Stockyard a feast for the senses

Stockyards offer unique smells.

Unlike the scents from livestock corrals, the aromas wafting from the Stockyard at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday nights are appetizing. They emanate from tailgaters’ grills within a collection of motorhomes, pickups and cars in our town’s coolest parking lot.

Short tracks such as the one at LVMS are called "bullrings," but no animals are stabbed and killed there. Only cooked.

A few hundred fans often fill most of the Stockyard’s 52 parking spots overlooking the track between turns three and four at the three-eighths-mile oval. For $65, you get four $10 admission tickets, parking within 20 feet of the track and the option of tailgating for most Bullring events.

It also provides the closest proximity to the cars and a unique perspective on racing.

Nostrils at every track are tickled by fumes from burned race tires, gas and alcohol. But those pollutants are overwhelmed by the smoky smorgasbord of delectable goodies on Stockyard grills.

The first Stockyarder I met clung to the fence refusing to miss any of the early action. Remy Ponce was intense but couldn’t put into words what was so intriguing about being so close to roaring cars. But most 18-month-olds aren’t very talkative, and earplugs kept him from hearing my questions anyway.

"He loves it here," says his mom, Kimberly Freeman, between trips to put pieces of expertly charred hot dogs on the tray of his walker.

Remy wasn’t the only young racing fan in the ‘Yard. Mike Hannon, 35, and son Shea, 6, brought baseball gloves to play catch during slow times.

"This is such a good, family environment," Dad says between tosses. "I never enjoyed racing until a couple years ago when Shea said he wanted to see race cars. After we came to the Bullring for the first time we started to watch it on TV."

Hannon said he met his girlfriend in the Stockyard. She was with friends from a group of Budweiser employees who usually attend.

What could be better: go to a race, barbecue and hook up with a girl who gets you free beer.

Great racer logic.

Curt Coker was parked trackside for the first time with girlfriend Patty Petee. They were among the first to fire up a grill.

"It can’t get any better than this," he says, pointing to action on the track. "Especially when there’s tailgating."

Jim Turcotte, 57, prefers importing his own adult beverages, which is allowed.

"I can bring my own ‘barley pop,’ ” he says. "You know, beer has food value, but food has no beer value."

Turcotte has been coming to the Stockyard for five years, but not as often this year because the Bullring cards don’t regularly include open-wheel Modifieds.

The wild, loud Modifieds raced Saturday, and the largest contingent in the Stockyard were those cheering for Doug Hamm, who won the Outlaw Modifieds race.

But for Charles Parker, a 42-year-old special education teacher in Clark County, racing is racing regardless of the division. He buys a season pass to ensure he has spot No. 37. "Some of the biggest action happens right here," he says.

Parker recalls sitting in the grandstand in the 1990s watching NASCAR stars Kyle and Kurt Busch develop their skills. His race companion was his mom, Miriam, until she died in late 2006.

"She loved coming out here. We never missed a race," he says.

Parker continues a tradition his mom started: knitting at the track. He sits in a chair positioned in the bed of his Toyota Tundra and never drops a stitch.

Knit one, pass two.

"I know many knitters who are race fans," he says.

A night in the Stockyard is five hours in a little village where everyone is a race fan.

I was a visitor last week and plan to become a regular starting Saturday with the Chris Trickle Father’s Day Doubleheader, which will include twin 35-lap races for the featured Super Late Models stock cars and a special visit by the USAC Focus Midget series.

If I’m lucky I’ll be next to Remy again, and this time he might share his snacks.

A word of caution: Stockyard spots for the Night of Fire show on July 2, which includes a fireworks show, cost $149 and usually sell out. Call the LVMS ticket department to reserve a spot.

Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com. Visit Wolf’s motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week

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