SBD/Issue 59/Events & Attractions

Fans, Entertainment Stand Out At Sprint Cup Awards In Vegas

Brooks And Dunn One Of Three Musical
Performances At Vegas NASCAR Awards
Fans and entertainment were the "big difference being in Las Vegas for the annual Sprint Cup awards ceremony" Friday and, "overall, it was an enjoyable night," according to Bob Pockrass of NASCAR SCENE. The speeches "were bland as usual, but that's to be expected." Three different musical acts with "very different sounds -- country's Brooks and Dunn, British folk/alternative's David Gray and the electric string ensemble Escala -- made the four-hour event much more pleasurable." Meanwhile, the fans "sat in the back of the ballroom" at the Wynn Las Vegas, and Pockrass wrote NASCAR "should have the fans sit at tables lining either a middle aisle or a side aisle and when the drivers walk to the stage, they can go by and high-five the fans and acknowledge their presence" (, 12/5). Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority President & CEO Rossi Ralenkotter said of the event, "This has been a big winner for our city, and it couldn't have come at a better time." Ralenkotter: "We wanted to create more synergy and access for the (NASCAR) fan base, and we did that. We're looking for a long-term relationship, and the event will get even bigger and more NASCAR fans will travel here to enjoy it." NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France said that he was "pleased with the banquet, which set a record with about 1,500 attendees, including 200 fans." France: "Our first year in Las Vegas was a remarkable success for NASCAR, our fans and the city. We were welcomed with open arms and made to feel right at home" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 12/5).

SMART MOVE:'s Pete Pistone noted the awards ceremony moved to Las Vegas after 28 years in Manhattan, and because Vegas is a "much less formal setting," the drivers "seem to be letting loose much more than they did the last few years in Manhattan." A roast of driver Jimmie Johnson last week "had shots being fired to uproarious laughter from everyone on hand and the annual 'Victory Lap,' held through Times Square during previous NYC visits but moved to the Strip in Vegas this year, was packed with thousands of fans trying to catch a glimpse of their favorite drivers -- and their cars -- in a very unique setting." Pistone: "The perfect foundation has been laid to build a tradition that can be as exciting and entertaining as any race on the schedule" (, 12/4). The AP's Tim Dahlberg wrote, "NASCAR crashed Sin City this week, and the only question the drivers had was what took so long?" (AP, 12/4).'s Ryan McGee wrote the "recharged Champions Week has easily lived up to expectations" (, 12/4). The AP's Jenna Fryer wrote N.Y. "worked for NASCAR for nearly three decades," but the "logistics often were complicated, and the electricity had seemed to fizzle out several years ago giving what was supposed to be a celebration a very starchy feeling." But Las Vegas "has changed all that" (AP, 12/3).

FOLLOWING ALONG: Several NASCAR writers documented Friday’s event on Twitter. ESPN’s Terry Blount wrote, “This would be so much better if NASCAR just let the drivers talk instead of read a script.” Blount added driver Juan Pablo Montoya was "great because he didn't read a script.” USA Today’s Nate Ryan: “Good take from @dennyhamlin...freewheeling speech was reminder of why he's become so quotable b/c he's comfortable in his skin.” More Ryan: “This is my seventh #nascar awards ceremony but first not in a balcony. Miss view but this ballroom stunning. Five gargantuan video screens.” NASCAR Scene’s Bob Pockrass: “The stage for banquet is huge.” ESPN’s Marty Smith: “Rick Hendrick's speech is one for the ages. That man is a leader of men rarely found, and even more rarely known" (, 12/4).

TAPE DELAY: The DALY PLANET blog noted that the "opening portion of the Sprint Cup Series banquet" on Speed was "delayed on TV by one hour," from 9:00pm ET to 10:00pm. TV viewers that "tuned-in at 9PM to see the banquet live were being entertained by Speed's Steve Byrnes and Jeff Hammond," while Twitter users "were being treated to descriptions of Frank Caliendo's opening remarks and then the live music of Brooks and Dunn." The "two recorded portions combined had taken such a long time," that Jimmie Johnson "did not appear until after" 1:00am on the broadcast. Meanwhile, hosts Mike Joy and Krista Voda were "perfect in their roles," and Byrnes and Hammond "had fun." It was a "welcoming vibe from the telecast." Brooks and Dunn "hit a home run," but Gray and Escala "did not" (, 12/5).

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