Las Vegas had never seen anything like it. I’d never seen anything like it, and the thousands of fans lining the Strip certainly hadn’t, either. It was the first time that NASCAR’s Parade of Champions had their victory lap on the Strip yesterday as part of Champions Week. Twelve of the world’s best racecar drivers with their magnificent machines made for a great spectacle.
It was awesome and spectacular, thrilling and exciting. Wayne Newton was at the starting line near the MGM Grand as the drivers jumped into their cars when he dropped the green flag and the announced the immortal words, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” They made two pit stops for tire changes at Bally’s and at the Bellagio fountains. But it was the burnout complete with amazing doughnuts and wheelies at the Palazzo, Wynn, Treasure Island and Fashion Show intersection that had the funs cheering the loudest.
Jimmie Johnson, the reigning four-time consecutive NASCAR Spring Cup Series champion, should never have slid out from his car after doing his spins. He jumped out for the photographers and fans who wanted pictures, and then his car stalled and the engine overheated. He had to abandon it. A flatbed tow truck was on hand to haul it away, and a backup car was there for Jimmie to finish his victory lap.
Our contributing photographers Tom Donoghue and Erik Kabik were at different sections of the route for our extraordinary photo galleries. All the drivers have told me that they’ve had the best time here this week and hope that they will return here every year for the end of the NASCAR season’s festivities.
Earlier in the day, the Myers Brothers 2009 Awards were presented at Wayne Brady’s Theater in The Venetian: Raybestos 2009 NASCAR Rookie of the Year, Joey Logan; Chex Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Coors Light Pole Award, Mark Martin; and Tissot Pit Road Precision Award, Greg Biffle.
Last night, I helped Tony Stewart and Matt Yocum play celebrity host and announcer for their live, two-hour broadcast on NASCAR Sirius satellite radio with the annual Stewie Awards, a bold, brash production from the Masquerade Village stage at The Rio celebrating the strangest and funniest moments during the NASCAR year. Up for grabs were awards in nine categories, with winners in each decided by fan voting. Go to Sirius.com/StewieAwards for the list of winners.
Tonight, we’ll join the drivers for their final awards black-tie dinner at the Wynn, when Jimmie Johnson will be given the top trophy title. Afterward, we’ll all party at Lavo in the Palazzo, and we’ll have that photo coverage next week.
Meantime, our loyal VDLX reader Richard Corey recorded video and posted his work on YouTube.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground. Read more of Robin's stories at VegasDeLuxe.com.
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