It was funny to see Bill France himself recognize that NASCAR's most recent banquet had crossed well over the line. He joked in his speech that he was sorry that he missed the wonderful banquet last year. (See sidebar link "Banquet Fiasco")
It seems that now that the teleprompter had been around for five years that the older drivers have learned how to use it. The Labonte's, Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart all did very nicely off of the prompter. It didn't seem as much like they were just reading but seem to have gotten the hang of deliver a teleprompter speech.
Bill Elliott did his speech the old fashioned way, from a few notes scribbled on what looked like the back of an envelope. He seemed concerned about it but I thought his was one of the best.
A Learning Process
Not everybody has it down yet but the younger guys can certainly be forgiven. Kevin Harvick was probably the worst offender this year. He just doesn't have the knack yet for reading his speech without having it sound so painfully unnatural. He certainly will get many more opportunities to practice on the stage at the Waldorf in his career and he'll get better at delivering the speech.
After last year's entertainment overload I thought that one song each by Harry Connick Jr. and LeAnn Rimes was just enough without being too "NASCAR Night In Hollywood."
If you missed it, many sponsors, crews and family members were thanked. There were a few good jokes, many very sincere tributes to Winston and Unocal 76 and a great deal of respect for Matt Kenseth and the accomplishment of his team. Most importantly a huge amount of money was given out.
Isn't it nice that the big story of the banquet can be the drivers and teams and not the cheesyness of the event itself? Thank you NASCAR.