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Who will be next from Las Vegas to race at Daytona 500?

Updated February 22, 2017 - 8:32 pm

There’s a scene in “Days of Thunder,” a movie made about NASCAR when tracks still had all their seats and sponsorships were abundant, during which fictional race team owner Tim Daland says this about stock-car drivers from north of the Mason-Dixon Line: “If you’re from California, you’re not a Yankee. You’re not really anything.”

The same once could be said about racing drivers from Nevada as it pertained to the Daytona 500.

This year, to use the vernacular of the legendary driver Richard Petty, no fewer than five fast cats from Southern Nevada will compete in Sunday’s Great American Race and two other American races leading up to it.

Former Cup Series champions Kurt and Kyle Busch will be joined by upstart Brendan Gaughan for Sunday’s 59th running of the Daytona 500; Gaughan and Spencer Gallagher will take the green flag in the Xfinity Series opener Saturday; Gallagher and 18-year-old rookie Noah Gragson will do likewise in the Truck Series opener Friday night.

No, this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile, or even the Oldsmobile Buddy Baker drove to victory in the 1980 Daytona 500.

So who’s next? Who will be the next young lions from Las Vegas to catch the 200 mph baton on their rear spoilers when the Busch brothers and the other older lions are ready to pass it on?

“It takes a lot of talent and a lot of money, and you have to have the right connections,” said Brian Kiser, a longtime observer of the local auto racing scene and sometimes crew chief at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring, where most local young lions get their auto racing starts.

“Kurt and Kyle — they had the talent when you could make it on talent alone.”

Here’s a look at five local drivers who have shown flashes of speed and dashes of bravado — young drivers who could be next in line to make it on talent alone, provided the racing gods smile upon them and they always remember to thank their sponsors.

NOAH GRAGSON

Age: 18.

2017 Ride: NASCAR Truck Series/No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Switch Toyota.

2016: K&N Pro Series East and West/Jefferson-Pitts Racing. Finished third in West points, fifth in East.

Education: Home schooled.

Racing Hero: Kyle Busch, Travis Pastrana.

Biggest Racing Thrill: Winning third K&N race in a row in New Jersey in 2016.

2017 Goal: “Be realistic. Learn as much as I possibly can. Become a better driver and hopefully the wins will come.”

Describe yourself in one word: “Action-packed.”

Did you know: Gragson started racing Bandoleros at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring when he was 13, considered a late start for today’s aspiring drivers. He was named to this year’s NASCAR Next, a list identifying the future of stars of stock car racing.

JASON REICHERT

Age: 17.

2017 Ride: U.S. Formula 2000/Dave Freitas Racing No. 32 Van Dieman RF01.

2016: U.S. Formula F1600/Huddy Motorsports. Won series championship.

Education: Home schooled.

Racing Hero: Josef Newgarden, Conor Daly.

Biggest Racing Thrill: Winning first F1600 race with a last-lap pass on the final turn at Buttonwillow (California) Raceway Park.

2017 Goal: “Keep on winning; finish in top 5 in championship.”

Describe yourself in one word: “Humble.”

Did you know: Reichert won the Las Vegas Motor Speedway karting championship four times.

RILEY HERBST

Age: 17.

2017 Ride: ARCA Series/No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

2016: K&N Pro Series West/Bill McAnally Racing. Finished seventh in points.

Education: Home schooled.

Racing Hero: Kyle Busch, and my dad (off-road racer Troy Herbst).

Biggest Racing Thrill: Any victory.

2017 Goal: “Run up front all season.”

Describe yourself in one word: “Personable.”

Did you know: Herbst’s grandfather, Jerry; uncles, Ed and Tim; and father, Troy, are champion off-road racers who were elected to the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

CHRIS TRICKLE

Age: 16.

2017 Ride: NASCAR Whelen All-American Series/No. 70 Super Late Model Ford.

2016: NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Finished seventh in Super Late Model points at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring.

Education: Home schooled.

Racing Hero: Uncle Chris Trickle; Uncle Dick Trickle.

Biggest Racing Thrill: Winning third Super Late Model race start as a 14-year-old.

2017 Goal: “To get my butt in a racecar (longtime sponsor Star Nursery recently pulled out), and if everything goes smooth, to win a couple of Super Late Model races.”

Describe yourself in one word: “Fast.”

Did you know: Trickle is the adopted son of former Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring late model champion Chuck Trickle, whose brother, Dick, was a popular NASCAR Cup Series driver. He is named for Chuck’s son, Chris, who appeared headed for auto racing’s big time before he was shot and killed near the Silverton in 1997.

JAY BEASLEY

Age: 24.

2017 Ride: K&N Pro Series East/Rev Racing No. 42 Toyota.

2016: Sat out season because of lack of sponsorship; ran selected Super Late Model races in Las Vegas and Tucson.

Education: Cimarron-Memorial High.

Racing Hero: Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch.

Biggest Racing Thrill: Going fast, and trying to control a racecar that is out of control.

2017 Goal: “Just run good, be consistent, a lot of top 5s. Focus on one race at a time, the rest will take care of itself.”

Describe yourself in one word: “Perseverance.”

Did you know: Beasley made history in 2013 by becoming the first African-American driver to win a Super Late Model race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring. He has been nominated to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program in 2014 and again this year.

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

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