December 03, 2011
The Sprint Cup Series' Champion's week came to an end on Friday night with the annual awards ceremony in Las Vegas. Well, officially, anyway. There's probably a handful of NASCAR-types still partying as you read this.
Didn't stay up for the banquet Friday night? No problem, we've got you covered.
• Speed led off its coverage with a red carpet special similar to a Hollywood awards show preview. The key takeaway? Yes, Amy, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s girlfriend, is real.
• When Tony Stewart was introduced at the head table, Jimmie Johnson walked out — much to everyone's surprise — and feigned surprise that his name wasn't on the dinner card. That Jimmie, he sure is vanilla, eh?
• Host Reba McEntire was solid and got in a couple of zingers including this one:
"Earlier I was out front and saw Kyle Busch drive right past the valet," McEntire said. "Well, I guess NASCAR officials are only allowed to park his car."
(Busch wasn't an official honoree at the banquet as he finished outside the top 10 in points.)
• When Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski were introduced, they were emphasized as the winners of the wild card that went to the two drivers with the most wins in 11th-2oth place in the points standings before the Chase. However, Hamlin and Keselowski were 11th and 12th in the points and would have gotten into the Chase anyway under the previous top 12 format.
• For you east coast NASCAR fans, it must have been really weird to see Johnson speaking before midnight.
• Robert Weaver, the Ice Cream Man, won the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. Weaver, an 83-year-old Talladega native, won for his over 50 years of volunteerism for the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.
• One of the reasons that the NASCAR banquet can be a snoozer — yes, even more so than your typical race at Pocono — is the scripted speeches for all of the drivers honored. Mad props to Keselowski, who clearly went on stage and winged it. It was compelling and well done, simply because it was clear that it wasn't off a teleprompter or a page of notes. Plus, he was even able to joke about his past history with Carl Edwards.
• Matt Kenseth said that if he would have known that there wasn't going to be a comedian, he would have told some jokes. We all missed out. And he thanked Ollie's Bargain Outlet in his speech and snuck in a toilet-related Fluidmaster joke. You don't hear that every day.
• During his speech, Edwards compared being honored (again) for finishing second as akin to sitting in the dentist's chair. Edwards handled the remarks about the championship battle with class all throughout the evening and he'll be at the head table very shortly.
• Sprint CEO Dan Hesse announced that the company has extended its sponsorship of the Cup Series through 2016.
• Stewart, who shared the head table with his former crew chief Darian Grubb, thanked Grubb for his commitment and dedication to Stewart-Haas since the organization's inception. Stewart's car was on display off to the side of the head table, but unfortunately didn't change to a Mobil 1 paint scheme two-thirds of the way through the evening.
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