Recapping NASCAR Champion’s Week in Las Vegas

Champion’s Week from Las Vegas was a success once again. There were multiple honors handed out, burnouts performed, tuxedos worn and even some surprise celebrity guests showed up to pay homage to their friends and a couple champions. So let’s recap all that went down in Sin City to close the book on the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.


Burnouts on The Strip:

The annual event, NASCAR Victory Lap, was met with great admiration from the fans unsurprisingly. All 16 Chase drivers drive down the Las Vegas Strip in their race cars with a lucky passenger in each car. While driving down, thousands of fans are lined up to snap a picture of their favorite driver inside their vehicle. Once they got to the big intersection, burnouts were performed—an awesome sight to see in the middle of an always busy city.


Myers Brothers Award Luncheon:

In front of about 500 people, the late Betty Jane France was honored with the prestigious NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Award for her decades of philanthropic work. Her daughter and ISC CEO, Lesa France Kennedy, accepted the award on her behalf.

Chase Elliott formally accepted the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, Jack Roush, who has owned a team for over 30 years, was honored with the Buddy Shuman Award which recognizes individuals who have helped the sport grow and the No. 48 team was named the Most Valuable Pit Crew.

There were many, many other awards handed out to Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and more.


Things Get Rowdy After the Lap:

When anything is hosted by NBC’s Rutledge Wood and Guy Fieri, you know you’re going to be in for a treat. And “After the Lap” was no different. Austin Dillon took a jab at Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott had some tequila (after turning 21 the day before), to name a couple fun moments.


The Banquet:

Denny Hamlin really (no, I mean really) had to use the bathroom, Tony Stewart reflected on his career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Most Popular Driver Award for the 14th straight season (despite missing half the season) and host Jay Mohr had some funny things to say.

“Biggest story of the season in my opinion was the retirement of a NASCAR icon … Brian Scott,” he said.

Oh Jay, never change.

All the drivers, some owners and others gave their speeches. Loved ones lost in the NASCAR community were honored and a good time was had by all.


Surprise Guests:

Much of the week, as it’s already been talked about, was to honor three-time champion Stewart, as he has now retired from the sport after the better part of two decades behind the wheel.

His idol growing up and legend, A.J. Foyt, showed up at NASCAR After The Lap, as the two traded some jabs. His competitors also thanked Tony for all the memories (good and bad) throughout the years. But that wasn’t the end of the surprises for Smoke.

Pearl Jam’s lead singer, Eddie Vedder, honored his friend in Stewart and gave a touching tribute. But then, Vedder was given a surprise of his own. As he called Stewart on stage to speak, Rick Hendrick stepped up to the mic to make an announcement. A donation of $1.8 million from the Motorsports Group was made in Stewart’s name to EB Research Partnership. They are a global non-profit co-founded by Vedder and dedicated to curing EB or Epidermolysis Bullosa, which is a devastating skin disorder affecting children.

Vedder, unprompted, said it was “un-f******-believable,” on live television, garnering laughs from the crowd at the Wynn Hotel.

“I’ll pay that fine,” Vedder said, only to have Stewart respond, “Finally, someone who’s actually paying my fine!”

But the night was all about the seven-time champion. Johnson had another G.O.A.T. introduce him for his speech: Michael Phelps. That’s right, the 23-time gold medalist and 28-time Olympic medalist introduced his longtime friend in Johnson. Solid opening act, right?

Johnson’s speech ended with “I will never be The King or the Intimidator. I’m just a guy from California who always wanted to race.” But now he’s arguably the best to have ever driven a stock car, and he will always be in the history books.

NOTE: Monster Energy was announced as the new entitlement sponsor for the premier series in NASCAR, overshadowing the whole weekend. The announcement came in the middle of the day on Friday, and drivers gave a send-off to Sprint in their banquet speeches as well.