NASCAR coming to a slot machine near you

Your modern-day NASCAR slot machine is a lot more than:

Lemon. Lemon. Jimmie Johnson.

The first official NASCAR slot machine is coming to casinos in mid-2013.

Clint Bowyer, one of five Sprint Cup drivers featured in Bally Technologies' "one-of-a-kind gaming experience," took the machine for a few mid-morning spins after it was unveiled in Las Vegas last Tuesday. "Any time you get up in Vegas before 10 a.m., it's early. But it's a pretty cool game," he told Playbook in a telephone interview.

For gamblers, Bowyer said, the machine offers more than just a simple press of button or pull of a lever and the chance to win money. "They did a great job with the graphics. They really put you inside the car. The seat rumbles. There are a lot of options to choose from ... pit stops and celebratory burnouts," he said. "Our fan base is very loyal and I know they're going to love it."

The other drivers competing on a virtual-gaming level against Bowyer on each play are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Johnson. Bettors will choose the driver they want to compete as on each play by sitting at his designated machine, then watch the ensuing digitally-created race on a 32-inch screen display while sitting in a "Pro Surround Chair." That's quite a long way from being hunched over on a stool and dropping quarters into a pull-lever machine while nursing free drinks.

Does Bowyer plan to bet on himself to win each time he plays? "Hell, yes," he said. "Of course. You're always betting on you. If you're betting on someone else against you, that's a bad thing." And if Bowyer's fans lose while betting that he'll win? "They're going to be bummed out," he said. "But that happens from time to time."

Bowyer speaks from experience. He is fifth in the Chase standings (40 points behind leader Brad Keselowski) and was bummed after getting caught up in a wreck at Talladega on Sunday and finishing 23rd.

He and the other drivers quickly hopped on board during the development of the slot machine. "They thought it would be a good way to connect with their fans," said NASCAR vice president of licensing and consumer products Blake Davidson, who added there's research showing a crossover between NASCAR fans and casino players. "The growth of gaming has been pretty tremendous over the past several years. With the sheer numbers involved, we have the ability to connect with a lot of people and get them excited about NASCAR, make them want to become NASCAR fans ... and go to a race."

While this is NASCAR's first officially-licensed slot machine, NASCAR races and drivers have had gambling-based sponsors for many years. "It's definitely different to see your face plastered on a slot machine," Bowyer said.

Another game, Virtual Racing NASCAR, allows slot machine players throughout a casino to choose between eight drivers (the five above plus Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr.) and win non-cash prizes. It debuted in Las Vegas last week, as well.

"We've had other opportunities over the past seven or eight years but we were blown away by Bally's technology," Davidson said. "It took us a long time to decide to do this -- so we didn't want to go with the lowest common denominator. The machine is a lot like a NASCAR race. There's sensory overload. If [the slot machine] is not authentic, our fans will let us know."

"You're going to love it," Bowyer added.

At least until we lose.