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NASCAR takes over Las Vegas for Championship Week’s activities

After 26 years of holding its annual season-ending awards banquet at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, this year NASCAR has moved the Sprint Cup Series Awards ceremony to Las Vegas. The banquet will be held Friday night and will be broadcast live from the Wynn Hotel and Casino on Speed TV, beginning at 9 p.m.
Comedian and impressionist Frank Caliendo, well known for his weekly appearances on the Fox TV NFL pre-game show, will serve as the host of this year’s telecast. Serving as the event’s emcees will be two people highly recognized by NASCAR fans, Mike Joy and Krista Voda.

Though Friday night’s awards ceremony is the traditional focal point, a full roster of events is planned, beginning with today’s Chasers for Charity Fan Fest at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This event includes a free admission fan event, plus a charity roast of 2009 Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. The Fan Fest is preceded by a red carpet arrival ceremony of the drivers and other celebrities in attendance. There will also be a display of historic race cars, live music and a raffle.
The Charity Roast takes place in the Speedway’s Blackjack Club, located in the infield media center. The roast includes a private reception with Champion Jimmie Johnson and the other drivers who made up this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup field. For those fans attending, the admission is $250 per ticket. Might be worth it to see Jimmie Johnson roasted. Wonder what they will have to say; Johnson doesn’t give them a lot of material to work with. At any rate the proceeds will go to Speedway Children’s Charities.
Tomorrow is the annual Myers Brothers Awards Banquet. The ceremony honors outstanding performances in the various NASCAR series, including those of drivers, crew members, teams and industry icons.
Then Friday night the big checks are given out to the drivers who made this year’s Chase. Funny thing is that though there are 12 drivers in the Chase, only the top 10 participate in the award ceremony. I guess it’s the recession, gotta save a buck where you can.
Speaking of saving a buck, when Jimmie Johnson won last year’s championship, he received a check for $7,225,603. In the ceremony following the final race at Homestead-Miami they showed off an oversized check representing his championship and the check was for about $6.5 million. It will be interesting to see the official amount Johnson and his team receive at the banquet Friday night.
In keeping with the Las Vegas showbiz atmosphere, in addition to comedian Frank Caliendo, comedian John Pinetta will return for the third straight year to yuk it up with the sport’s finest and their significant others. Two musical acts will supply additional star power for the series Las Vegas debut: singer/songwriter David Gray, a Grammy nominated artist with sales of more than 12 million albums and Escala, a female electric string quartet which emerged during last year’s “Britain’s Got Talent” TV show.
Frank Caliendo said from a press conference in Las Vegas last week, “I’m excited to be hosting this year’s awards ceremony and look forward to a great evening celebrating the 2009 NASCAR season.”
At a media teleconference prior to heading to Las Vegas for this week’s activities, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick was lauded for his organization’s first, second and third place finishes in this year’s Chase and driver Jimmie Johnson’s fourth consecutive championship. Asked what goals he has that he would like to fulfill next, Hendrick replied, “You know the goal going into next year will be to win races and get all four cars in the Chase. I think my priority right now is the 88 team. We’re working on them to try to make that team stronger.
“I feel good about the fact that we’re going into the year with virtually no changes. You know, seeing the competition get stronger, like the Childress cars, and the Gibbs cars are there all year anyway, and the Penske cars. It’s going to be a dog fight. You know, we know we’re going to have to be on our toes and work hard now in the off season.”

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