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Dean Heller returns to LVMS for Senator’s Cup Classic

Updated October 19, 2017 - 12:23 pm

A few years ago, or so it seems, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., remembers racing automobiles against Kyle Busch at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring.

This was when Busch was 10, or so it seemed, and Heller was Nevada secretary of state.

I’m not at liberty to say who won, other than when the checkered flag fell, it dawned on the one who didn’t win that running for Congress might be a wise career move.

“I was there to support him at the White House,” the senator said about Busch winning the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series championship and visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. as President Obama’s guest. “I was the only one (member of Congress) who attended.”

A lot of politicians claim to be auto racing enthusiasts, at least in an election year when big crowds turn out at the tracks. But Heller is such a fan that he spoke of Busch’s precarious position in the NASCAR playoffs when we chatted on the phone. And check out the senator’s Wikipedia biography: “Heller was born in Castro Valley, California, to Janet and Charles Alfred “Jack” Heller, a stock car driver.

They called Jack Heller “Blackjack” for the verve with which he drove the dusty bullrings in and around Carson City. Dean Heller was a pretty good wheel man, too.

“I won a few races; I lost a lot more,” he says when asked to describe his auto racing career.

This weekend he returns to the Bullring, not as a competitor, but to wave the flags again as honorary starter at a race named for him, the Senator’s Cup Fall Classic. His wife, Lynne, will sing the national anthem.

The night at the races should prove a welcome respite for the senator, who is facing a stiff re-election challenge. It was announced this week that he has raised nearly $4.2 million in campaign funds in attempt to slam the door on pursuers, to use the NASCAR vernacular.

“For every poll I run I could buy a new engine,” he said with a rueful chuckle.

White, Gragson top entry list

The Senator’s Cup Classic will consist of 150 laps and pays $15,000 to win. Many of the top West Coast Late Model drivers and cars are expected, including two-time defending champion Linny White of Fontana, California. NASCAR Truck Series driver Noah Gragson of Las Vegas is among the entries, along with fellow local fast guys Justin Johnson, Scott Gafforini and Jay Beasley.

There will be racing Friday and Saturday night, with a 150-lap Super Late Model feature topping the first night’s card.

For tickets, schedule and information, call 702-644-4444 or go online at LVMS.com.

Kyle B. last LV man standing

Updating the playoff status of the five Las Vegas-area NASCAR drivers:

— Kurt Busch, eliminated from Cup Series during first round.

— Kyle Busch, ninth in Cup Series points. Must improve one spot during Sunday’s race at Kansas to move on to the third round. The guy in eighth place? Jimmie Johnson, winner of seven series championships.

— Brendan Gaughan, eliminated from Xfinity Series during first round.

— Spencer Gallagher, eliminated from Xfinity Series during regular season.

— Noah Gragson, eliminated from Truck Series during regular season.

Kyle Busch, on his chances of staying alive at Kansas: “I think we need to go in there and do our best to be prepared and when it comes to race time, try to limit our mistakes. It’s no different than what we typically do each and every week, though.”

Dan Wheldon remembered

Monday was the sixth anniversary of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon’s death at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Those of us who were there will never forget it.

Nor will we forget his skill, his determination, his smile. The charming one, as well as the mischievous one.

Rest in peace, Lionheart. Rest in peace.

Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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