I woke up ridiculously early Wednesday morning to catch my 6am flight to Las Vegas. I received media credentials to attend the 2011 Motorsports Marketing Forum presented by Sports Business Journal/Daily. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get see the entire program for that day, but I wanted to get in as much as possible.
When I arrived in Vegas I headed straight to my hotel, The Cosmopolitan, to check-in. I love The Cosmopolitan. It’s smaller than a lot of the other hotels and it has a really cool modern but Old Hollywood/James Bond vibe. My room felt more like an apartment than a “hotel room.” It was comfortable and spacious. The little hallway between the front door and the bedroom was wide and didn’t feel dark & gloomy like other rooms I’ve been in.
I had the Terrace Studio which includes, you guessed it, a terrace. I didn’t get the fountain view which gives you a view of the Bellagio fountain, but my view of I-15, a sliver of the strip and McCarran Airport wasn’t bad at all. Plus there were two flat screen TVs, one across from my bed and one across from the living area where there was a little couch, coffee table & chair. The room is filled with books; artsy, funky books all published by Phaidon. Although, if you look in your nightstand hoping to find a copy of the Bible, you’re going to get a surprise. I found Poem of the Pillow and other stories a book about, and filled with, Japanese erotic art. I think that’s the perfect illustration of The Cosmopolitan’s (or “The Cosmo” as the locals call it) “Just the right amount of wrong” tagline.
After I dropped off my stuff in my room, I took my second cab of the day over to Caesar’s Palace for the Motorsports Marketing Forum. I wanted to attend because I wanted to hear from sponsors about what it is they’re looking for when they’re approached for sponsorship. I figured I could learn something that could help me in my attempt to secure sponsorship for this site, and maybe meet people & network. Well I didn’t do a lot of the latter because I wasn’t there that long, but I really enjoyed hearing from the marketing execs for Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Dodge and Ferrari. Did you know that Ferrari only sells 7,000 cars a year? I had no idea. Obviously I didn’t think they sold millions of cars a year but it feels like there’s enough rich people around to buy more than 7,000 Ferraris.
Anywho, I did catch up with Scott Lagasse Jr., who I interviewed in 2010 when he was racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He didn’t have a ride in Nationwide this year, but he’s planning on being back in it next year. He’s a very nice, smart guy and I hope we see a lot more of him in NASCAR.
I stayed long enough to listen to Coca-Cola’s marketing exec talk about the brand differences between regular Coke and Diet Coke. Diet Coke is for women, but they don’t market that to the NASCAR audience. They hit up awards shows and other things women are likely to watch. This annoyed me because half of all NASCAR fans are women. So, hello!?!
From there I took my third cab of the day over to the Wynn to pick up my media credentials. On my way over to the ballrooms I passed Brad Keselowski and his PR guy in the casino and we exchanged hellos. Credentials in hand and no sight of a shuttle around, I took my FOURTH cab of the day over to the Fremont Street Experience. Well technically he dropped my off at the Golden Nugget and I walked over to Fremont Street but it was like two steps away so no biggie.
Tons of fans had already lined up along the red carpet the top-12 drivers would later walk down. I found out later that people had been camped out since 7am that morning in order to get a good spot. You can’t say NASCAR fans aren’t dedicated.
I was there relatively early, as a media person at least, because I was able to land a front row seat to the Newlywed Game that would be played later on. Things didn’t get good until the drivers arrived and it was so much fun to watch them sign autographs for fans. Especially the kids. There was this little girl who couldn’t have been older than, like, 9-years-old who was decked out in Jeff Gordon gear. When he signed her No. 24 diecast she was in shock, and had the cutest expression of disbelief and happiness on her face after he left. It was definitely an ovary melting moment.
So after all of the drivers made it through the fan gauntlet, Bob Eubanks, the host of this weird little NASCAR version of the Newlywed Game, took the stage. I have a ton of happy memories of Mr. Eubanks hosting the original Newlywed Game and I am purposely choosing to only reflect on those when I look back at his career, I’m not including anything that happened on Wednesday. Why? Because he A.) had no idea who half of the drivers were (he didn’t know Jimmie was Jimmie Johnson and that Kyle & Kurt Busch were brothers), and B.) He couldn’t hear. Sometimes he was kinda cantankerous, especially when the drivers would try to talk back (not in a mean way, of course) to him. It was just awkward. Really awkward.
I didn’t like it when Matt Kenseth said the driver he’d never want to date his daughter would be Danica Patrick. I know he was just trying to be funny, but it came off as homophobic and I didn’t think that was funny at all. I was like “they do know that that’s not right, right??” That was a disappointing moment.
Then there was the “Who’s wife or significant other would win a wet t-shirt contest?” question. I was surprised that that even made it into the group of questions. Obviously no one was going to give a truly honest answer, but even still why put them in that position at all? So when it came to Dale Earnhardt Jr. to give the answer that he thought Kevin Harvick (his partner in the game) would say he said “My future wife.” Which made everyone go “WHAAA?” Dale has been dating Amy Reimann for two years now but you never see her at the track, so that has cast this whole veil of doubt about their relationship status. I was surprised, but I actually believed him. Now I know he’s said multiple times in the past that he doesn’t think that he wants to get married but I say never say never. You just never know. George Clooney has said that he’s not going to get married but I still think that he just might one day (to me, of course). LOL.
Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman ended up winning the whole thing. They are SO in sync with each other it’s really adorable. They know EVERYTHING about each other.
After the Newlywed Game was over I took my FIFTH cab of the day back to The Cosmo. It was actually a big, black SUV driven by a guy named Dutch. Instead of sitting in the back and being chauffeured, I sat up front and we had a fun conversation talking about everything from art to hotels to aliens. Yes, he believes that aliens exist and that ancient man created petroglyphs that depicted aliens. Who knew?
I relaxed and recharged in my room for a little while until it was time to go (SIXTH cab!) to the Evening Series party at Craftsteak in the MGM Grand. Craftsteak is Tom Colicchio’s restaurant and he was this year’s host celebrity chef. I felt like a dork wearing jeans, a black cardigan and flats. The invite said “festive casual” and I didn’t like how the dress I had brought expressly for that occasion looked on me, so I ditched it and tried to cobble together something “festive” and “casual.” I felt better when I saw some other people wearing jeans.
Colicchio was running around being an actual chef. He was cooking and making sure the food was getting out and put out in the right place, etc. He didn’t stand at the front door and greet everyone as they walked in they way Wolfgang Puck had the year before, so I didn’t get to meet him. But that wasn’t a big deal because I got to meet his food and it was SO effing good. The braised short rib and mashed potatoes were to die for delish and the monkey bread melted in your mouth. Some of the best food I’ve ever had, to date. Oh and the shrimp! Insane, I think I had like four of them at least. I spied a lot of the drivers walking around and mingling. Kevin & DeLana Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr (yes, with his girlfriend!), Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart were all there. All in all it was a good time chatting with people I knew or people I sort of knew but not well, and completely new people I’d just introduced myself to. All in all it was fun.
The party started at 6pm and ended at like 8pm, so when I got back to my hotel room (after taking my SEVENTH and final cab of the day) it wasn’t late at all but I was SO tired since I had been up since 4am. It wasn’t hard to go to sleep.
Up next… Thursday and the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, Victory Lap and After the Lap!
(all photos credit The Fast and the Fabulous, unless otherwise noted)