By Tim Packman
LAS VEGAS – While many come to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for race weekend and stay in hotels and casinos, there’s a different type of fan located within the confines of the track.
RV and campers of all sizes are lined up around and zig zagging through the interior of the 1.5-mile track. People travel from all over to partake in the fun-loving atmosphere away from the glitz and glam so often associated with Las Vegas.
Jim Packman is the official unofficial Mayor of the Inner Circle (infield) and has been coming to both races each season for 12 years. Located between Turns 3 & 4 a few rows from inside wall and on the infield road course, his compound of 5 to 7 RVs consists of some unique features.
A well-lit bar where Silly Trivia is played, ring on a string toss and stand up the bottle games, cornhole, ladder ball, Connect 4 in table top and 3’ x 4’ versions, free temporary tattoos, a Vegas-themed photo booth and an ample supply of various forms of hydration.
Originally from Akron, NY, Packman has resided in Las Vegas for 27 years.
“We used to come to the races and sit in the stands,” said Packman, leaning at the L-shaped bar designed and created for their spot. “My wife, Brenda, and I looked past the track and into the infield and wanted to experience the whole weekend and stay right here.
“So, we reached out to the track for details, rented an RV from a local place and checked it all out. We’ve been doing the RV infield deal ever since for both races each year because it is the best way to experience the race weekend.
“I give the track a lot of credit for the improvements they made through the years. They took out the gravel areas and paved them, changed the layout for RV spots to be more effective and have really come to understand what it takes to make it a great experience.”
So, why would a few thousand people pass on the Las Vegas casino hotel experience and stay right at the track?
Jennifer Stefano is the Vice President of Marketing at LVMS and gave some very valid reasons why friends and families come stay at the track.
“We bring the Vegas party to the Inner Circle – formerly the Infield,” she said. “We revamped our camping experience by bringing in goat yoga, brunch, disco-themed nights, mini golf and many other activities.
“This is their home away from home for the weekend and we provide all the amenities for a week of fun. We try to give them every reason to stay on property.
Some of those improved amenities are a Camper Appreciation Party, Dog Runs, Welcome Goodie Bag, Tech Talk with a NASCAR Rep, Driver Appearances, Ice Delivery and shuttles to other activity hubs.
As a bonus, Inner Circle residents are treated to an array of take-offs and landings by various types of aircraft from the Nellis Air Force base located just down the road. A highlight is watching the famed Thunderbirds practice their maneuvers.
One of the favorite activities are campers walking or bicycling around the infield to meet their fellow “racing residents.” That was how Packman came up with ideas to improve his group’s experience.
“We used to pack small coolers and sling them over our shoulders and do walk abouts,” he said.” After a few years of meeting others and doing that, I started to get some ideas and wanted to make our area a destination place for others.
“The bar is a hit because it’s lit up, well decorated and a welcoming atmosphere. We’ve developed friendships with other campers and it’s like a mini-reunion every race.
“We meet people from many other states and everyone has a good time, but not an out-of-hand one. Let’s just say, we got to know security very quickly when we first started all this.
“We have a good understanding of the rules and expectations, and they know we’re not here to cause problems.
“We’re here for the racing, to have fun and coming here staying right here on the Inner Circle makes for a great experience.”
Spend an hour with him and it quickly becomes apparent how Packman earned his moniker as the official unofficial Mayor of the Inner Circle.
As people walk or bike pass, they call out his and Brenda’s name, stop to say hello and say how glad they are to see them back in the same spot. He’ll also help people park their rigs, offer advice or knowledge of what’s where and what’s going on.
“Being here for more than a decade, you meet some people,” he said with a laugh. “We were new at this, too, and we learned how to – and not to – do things.
“It’s all good and as more and more people have started staying here, we’ve made friends with many of them. I’m not sure about the Mayor part, but at least they’re not calling me other names.”