Inaugural Vegas Grand Prix deemed a success
LAS VEGAS - As predicted when the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix was announced last September, organizers held a race and one incredible party broke out through the streets of downtown Las Vegas this past weekend, April 5-8.
Vegas Grand Prix events got underway on Thursday, April 5, at the Bombay Sapphire sponsored charity gala held at the Bellagio Resort with headline entertainment from singer Jon Bon Jovi and Friends Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy, along with comedian and "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno. Walking the red carpet for the spectacular event and staying throughout the weekend were actors Jason Priestley and Tiffani Thiessen of "Beverly Hills 90210" fame, David Cubitt "Medium," Kathryn Morris "Cold Case," singer Chris Cornell and many more. Former Vice President Dan Quayle and NFL great Boomer Esiason also attended the gala and enjoyed the entertainment. The silent and live auctions during the gala, which included items such as a weekend in London as a guest of Bombay Sapphire mixologist James Moreland, raised money for Keep Memory Alive, the foundation for the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, via Vegas Grand Prix's charitable organization, the Jenyon Foundation.
Friday was the beginning of the racing activities on the newly built 2.44-mile, 12-turn temporary street course through the heart of Glitter Gulch, which drivers hailed as one of the "world's best street circuits," with race fans and celebrity watchers coming out to enjoy the on-track action. During Friday and throughout Saturday, entertainment stars Thiessen, Cubitt and Michelle Rodriguez of ABC's "Lost" partook in two-seater rides with Minardi Team USA's open-wheel vehicle that took the celebrities on the ride of their life, reaching speeds of 120 miles per hour through downtown.
Following the daytime events, the Fremont Street Experience played host to a capacity crowd who started the night with autographs from their favorite Champ Car drivers. Kicking off the headline concerts the Swedish rock band the Teddybears took the stage while "Danger" Ehren McGeehee from "Jackass" emceed the night. Following the encore performance by the Teddybears, Army of Anyone played and rocked the crowd. Singer Chris Cornell almost brought down the canopy when he began his set and the crowd was incredible when the final act of the night, Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy and a special appearance from Lil Jon took the stage. Jon Bon Jovi was backstage watching the performances and enjoying the show that reverberated through the five-block Fremont Street Experience. In addition, extreme sports such as Riders of the Thunderdome and motorcycle jumpers performed at the street party.
"Our first day of racing activities began with a bang," said Vegas Grand Prix co-owner Bradley Yonover. "Fremont Street Experience personnel estimate that 40,000 people were on-site throughout the course of Friday - that's completely separate from guests that were located on other parts of the course such as the World Market Center Pit/Paddock area. We knew then that the weekend would be a success if that was the turnout that Friday brought."
The fun and entertainment continued on Saturday as another great crowd enjoyed on-site activities such as the Latin Village at Neonopolis and the Family Fun Zone powered by Kid Fuel. This was in addition to the practice and qualifying sessions of Champ Car World Series, Champ Car Atlantic and the Historic Grand Prix. The evening that followed featured a celebrity poker tournament at Binion's Gambling Hall with participants and celebrities such as Cheech Marin, Jeremy Ratchford, Mimi Rogers, Liz Lieu, Andrew Niccol and his wife Rachel Roberts, NFL stars Ray Lewis , Jack Trudeau, and Elston Ridgle, and poker greats Patrick Antonius, Todd Brunson, Hoyt Akins and Johnny Chan. The winner of the Poker Event at Vegas Grand Prix poured by Dewars 12 was Todd Brunson.
On Sunday, the Easter bunny paid a welcome visit to the Stewart family of Las Vegas when their four-year-old Max Keegan participated in the Easter Egg Hunt sponsored by Cox Communications on Fremont Street and collected the $25,000 scholarship for the winning prize.
After the egg hunt and Easter services, the stars came out to enjoy the perfect Las Vegas weather. Joining Vegas Grand Prix owners Dale Jensen and Bradley Yonover on the race starting grid were NFL greats Lewis, Trudeau, Ridgle and Esiason, who were joined by entertainment celebrities Cubitt, Ratchford, Rodgers, Rodriguez, Marin, Morris, Priestley and McGeehee. In addition to the celebrities and fans enjoying the Vegas Grand Prix and Mayor Oscar Goodman waving the green flag and enjoying the downtown spectacle, so did the drivers. Champ Car World Series champion, Will Power from Team Australia, spoke about how he believes the course actually made him a better driver and others spoke about what a great and challenging course it was including Pacific Coast Motorsports driver Ryan Dalziel, "the track here is just mega; it has every aspect a driver loves. I think it's going to become one of the world's best street circuits for sure. The Vegas Grand Prix has done a phenomenal job."
About Vegas Grand Prix
The Vegas Grand Prix is a three-day festival of speed and entertainment that encircles the heart of downtown Las Vegas. Its inaugural event was held April 6-8, 2007, and featured major rock concerts, celebrity poker tournament, Easter services, an impressive Easter egg hunt and much more, culminating in the internationally televised 2007 series opener for the Champ Car World Series.
The racing portion of the weekend also presented a Historic Grand Prix with legendary open-wheel racers participating as well as the season opener for Champ Car Atlantic -
Champ Car's support series. The temporary street circuit is a 2.44-mile, 12-turn course through the heart of "Glitter Gulch." Champ Cars generate nearly 750 horsepower and can reach speeds up to 180 miles per hour on the Vegas street course.