Originally created 03/15/97

Nemechek is in gear at new Las Vegas Motor Speedway



LAS VEGAS (AP) - Joe Nemechek recorded the fastest unofficial lap during practice Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the Las Vegas 300 NASCAR Busch Series race is scheduled Sunday.

Nemechek, driving a Chevro-let, toured the 1.5-mile track at a speed of 167.756 mph, fastest of the 42 cars practicing Thursday.

"I like this track," said Nemechek, a regular on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series who also runs selected races on the Busch tour. He was the 1992 NASCAR Busch Series champion before stepping up to NASCAR's top series.

"This track is totally unique," he said. "I think this is one of the best kinds of race tracks. It's complicated, but you can figure out how to drive it.

"You have to have a strong engine, and the chassis has to work, but you really have to drive the race track. If anybody else is going to build a race track, they should build it like this."

Drivers were almost universal in their praise of the $200 million facility, which many of them saw for the first time. The track opened last September with an Indy Racing League race, and hosted the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last November.

The Las Vegas 300 will be the first NASCAR Busch Series race ever held west of the Mississippi.

"They did a fabulous job building this place," said Randy LaJoie, 1996 series champion. "It's going to be great for racing, and it's going to be fun racing here."

Three drivers were involved in single-car accidents Thursday, and the cars of Kevin Lepage and Johnny Chapman were damaged seriously enough that their teams reverted to backup cars Friday. The third car, driven by Brad Payne, had only minor damage.

Dick Trickle was second-fastest Thursday at 157.540 mph, with Jeff Green third at 157.320.

The top 25 starting positions in Sunday's race were be determined in time trials Friday.