The smell of freshly cut grass, blooming flowers, burning rubber and nitromethane.
Those are signs the NHRA pro tour is making its first of two annual visits to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
When the 11th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals open today, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be.
My racing passion is for the quarter mile, or 1,000 feet if that's what is being offered.
I've loved drag racing since the early 1960s, when I'd steal loose change from the top drawer of my older brother Steve's dresser to buy Hot Rod and Car Craft magazines.
I was 12 or 13 back then and fell in love with the cars. Steve took me to my first drag race in 1966. It was at National Trail Raceway, about 20 miles from my home in Columbus, Ohio. I've always wondered what my parents paid him, because he wasn't a motorhead.
The Little Red Wagon wheelstander was there. So was the Hurst Hairy Oldsmobile 442 with engines under the hood and in the trunk. Four-tire burnouts. Awesome.
What impressed me most was a group of A/GS hot rods -- most were bulky Ford Willys from the 1940s with big Detroit iron and superchargers stuffed into racing frames. Big John Mazmanian, Stone-Woods-Cook, Ohio George Montgomery and I'm pretty certain a British Austin with a big, blown engine owned and driven by Jeg Coughlin raced that day.
That was four years before Jeg Coughlin Jr. was born.
Drag racing is the fastest form of motor sports, but the ever-present tradition of family racing tends to slow time.
For West Coast drag racers, it probably seems like only a few years ago that Larry Dixon Sr. was racing. On Sunday, his son, Larry Dixon Jr., won his 50th NHRA Top Fuel title.
Time flies when you're going 300 mph.
My limited exposure to drag racing in Ohio made Ohio George, Big Jeg and the famed Rod Shop Racing team the ones most endearing.
My first chance to meet Jeg Sr. was in the early 1980s while working for a central Ohio newspaper. It was difficult to temper my excitement when I walked into Jeg's Automotive on 11th Avenue in Columbus. There were race cars and a few youngsters running around. They could have been some of the four Coughlin boys. Jeg Jr. would have been in his early teens and probably in school.
Numbers are such key factors in racing: time, distance, purse size.
Jeg Jr. could earn the 50th Pro Stock title of his career Sunday. Chances are pretty good considering the four-time NHRA world champion has won five of the 19 Pro Stock titles at the track, including the one last spring. He earned his 49th career title last weekend at Houston Raceway Park.
It would be prophetic that his 50th come this year, when his family's Jeg's performance parts business is celebrating its 50th anniversary -- and if it happened in an event sponsored by a rival business.
It's likely he wouldn't have won one had his father, now 72, not opted to drop out of dental school at Ohio State and start selling performance parts out of his parents' garage in an upscale Ohio neighborhood. Today, Jeg's employs about 325 people.
"We all feel fortunate to have grown up around Dad's business and his racing," Jeg Jr. said. "I wouldn't have accomplished what I have without him."
It's nearly impossible to visit any team at an NHRA event and not find a family tie.
That's why when I get to the speedway this morning I'll feel like I'm home again.
Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247. Visit Wolf's motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.