Because of the sagging economy, the chances of a sellout for Sunday's Shelby 427 Sprint Cup race seemed highly unlikely a few weeks ago.
In fact, rather than offer discounted tickets, as some other NASCAR tracks are doing this year, Las Vegas Motor Speedway president Chris Powell provided a few thousand tickets free to local civic groups.
Powell said he doesn't regret the donations, but now it looks as if he'll need all the seating he can get. A rush on sales this week makes a sellout realistic enough that LVMS will put seats for sale at 9 a.m. today in the lower level around the third and fourth turns.
Those sections have not been used since the speedway banking was heightened two years ago, partially obstructing views from the seats.
"Despite a challenging economy, this event continues to deliver great benefits for Las Vegas," Powell said Friday. "I had my doubts a couple of months ago that we'd get so close to a full house, but now it looks realistic."
Powell said he expects the crowd Sunday to approach 150,000, but that there might be some empty seats because people who purchased tickets early last year might not be able to afford the trip to Las Vegas now.
"That should explain any empty seats that are visible," he said. "Except for a couple of hundred singles that we have available, all of our tickets have been distributed."
Tickets can be purchased at the speedway or by calling 644-4444.
• GAUGHAN CRASHES -- Brendan Gaughan crashed his No. 62 Rusty Wallace Racing Chevrolet during Friday's late practice for the Nationwide Series, about two hours after posting the fastest lap in the early session.
The car sustained serious damage when Gaughan spun and slapped the outside guardwall. He was uninjured.
The team will repair the car or use a backup when qualifying begins at 9 a.m. today for the Sam's Town 300, which will start at 1:30 p.m.
• MAYFIELD MISSES -- Five-time Cup winner and rookie team owner Jeremy Mayfield failed to qualify for Sunday's race with his new No. 41 Mayfield Motorsports team.
The team qualified at Daytona and Fontana, Calif., but Mayfield's time of 29.607 seconds Friday left him in the 43rd and final spot before he was bumped with four cars left to try to qualify.
• FORD FIASCO -- Though Fords owned by Roush Fenway Racing have won six of the 11 Cup races at Las Vegas, the highest qualifier in a Ford was Carl Edwards in 16th. He won last year's Las Vegas race.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247. For more on racing, go to lvrj.com/motorsports.