thur_top12drivers_featured

champion’s week: do you see what I see?

Thursday was decidedly less cab filled than Wednesday. I walked next door to the Bellagio for the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon. My table, number 31 (my fave number because it’s my birthday), was the designated NASCAR Citizen Journalists Media Corps table. We were a couple tables behind the Joe Gibbs Racing table where JD Gibbs and Kyle Busch were seated.
NASCAR NMPA Myers Bros Awards Luncheon salad
If you watched the awards ceremony then you already know that Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked up his 9th straight Most Popular Driver award and Champion Crew Chief Darian Grubb gave a wonderful, heartfelt speech that brought tears to my eyes. But I wouldn’t let those tears fall because I was wearing mascara for once and I didn’t want to look like a sad clown.

Lunch was tasty, especially the caesar salad, and the proceedings moved pretty quickly. Before I knew it it was time to head to the media availability room.

Banners for the top-12 drivers lined the walls of the Bellagio ballroom

Banners for the top-12 drivers lined the walls of the Bellagio ballroom

My view of the stage

My view of the stage

Darian Grubb, winner of the Champions Crew Chief Award, speaks during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at the Bellagio on Dec. 1, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nev. (Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Darian Grubb, winner of the Champions Crew Chief Award, speaks during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at the Bellagio on Dec. 1, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nev. (Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The menu for the NASCAR NMPA Myers Bros Awards Luncheon

The menu for the NASCAR NMPA Myers Bros Awards Luncheon

The main course

The main course

Dessert!

Dessert!

I had a list of drivers that I wanted/needed to interview that day and I was determined to get to all of them. There was a 45 minute window to get everything that I needed and I watched the door as people entered waiting for drivers to show up. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. arrived there wasn’t anyone already stationed at his chair so I pounced! I finally got to speak to him and I didn’t pee my pants. No, seriously, I had to go to the ladies room, but I held it and got to ask him the 10 questions from Inside the Actor’s Studio. It was so worth it, he had some great answers. I have to say that this was another full-circle sort of moment because Dale Jr. is a huge part of why I even have this blog at all. If I hadn’t become a fan of him back in 2001 I wouldn’t be doing any of this, so I was thrilled to finally have my, albeit brief, moment with him.

After that my process was basically to look for anyone that didn’t have a million people around them and try to get to them next before someone else did. The traditional media types usually just crowd around a person and ask them questions in a big group. This method doesn’t work for me when trying to ask drivers the ITAS questions. You can’t go from one person asking about if there’ll be changes in their team next year to me asking them what their favorite curse word is. So it’s funny to me when someone comes up while I’m asking my questions and puts their digital recorder in front of the driver too, when what I’m asking them will not help them out at all.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin

I got to talk to Jeff Gordon and tell him that I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area too, and how I grew up only 20 minutes away from where he was born. I interviewed everyone on my list, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr, and got to ask Richard Childress the questions too since he was on hand after winning the Buddy Shuman award. So be on the lookout for all of these interviews in the coming weeks. The only driver I didn’t get was Carl Edwards, who continues to be my white whale. I have no idea when I’ll be able to get to talk to that guy. He always seems to elude me at the last minute!
:)

Once the interview time was up all of the drivers were shuffled off to get changed into their firesuits for the Victory Lap down The Strip. I walked across the street to the front of Planet Hollywood where the cars were lined up to start the lap. There was also a stage setup where Robin Leach would introduce the drivers and other special guests. Those special guests were the No. 99 Aflac team who won the Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award, Andy Lally the Sunoco Rookie of the Year, and Alan Gustafson who won the MOOG Chassis Part Problem Solver of the Year Award.

Robin Leach

TV personality Robin Leach chats with media

Top-12 cars ready for the Victory Lap to begin

Top-12 cars ready for the Victory Lap to begin

The women from the

The women from the Elvis show (at Aria) performed the National Anthem prior to the start of the Victory Lap.

It was super cold out there on the street and to make it more annoying little sprinkles of rain would come down from time to time. Luckily it didn’t pour down rain or else I would have been seriously screwed since I was without an umbrella or hood. When the drivers were announced they walked past their cars and up to the stage. I stood below the stage with the small group of professional photographers to take pictures. I took a bunch of shots of the guys on stage and while they all got into their cars I reviewed the images I’d just taken. I noticed something going on with Dale Earnhardt Jr’s crotch area. Take a look and see if you see it too.

The top-12 drivers are introduced to the fans lining The Strip for the Victory Lap

The top-12 drivers are introduced to the fans lining The Strip for the Victory Lap

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I know, amazing, right? I’m not going to to lie and say that I had this crisis of conscience about whether or not I was going to show it to you guys. I HAD to show it to you. If anything he should be proud, amirightladies???? :) hehe. I thought it was interesting, I mean, when it’s cold outside doesn’t it have the OPPOSITE effect on those things?? That’s what I’ve heard.

My favorite thing was showing the photo to people and then seeing their reaction when they finally noticed “it.” Hilarious. And yes, I do realize that by posting this image I’ll probably never get another interview with Dale but it’s not like that was going to happen anyway. Again, I think he should be proud.
:)

It also explains why when the pro photogs around me where asking for Dale to step forward he wouldn’t.

Carl Edwards takes a quick picture with his award winning pit crew

Carl Edwards takes a quick picture with his award winning pit crew

I caught a ride to NASCAR After the Lap with the awesome Edelmen PR group (they do work for Office Depot) who were catching a ride with the No.99 crew. I’m so thankful to them for letting me tag along. I would have hated to of had to walk to the Hard Rock Hotel.

Once we were at the Hard Rock we went up to the VIP area and watched the show from there. I snacked on a yummy cheeseburger slider and some cheese & crackers. NASCAR After the Lap lived up to the hype and was very funny but with one little blip. Why did Kurt Busch make that dumb remark at Trevor Bayne’s expense? Saying that he came “from out of the closet.” What the hell was that? Ugh. So stupid.

Overall though I think Clint Bowyer needs to make sure he’s in the top-12 next year, he would have made it EVEN better. Jeff Gordon did help things along when broke down and finally showed everyone his breakdancing skills.

Tony Stewart makes his entrance at NASCAR After the Lap

Tony Stewart makes his entrance at NASCAR After the Lap

Jeff Gordon shows off his breakdancing skills during NASCAR After the Lap at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Dec. 1, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nev. (Credit: David Becker/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Gordon shows off his breakdancing skills during NASCAR After the Lap at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Dec. 1, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nev. (Credit: David Becker/Getty Images for NASCAR)

After “After the Lap” I went to Starbucks and then attempted to see what was going on in The Lounge where The Stewies were being held. I couldn’t stay long because the smell of cigarette smoke was grossing me out. So I went back to my hotel for the night.


Up next… The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony!

(all photos credit The Fast and the Fabulous, unless otherwise noted)

7 Comments

  1. Melody
    December 7, 2011 at 2:16 PM ·

    OMG!! OMG!!!! I repeat, OMG!!! Wow, Valli, you really scooped the whole world with that photo!!!! Thank you for not having a crisis of conscience or worrying about getting ‘black balled’ (so to speak) from the press group, lol….that is just amazing!!!!!!!

  2. Ella
    December 7, 2011 at 2:54 PM ·

    Such a fun piece – loved peeking over your shoulder during the events. The picture? I haven’t stopped snickering…..

  3. December 7, 2011 at 3:17 PM ·

    OMG Valli that was the best picture EVAR! (And I’m not a Junior fan at all…just don’t ask Tara that LOL) That Amy is sure one lucky girl ;-)

    I am enjoying your commentary. Can’t wait to read more.

  4. sherril
    December 7, 2011 at 7:41 PM ·

    me thinks mr winkie was happy to be in vegas…. LOL!!!

  5. Marcy
    December 7, 2011 at 11:32 PM ·

    Valli – get that photo made into 24×48 posters and you will be a very wealthy woman.

    ((Cough)) ((Cough)) Who says drivers cannot go right. Junior, “dressed” hard right.

  6. December 8, 2011 at 6:50 AM ·

    hehe! love your posts and your work! i know how much you love what you do and it really shows!! p.s. thanks for the photo! ;)
    *

  7. Kristen
    December 9, 2011 at 9:31 AM ·

    Oh Valli you silly girl he just has a roll of quarters in his pocket for the “easy” slots by the doors. LMAO. Boooiiinnnnngggg!

    Kurt not in the best frame of mind that weekend, surprised he didn’t eat his foot more often actually. Thats what flying coach does to a driver.