This was all Alex Zanardi's fault.
It was 3:45 p.m. Thursday, and I was standing at the intersection of the Strip and Spring Mountain Road. The acrid smell of burning rubber was imbedded in my sinus cavity, and there were little pebbles of Goodyear tire in the corners of my eyes, like "sleep" in the morning. Only this was dark sleep, the kind that leaves little black smudges when you rub it.
At 3:44 p.m., the wind had changed directions. It had been coming from behind Wynn Las Vegas; now it was coming from behind Treasure Island, and then Greg Biffle did his burnout, in the No. 16 Ford.
This was the grand mal of burnouts, a real Cheech and Chong. Biffle's tires belched and howled, and you couldn't smell the flowers in front of the Wynn anymore, because it smelled like Manny, Moe and Jack.
A young Japanese woman and her mother, who were standing behind me and weren't quite sure what they were watching - "It's called NASCAR. Like Formula One, only louder," I told them - bailed out real quick.
As I said, this was Zanardi's fault.
Alex Zanardi used to drive in Formula One, and then he drove in IndyCar, and then he lost his legs in a gruesome crash in Germany. But before that, he won a lot of races - 14 in three seasons, which is like winning 14 PGA Tour tournaments in three seasons, or 14 tennis tournaments.
Zanardi won this one race in Cleveland after he had fallen to last place. And he was so excited that after he crossed the finish line, he mashed the brake with one foot, mashed the gas pedal with the other foot and turned the steering wheel. And then his bright red racecar began to skitter around in circles, like a top, a really expensive top.
People seated in the grandstands in Cleveland got smoke in their eyes and little pebbles of Firestone tire in the corners of their eyes because Firestone is the official tire of IndyCar.
And thus was born another auto racing tradition. Thus was born the victory burnout.
And whereas it seems the IndyCar drivers always begin these traditions, it is the NASCAR drivers who take them to the next level. Everybody thought it was a big deal when Tony Stewart climbed the fence after winning the stock-car race at Indianapolis, though Helio Castroneves had been doing it for years.
(Castroneves also won "Dancing With the Stars," so I figure it's only a matter of time until one of the NASCAR drivers learns how to do a ballroom quickstep, too. My money's on one of the Waltrips - probably Michael.)
NASCAR veteran Mark Martin said doing doughnuts - victory burnouts - was unheard of before Zanardi started punctuating his victories with turbocharged chocolate eclairs.
"Zanardi is where I saw it start," Martin said. "Zanardi did them big time."
And this, combined with NASCAR's popularity, was why people started to congregate on the four corners at the Strip and Spring Mountain around 1:30 p.m., though the Sprint Cup Chase drivers - and their doughnut wagons - weren't expected on their "Victory Lap" for another two hours.
There were throngs on every corner, as if Al Pacino might come running out of the T.I. and start throwing $100 bills into the air, like in "Dog Day Afternoon." But nobody made it rain, and perhaps this is why the young Japanese woman and her mother did not seem terribly impressed by the burnouts.
Champion Brad Keselowski was first, and those around me mostly gave him 7s and 8s. And then Clint Bowyer, who finished second in points, got nothing but zeros - the engine in his No. 15 Toyota had ceased running, and Jimmie Johnson had to push him through the intersection.
Eventually it was Biffle's turn, and Biffle got all over the rev limiter, and his car started whipping around in fits and starts, and the tire smoke was so thick that his car momentarily disappeared.
The course marshals started jumping around and waving red flags because it appeared Biffle's car might miss the turnaround and wind up in the women's department at Neiman Marcus in the Fashion Show Mall.
A lot of people where I was standing gave Biffle an "11," like in "Spinal Tap." They also yelled Woo-hoo!
After the Victory Lap, some of these same people headed over to Planet Hollywood, where NASCAR Champions Week continued with "After the Lap" - a "forum," to use Tony Stewart's word, where the Sprint Cup drivers mostly made jokes about drinking beer and who wears the firesuit in their family and whatnot, for charity.
I listened in my car on the way home, on SiriusXM 90, the NASCAR channel. It sort of reminded me of listening to bowling on the radio while driving to the Indianapolis 500 one year. And my jacket still smelled like the Pep Boys.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.