Fans can make book on it - and do Mating of racing, betting exceeds expectations

Las Vegas 400 notebook

March 02, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- After a week of speculation about just how adventurous folks would be when it came to making bets on Winston Cup stock car racing, the city's sports books operators have come to the conclusion that race fans have been galloping to the betting windows.

Initial guesstiments were that the Las Vegas 400 would draw bets totaling about $1.5 million, but by Saturday night, operators were predicting more.

"I'd have to say it's going to go over $2 million," said Rich Baccellieri, the sports book manager at Caesars Palace. "The only thing that will deter the overall city handle is going to be the average bet. There are a lot of tickets, but they are small bets."

Sports book directors said the number of tickets written "exceeds an NFL game," but added that the amounts of most bets were small, with the average ranging from $10 to $20. But Robert Walker at The Mirage sports book said his tellers have taken five-figure bets of about $1,000, and at Caesars, several of $5,000 were made.

The amount of action has surprised some of the sports book operators, but Stardust supervisor Hugh Aufill wasn't one of them.

"Betting the races is fairly new, and nothing is bet like the NFL," said Aufill, who admits being a race fan. "But what we saw here this week was definitely significant. It's getting bigger and bigger, just like the sport itself is growing."

He was flying

Jeff Burton, the Roush team driver who finished second, did so despite being penalized for breaking the 45-mph speed limit on pit road on Lap 93. That penalty forced him to rally from 30th.

Burton had finished 40th at the Daytona 500 and 18th last week in Rockingham, N.C., and said it was his effort to compliment his race team that got him in trouble here.

"We've struggled on pit road this season," he said. "And we had a good stop and I wanted to make sure those guys saw they had a good stop and I went a little fast down pit road, trying to get out in good position so that they could see what they'd done. And I went a little too fast.

"But this is all we ask, to improve every week."

Penske punch

Roger Penske's two-car team of Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield turned in performances to be proud of.

Wallace finished third. Combined with a fifth at Daytona and second last week at Rockingham, N.C., he is the most consistent performer of the season. He holds a 56-point advantage over Dale Earnhardt in the Winston Cup standings.

As for Mayfield, he started 32nd and finished fifth.

"Man, it could have been even better," he said, not too unhappily. "We got all the way to fifth and had a little miscue in the pits. We left some lug nuts loose and had to come in and tighten those up."

Mayfield is third in the points race too, right behind Wallace.


Other than Earnhardt's eighth-place finish, Terry Labonte was the only other Chevy driver to finish in the top 15. He was a lap down. Ricky Rudd, who has had back-to-back finishes of 42nd and 43rd, was smiling after coming home 12th: "It wasn't Top 10, it wasn't a win, but it was a good, decent, hard finish," he said. Defending Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon finished 17th, saying, "We ran into a brick wall," noting the dominance of the Fords over the General Motors products. He suggested NASCAR "take these cars to the wind tunnel, put 'em on a dyno, whatever they need to do and come up with something to help us. If we're all equal, well, we'll just keep working."

Pub Date: 3/02/98

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