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2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet Preview

By

Reba Hosts this Year's Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony:

Las Vegas will be the center of the NASCAR world this Friday night but the action will be miles from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is Champion's Week for NASCAR which culminates with the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet on Friday evening.

Tony Stewart is the star of the evening as he will collect his third NASCAR Sprint Cup but there will be plenty of entertainment on the stage and behind the microphone as men used to making a living with their hands get all dressed up and try to read from a teleprompter.

Date and Time:

Friday December 2nd at 9:00 PM Eastern

The Location:

The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada

Media Coverage:

SPEED will have the broadcast starting at 9pm Eastern

MRN and XM Satellite Radio will have the audio coverage starting at 9pm Eastern

The Drivers:

The top ten drivers make it to the stage during the banquet. This means that the eleventh and twelfth place finishers in the Chase for the Cup do not appear. In 2011 this leaves the Busch brothers on the outside looking in as Kurt Busch finished eleventh and brother Kyle was twelfth in points after being suspended in Texas.

The Final Top Ten:

  1. Tony Stewart 0
  2. Carl Edwards 0
  3. Kevin Harvick -58
  4. Matt Kenseth -73
  5. Brad Keselowski -84
  6. Jimmie Johnson -99
  7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -113
  8. Jeff Gordon -116
  9. Denny Hamlin -119
  10. Ryan Newman -119

The Entertainment:

This is an area where NASCAR has struggled in the past. Comedians, interpretive dance and a long parade of musicians have highlighted the banquet in recent years with varying degrees of success. This year I am encouraged by the lineup but we will have to reserve final judgement until we see how it all comes together on Friday night.

Friday night's lineup includes:

  • Tony Stewart's good friend Kid Rock will open the show with "Born Free" which is the title track from his latest album
  • Reba as the host. She will also be performing a song from her new album.
  • Sixteen-year-old Ella Mae Bowen will sing her stirring version of "Holding Out for a Hero" from the new "Footloose" movie soundtrack
  • The Las Vegas cast of "Jersey Boys" will also perform

What to Expect:

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony can be a bit hit-or-miss. I always look forward to it with fond memories of the years when it was first broadcast live on television. There was no teleprompter and no outside entertainment was necessary as the drivers themselves were the stars of the show. They delivered heartfelt, entertaining speeches that were not over-rehearsed and fed by a teleprompter.

What should we expect to see when SPEED goes live on Friday night?

Last year the broadcast began at 9pm with an hour and fifteen minutes of Red Carpet interviews of drivers and NASCAR celebrities as they arrived at The Wynn for the banquet. Kenny Wallace and Krista Voda hosted this segment of the program. It was entertaining as Kenny Wallace is a bit of a goof in front of the camera and kept it light.

After the Red Carpet interviews they introduced the host who then did his comedy routine with mixed results. The end result was that tenth place Clint Bowyer wasn't introduced until SPEED had been on the air for two hours and fifteen minutes.

So if history serves as a guide we can expect a massive amount of fluff before we get to the drivers' official acceptance speeches.

The Main Event

When the drivers get their turn fans can expect long lists of thank yous. Sponsors, crew members and family members all need to be thanked and many of them will be listed by name. Many congratulations for Tony and the impressive job that he and his team have done in 2011 will be offered along with many light moments as the drivers themselves recognize that they are out of their element.

The Highlight of the Night

The moment I am most looking forward to on Friday is Carl Edwards' speech. He is often one of the more entertaining drivers during the banquet and given that he came achingly close to winning his first Championship this year (Carl scored the same number of points as Tony Stewart and lost by a tiebreaker) I expect that he will have some entertaining comments.

The banquet has been improving in recent years and I have high hopes for this Friday night's 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet.

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