O Opinions & Commentary

NASCAR’s Banquet moving to Las Vegas?

Will NASCAR’s year-end awards banquet move to from New York city to Las Vegas this year? Las Vegas NASCAR writer Jeff Wolf is reporting in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that it’s a done deal. Others are speculating that the official announcement will come during the Phoenix race weekend later in April.
Despite the lack of details or, indeed, confirmation at this point, it seems like almost everyone thinks that it would be an improvement if the NASCAR banquet moved to Las Vegas.
The year-end blow-out moved from Daytona Beach to NYC in 1981. Clearly the purpose was to help shake the down-south good-old-boy regional-race-series image and bring the sports awards dinner to the home of the big buck corporations, their advertising agencies and the home offices of the major news organizations. No doubt that has succeeded to some extent. NASCAR is now recognized as a major player in the sports-entertainment universe.
However, NASCAR no longer makes much of a splash in the Big Apple. The standard parade of stock cars through Times Square was cancelled this year to avoid traffic disruption. The France family’s high hopes of staging a Cup race in the shadow of Manhattan’s skyscrapers has long since been dashed. Despite coming to the home of the major news desks, the local media tended to ignore the NASCAR events leaving the coverage to the usual peripatetic members of the NASCAR media corps. And these guys – and everyone else who flew into New York for the festivities – were stuck with the sky-high room rates.
On top of that the affair was a dull as dishwater. The news conferences had no real news; the awards lunch and dinner had no excitement, no surprises and the speeches were just so much blah-blah-blah; and the few NASCAR fans who showed up had no way to get involved in the celebration.
I bought a tux and went a couple of times. I enjoyed the shopping and meeting with friends from the road wars of the summer races - but the event generated no real news and it wasn’t a whole lot of fun for anyone. I take that back – I always suspected that the people who liked coming to New York were the France family wives who could spend some of their NASCAR bucks on Fifth Avenue.
So, why would it be better in Las Vegas? Everybody expects that it would be able to become a lot more fan friendly. There’s talk of holding the awards ceremonies in a big hall that could accommodate a lot fo NASCAR fans – and these people (unlike the jaded team media) would likely get a big kick out of it. I can see a number of fan-friendly events staged throughout the whole week culminating in a glitzy Vegas-style awards ceremony. And SPEED might produce a week of solid television coverage instead of the one-shot boring awards show another network has been foisting on us in recent years – look at the way they handle the lead up to the All-Star race next month.
And the room rates won’t be such a killer. And if you tire of the NASCAR fun, there’s always the casinos and the shows.
Yes, both New York and Las Vegas are popular travel destinations but Las Vegas is better priced and it promises more non-stop fun for the NASCAR people. I say let’s go to Vegas!

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