Fear and loathing in Las Vegas? Bet on it. Those who follow the sport can only hope no one is injured – or worse – during today’s race, which is expected to turn into a wreckfest of record proportions. “All I’m going to do is see if they can get GM to put some airbags in there and put pillows on the outside,” driver Tony Stewart said. The blame can be shared by many, but here are the facts as simply as can be stated: Vegas officials redesigned the track, increasing the banking and repaving the surface. Those two factors have made for increased speeds. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had conditions like this,” he said. “I don’t have any idea what (Sunday) is going to be like.” Everyone will find out at 1:30 p.m. today, when the green flag will drop on the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, where a swirl of controversy and outright fear has enveloped the speedway this weekend. LAS VEGAS – Imagine screaming into a turn, trying to pass another car at close to 200 mph. It’s difficult under normal circumstances. But even the top drivers in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series are having a hard time dealing with the conditions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – conditions Greg Biffle compared to driving on black ice. During a preseason test at the speedway, drivers suffered many blown tires because manufacturer Goodyear’s current compound couldn’t handle the added pressure that came with higher speeds. As a result, Goodyear decided to bring a rock-hard tire to this weekend’s races. But a stiffer, tougher tire compound means the drivers have no grip. The lack of grip makes for more wrecks, because the drivers lose control of the car. There have been approximately 25-30 racing accidents between the Nextel Cup and Busch Series cars so far this weekend, including a track-record 12 cautions in Saturday’s Busch race. Five Cup cars wrecked in qualifying alone. “If you look in the last 36 hours and look how many cars got crashed, if I were car owners, I would send a bill to the race track,” said Stewart, who has been the most critical of the changes this weekend. “They’re the ones that started the chain of events. “Look at how many top-10 teams and top-10 drivers crashed today. What are they going to say, we all forgot how to drive?” But Stewart has also slammed Goodyear, saying that the tire was the worst one on which he’d ever driven. “We all know Goodyear’s motto,” he said. “As long as they don’t blow tires and as long as they don’t get bad press because they’re blowing tires, they’re happy. They couldn’t care less about the rest of it. “They don’t care how hard the tire is.” Goodyear’s Greg Stucker responded: “We stand by what we did, and if we had all the same data, we’d do the same thing over. We’ve got to do what we think is right for the whole field, not for just one or two guys.” Stewart said he understood why speedway officials wanted to re-do the track: to make more exciting racing, and in turn, sell tickets. It clearly worked, as a sellout crowd of 160,000 is expected today, and NASCAR announced a record Busch race attendance of 110,000 on Saturday. “No one wants a situation like we had two weeks ago at California (Speedway) where the place is half-empty,” Stewart said, referring to the Fontana track. But Stewart said he would have preferred Las Vegas officials confer with NASCAR about changes to the track instead of “trying to play God.” LVMS did not respond to requests to make general manager Chris Powell available for comment on Saturday. Powell also declined comment to ESPN, which was broadcasting Saturday’s Busch race, saying he wanted to let the racing speak for itself. “If you want the racing to get closer, build a half-mile track,” Stewart said. “Last time I checked, Bristol is the most sought-after ticket on the circuit with a three- or four-year waiting list. I mean, where’s the light switch? Is it not coming on anywhere? “If I had a billion dollars, I’d go build another Bristol and laugh all the way to the bank. But they’re not smart enough to do that.” Driver Jeff Burton called the conditions “treacherous” and Kasey Kahne said “it’s like you’re trying to crash every lap.” Burton, though, said there wasn’t much that could be done about it. “I wish we didn’t have to run these tires, but burying your head in the sand and acting like we weren’t going to have a tire problem wasn’t going to fix anything,” he said. “If we brought that same tire back and blew right front tires, what would we have said then? There’s no other choice.” Expect to see plenty of wrecks and plenty of frustrated drivers in today’s race. As for the favorites? Anybody who thinks they can finish the race. Burton might fit into that category. “If it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s supposed to be challenging,” he said. “When we have a tire issue, or a track with bunch of bumps or one that gets really slick, hell man, that’s what it’s about. “A minute to go, tie ballgame, do you want the ball or not? Give me the (darn) ball.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!