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Ferrari F1’s Charles Leclerc starts win streak in Las Vegas

This might be the quintessential case of going to Las Vegas and turning one’s life around.

At least one’s professional life.

When Charles Leclerc, a rising star in Formula One as driver for the revered Ferrari team, came to Las Vegas during a recent break in the season, he had yet to win a race in the glamorous and globe-trotting series, which purists consider the pinnacle of auto racing.

Now he has won two.

In the short time he was in Las Vegas, the 21-year-old from Monte Carlo also broke the track record on the 1.5-mile Exotics Racing road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It’s one thing to show off in your spare time while wearing short pants. But after Leclerc returned to the other side of the pond and wriggled back into his familiar blood-red coveralls, he won back-to-back F1 races at the Belgian Grand Prix and Italian Grand Prix at Spa and Monza — two of the world’s most iconic circuits.

Leclerc joined Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as a two-time race winner in 2019 and has vaulted to fourth in points behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who is closing in on his sixth world driving championship.

A spokesperson said Leclerc came to Las Vegas to relax during an off week in the F1 schedule, and not to get a jump-start on the competition should the series return to Las Vegas for the first time since the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in the 1980s.

Las Vegas reportedly is on F1’s radar as it bids to add another American race to partner November’s U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Promotional kicks

As the Lights FC was readying to hold another helicopter money drop, a note was received from Jerry Kissell, the former publicist for the North American Soccer League’s short-lived Las Vegas Quicksilvers, who said it was as if the Lights were following the old side’s promotional blueprint.

“We were lucky that our GM was the old baseball guy Marvin Milkes,” Kissell wrote of the former Seattle Pilots executive. “He brought along many interesting ideas.”

These included: Vegas Jack, a guy who lived in a hut atop the scoreboard and vowed not to come down until the Quicksilvers sold out Sam Boyd Stadium; The Great Zamudio, who performed on a trapeze dangling from a helicopter (who knew a copter had so many soccer game uses?); a celebrity game in which Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. were invited to play but only Marilyn Chambers, the former pornographic movie star, showed up for; having the players introduce themselves to the crowd in their native languages; having the National Guard fire a tank shell whenever the Quicksilvers scored.

Recalls Kissell: “The two Yugoslavians on the team told us that in their country this was a regular happening and it was not dummy ammo.”

Around the horn

— Former Las Vegas 51s slugger Pete Alonso continues to show he gets it on and off the field.

Alonso, who has hit 47 home runs as a New York Mets rookie, honored the victims, families and first responders of the 9/11 attacks by purchasing custom commemorative cleats for his teammates for their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist acts.

— When you cover New Mexico — which plays football in the Mountain West and is coming off back-to-back 3-9 seasons — you generate publicity however you can. Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal tweeted this week that Notre Dame would use metal detectors at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time at Saturday’s home opener against the Lobos.

But my guess is that if Brian Urlacher showed up to support the visiting team with a slinky in his pocket, “Touchdown Jesus” might let him slide.

— National Ampersand Day was observed Sept. 8, and several UNLV basketball fans marked the occasion by posting tweets about the time the ampersand on the Thomas & Mack Center sign was installed on its side and looked like a giant pretzel.

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The Lights FC is offering all-you-can-eat tamales and all-you-can-drink beer along with a game ticket for $20, and here’s hoping the toilets behind the first-base dugout at Cashman Field don’t back up again.

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

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