on Sunday," I add. "Haven't heard," he says. "You heard of Jeff Gordon? He won the Winston Cup title last year. He's on TV more than Elvis," Eric says. The waiter replies, "Can't say I've heard of him. Are you racing him or something?" And he's saying it with a straight face. Oh boy.

The bar is inviting. I get a drink with an umbrella in it. Slug those rum drinks down. An hour in the MGM casino yields a loss of $250. I hate losing so easily. Temptation is to try and win it back. That's how casinos make money. I won't be a sucker for the pit bosses tonight. So, I take the elevator up to do today's report and get that conference call at 9. Still came out ahead gambling today. The view from the 8th floor is nice. Bugsy Seigel's dream of a town called Las Vegas turned out pretty good after all. Tomorrow, we'll head to the NASCAR world; the antithesis of what today was about. The tension rises and the fun ends. Today was a good day; I could live here. Without a doubt.



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