2011 Champion’s Week in Las Vegas is next week (squee!!) and some of you have asked about what opportunities you have to interact and see drivers. So here’s a post about it, along with a few suggestions on how to maximize your time.
All times are local (PST). Let’s go day-by-day, shall we?
— Wednesday, November 30th:
This year Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Champion’s Week Kickoff Event will be held on Fremont Street (in previous years it was held at the speedway). The event is free and starts at 2:15 p.m. It will feature a Newlywed Game-type competition among the top-12 drivers. Drivers will be randomly paired by drawings in groups of two, and will answer questions about each other mirroring the famous Newlywed Game style. Each team will also be paired with a fan. The winning drivers and fans will receive suite passes for next year’s NASCAR weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
MY ADVICE: Get there EARLY. Early is key throughout the week. It’s your best chance to get a good spot to see things & people. Also, be sure to keep your camera on you at all times. Since this is the first time this event is being held on Fremont Street I don’t know what the setup will be like, so get there early and keep your eyes peeled.
— Thursday, December 1st:
The first event of the day is the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, the place where Dale Earnhardt Jr. picks up his Most Popular Driver award. It takes place at the Bellagio in a ballroom at 11am.
MY ADVICE: Get there early and hang around in the hallways. Last year I saw a handful of people doing this and I think it’s a great opportunity to see drivers & NASCAR personalities. To get to the ballroom just follow all the signs leading towards the ballrooms, it’ a windy semi-long path from the front of the hotel. Once the luncheon is over the drivers have to cross the hallway to get to the media room for interviews so that’s an opportunity to get autographs or to just yell to them that you love them.
After the media session, the drivers will all be beaded to the Strip for the NASCAR Victory Lap. It begins at 3 p.m. and starts in front of Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino and ends at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The guys will drive their cars north on Las Vegas Blvd, do their burnouts in the intersection of Spring Mountain Road & S. Las Vegas Blvd (the strip) next to Treasure Island, The Venetian, and the Wynn. They’ll stop for a pit stop in front of the Bellagio, and then another burnout at the intersection of S. Las Vegas Blvd & E. Harmon Avenue.
MY ADVICE: There are a ton of places to watch the Victory Lap on the strip, but you might want to think about hanging out on E. Harmon Avenue. That’s the road the guys will take to get to the Hard Rock Hotel, and last year I noticed that there were only like 10 people hanging out at that end of the route. Or if you start out watching them on the Strip, hightail it over to Harmon after they’re out of your sight. Taxis aren’t going to be helpful AT ALL during this time of day because the strip will be shut down basically during the Victory Lap which backs up traffic EVERYWHERE around the strip. So make sure to plan ahead.
The 2011 NASCAR After The Lap sponsored by Ford and Coca-Cola takes place at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino beginning at 4:30pm. Which is at the end of the Victory Lap route. Now, you could bypass watching the Victory Lap on The Strip and just go straight to The Coca-Cola Fan Zone (free admission), in the parking lot of the Hard Rock, where there’s a ton of activities, experiences, food, contests & whatnot going to tide you over until the drivers arrive. There’ll be grandstands setup so that you can watch the drivers arrive in comfort.
To get into After the Lap you must purchase tickets, they’re only $20 and they’re still available. I don’t think there’s really a bad seat in that place. This is a GREAT event to attend because it’s meant especially for the fans and the drivers are ALWAYS in rare form, bringing the funny.
MY ADVICE: Right after “After the Lap,” The Stewies, Tony Stewart’s awards show with co-host Matt Yocum, takes place in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. It’s set to start at 6:30pm. It’s kind of an awkward layout, or at least it was last year, so I recommend sitting at the bar in the middle of the room and watching from there otherwise you’ll be standing the whole time smooshed in with other people. Make sure you vote, too!
— Friday, December 2nd:
The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony will be held at the Wynn Las Vegas and it’s set to start at 6pm. This means you’ll want to be in the casino lobby by 5pm at the latest. Maybe even a smudge earlier, people start walking the red carpet around that time, and usually everyone is asked to be seated in the ballroom at least 15 minutes before the show is set to start. Don’t give up if it’s like 5:48 because people usually show up right up against the start time.
In NASCAR’s press release they mentioned a “Fan reception & Red Carpet walk prior to the awards ceremony.” I don’t know what that is, and I didn’t ask them what that is before I wrote this (but I still will and get back any details I find out), but I’m assuming that if there’s anything special happening for the fans they’re going to fit it in within the Wynn near the ballroom. In years past fans have lined the hallways leading up to the ballroom and at a certain point they’re held back from going further and from even seeing where the actual red carpet is (right outside the doors to the ballroom) so maybe they’re moving the red carpet closer to the casino to give you more, but again I’ll find out for sure what the deal is.
I can still give you advice on where to be. In general, you’re going to want to hang out at the Wynn. It’s a great place to people watch, especially on Friday. So take a look at the map of the Wynn (here’s the PDF) and note where the restaurant Red 8 and the store called Shades are located. You’re going to want to be in that vicinity.
Also, another week-long general tip is to gamble. Hey, drivers are just like you and me and I remember hearing about Jimmie Johnson staying up ’til 3 in the morning gambling at the Wynn. So brush up on your poker skills and be prepared to stay up all night.