The Red Carpet
Rutledge Wood started the evening on the Red Carpet by cutting off host Howie Mandel. After he gave some drivers' wives/girlfriends a brush off last year his evening was not off to a good start.
The red carpet was brushed under the rug this year though as SPEED went inside the ballroom after just twenty minutes of interviews and commercials. I wasn't counting but it seemed like they only talked to four drivers on the red carpet before the transitioned inside the ballroom for the first entertainment of the evening.
I really missed the longer red carpet portion of the program. The rest of the night's events are so scripted that the red carpet interviews are about the only opportunity that we have to hear the drivers provide some genuinely candid comments.
Kicking off the Evening
Howie Mandel started the night by admitting that he is the newest NASCAR fan and knew nothing about the sport until very recently. This makes him an even more unusual choice to host the evening. He had clearly done at least a little homework as he was able to pick on Jeff Gordon for wrecking Clint Bowyer in Phoenix but he was definitely a non-NASCAR guy hosting one of NASCAR's biggest nights.
It was a relief when he threw it to Train for a hit song.
Finally Mike Joy and Krista Voda took the stage and it was nice to hear from folks who know something about the sport.
The First Half of the Speeches
Tenth place Jeff Gordon was introduced by 3-time Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni fifty-seven minutes into the program and we transitioned into the meat of the evening.
Even though the pre-banquet festivities were trimmed this year the trade off seemed to be that the drivers were allowed more time for their speeches.
One humorous moment came when Clint Bowyer was awarded "The Running Man" award and an honorary Las Vegas Marathon bid, number fifteen of course, in honor of his run down pit road in search of Jeff Gordon after the famous Phoenix crash.
In general though while the speeches themselves were a little light on entertainment NASCAR inserted the fan voice awards for some lighthearted moments.
A new feature this year was a long break after the first five drivers had given their speeches. We went behind the scenes for a number of fan voice awards and some entertaining moments from a few drivers off the stage.
This halftime made up for the lack of red carpet interviews as there were some funny moments here. In particular I liked the helmet throwing segment.
The second Half of the Speeches
After the break we moved into the top five. One notable moment from this part of the evening had to be Kasey Kahne. His speech wasn't overly interesting or funny but holy cow was he nervous. Kasey was clearly not comfortable on stage but he got through it.
It seemed like Clint Bowyer really summed up the feeling of most of the drivers when he said that his speech was his last task of the year and he was clocking out.
That's a Wrap
Brad Keselowski collected his trophy, ring and check which put the finishing touch on another fantastic NASCAR Sprint Cup series season. 2012 has now officially reached its conclusion.
Fortunately NASCAR has one of the shortest off-seasons in all of professional sport. Although it seems far away, February's Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway will be here before you know it.