Crowd of 50,000 expected for event

Nevada’s third-biggest one-day sports event takes place tonight at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the 50,000 fans expected to attend should arrive a few hours before the 6 p.m. start.

The annual Smith’s Las Vegas 350 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event ranks behind the speedway’s annual NASCAR Nextel Cup (160,000) and Busch (100,000) events in March.

The truck race attracts such a large crowd partly because around 40 packages of 5,000 tickets were sold to businesses for $5,000. Many of the recipients of these tickets will be attending their first major NASCAR race and, for that reason, are not prepared to arrive at least two hours before the race begins to beat traffic congestion.

The speedway will feature free entertainment beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the infield’s Neon Garage, where admission is an additional $10. Those inside also will have unique access to watch teams work on their race trucks.

General admission and reserve grandstand tickets will be for sale at the track or by calling 644-4444. …

Former Supremes singer Mary Wilson will perform the national anthem.

• SCHEDULE — The Grandstand and Neon Garage open at noon with exhibition races by 600 Racing cars on the mini-oval along the front-stretch.

Truck qualifying is at 3 p.m.

• GOING METRIC — The “350” in the event’s title refers to the race’s length in kilometers. The 146-lap race will cover 219 miles.

• NEVADANS — Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan is one of three drivers from Nevada competing. Part-time Las Vegas resident Scott Lynch of Boise, Idaho, and T.J. Bell of Sparks are the others.

• WOMAN IN CHARGE — Kim Lopez Johnson, a New York City native, will be the official starter and is believed to be the first female to serve in that capacity for a NASCAR national touring race.

• NOTABLES — Indianapolis 500 champions Jacques Villeneuve (1995) and Buddy Lazier (1996) will make their first starts in the truck series. …

The field includes six former Las Vegas truck winners: Mike Skinner (2006), Todd Bodine (2005), Gaughan (2003), David Starr (2002), Ted Musgrave (2001) and Jack Sprague (1996, 1998).

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