These are some of the elements I think of when I think of an ideal Fourth of July celebration. Or, as often is the case, an ideal Third of July celebration, because most people have the Fourth off, and if they celebrate on the Third, then they have a day to recuperate:
A parade; John Philip Sousa; hot dogs on the grill, potato salad for the grown-ups, watermelon for the kids; a ballgame (special red, white and blue major league caps optional); a carnival with a midway and a Tilt-A-Whirl; a four-fingered neighbor who spends his entire paycheck on grocery store parking lot fireworks and then sets them off in the street so everybody can enjoy them until a Roman candle explodes on somebody’s rooftop; an “Andy Griffith Show” marathon or “Twilight Zone” marathon on one of the cable channels; a waterless boat race.
The waterless boat race is a new entry. I added it to my list after witnessing my first waterless boat race at last year’s Night of Fire at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
I have seen unlimited hydroplane races on Lake Mead and at Pearl Harbor and on the Detroit River, on TV. I also have watched “boat races” with my high school girlfriend on the bluffs and sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan on sultry summer nights.
This is a boat race of another stripe.
The waterless boat races at LVMS are much more fun than Miss Budweiser and Miss Circus Circus and the Oh Boy! Oberto. In comparison to the fictional boat races of my youth, I’d call it a tie.
At the Bullring, I have seen school buses race while chained together on the Night of Fire, and a monster truck flatten objects with its giant tires, and a jet car breath fire and melt entire Disco record collections in seconds flat. The NASCAR Bomber Division feature, 30 laps or 25 minutes, whichever comes first, also is a noble pursuit.
Still, nothing compares to a waterless boat race.
Last year, there were five waterless boat entries. An entry consists of a bomber stock car (or similar) that has been lapped more often than Danica Patrick and Kyle Petty combined, a chain and a speedboat that, judging from its condition, probably last pulled water skiers around Cypress Gardens in 1963.
Two of the car-boat combinations made it only as far as the first turn last year. There’s a video on YouTube. You should hear the crowd roar. The crowd sounds like the crowd at Darlington that year when Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven traded paint all the way to the checkered flag, if Busch and Craven had been dragging old speedboats behind their cars, and there were showers of sparks, and the boats and the cars kept crashing into things.
As the track announcer asked somewhat rhetorically and with the straightest of faces: “Shouldn’t there be a yellow flag for debris on the track?”
There are no yellow flags for debris in a waterless boat race. In fact, I believe that is the only rule. I heard a rumor that this year’s chief steward was going to be the guy in the Sasquatch suit from the Jack Link’s commercial, but that was before it got hot.
Still, as long as you hydrate — beer is only $2 at the Bullring, and I heard they also have water — and don’t wear short shorts that ride up, thereby exposing an upper thigh to uncovered aluminum bleacher before the sun sets, you should be OK.
Gates open at 5 p.m. Wednesday for the Night of Fire. The sun is supposed to set at 8:01. By then, depending on the number of yellows and how long the singer drag outs the national anthem, the USLCI Legend Cars will be speeding toward the first turn, and the monster truck and the jet car still will be sitting quietly in the infield.
The mayhem doesn’t really get started on Night of Fire until after the sun sets, and the $2 Budweiser begins to flow like tributaries on the Ohio River, and the waterless boat race begins.
One of the LVMS publicity guys said “Wild” Wade Pearson, who is to waterless boat racing what Jimmy Spencer was to NASCAR — Mr. Excitement, isn’t that what they called Spencer? — is back this year, and he’ll be rocking a Gilligan’s Island theme.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.