Kurt Busch performs a burnout during the NASCAR America Burnout Boulevard event on the Las Vega ...

Letting some of the biggest names in racing drive on the Strip? Years before the idea was even a twinkle in Formula One’s metaphorical eye, NASCAR did it — and without months of repaving work.

In 2009, to commemorate the move of NASCAR’s Champion’s Week to Las Vegas, the year’s dozen top drivers followed a 4-mile circuit on the Strip. For the inaugural Victory Lap, Cup winner Jimmie Johnson — and only Jimmie Johnson — was cleared to perform a celebratory burnout at the intersection with Spring Mountain Road.

The resulting 40 seconds of mayhem left spectators covered in smoke — and Johnson with a busted engine and a broken axle.

Most of the other drivers thumbed their noses at the rules by leaving some degree of rubber behind when making the U-turn to head back down the Strip, Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers performed full doughnuts, and a tradition was born.

Those blown engines became something of a recurring theme, as well.

The burnouts were such a hit, the following year NASCAR designated two sections of Las Vegas Boulevard where drivers were encouraged to blow smoke — a celebration attributed to Italian open-wheel racer Alex Zanardi.

Each December, thousands of fans lined the Strip, many of them crowding Spring Mountain to be showered in smoke and bits of rubber.

In 2018, the event was rechristened Burnout Blvd. and moved up to coincide with the new fall race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. By then, it had come to be thought of as NASCAR’s answer to the NBA’s slam dunk contest. NBC Sports broadcast the show, with announcers Kelli Stavast and Steve Letarte scoring each driver’s performance.

The following year, after one final smoke show, Burnout Blvd. and Champion’s Week relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where they’ve been ever since.

But at least we have the memories.

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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