The NASCAR banquet is the event of the night. The Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria will be transformed into the stage on which the champion will graciously accept his accolades (and a really big check). Everybody will be turned out in his finest with a lovely wife/mother/significant other on his arm. It’s NASCAR’s chance to shine in a world far removed from the garages and the roar of the engines. It’s glitter and finery.
And it’s really, really boring.
Jeff Gordon made some comments this week about NASCAR and the sponsors curbing the drivers’ personalities. He commented that the fans are not always treated to the best side of the drivers, because they get so they’re afraid to show it. And he’s right. Back in the old days, drivers were allowed to be more real, have a little more fun, be looser.
It should still be that way.
Imagine if the banquet was less scripted, more fun for everyone involved. I’m not suggesting that Jack Roush and Rick Hendrick start a food fight (although, come to think of it, that in itself would be worth watching), but if someone did peg the champ with a wadded up napkin, would anyone really complain?
I don’t think even Jimmie Johnson would really complain. Picture this. A competitor with a sense of humor (perhaps one racing for a certain competing home improvement sponsor) tosses a napkin at Johnson. Jimmie retaliates by making a trip to the men’s room. (After all, not even NASCAR could tell him no to that!) On the way, he casually drops an ice cube down the offender’s back.
Pretty soon, the crew chiefs are involved. Tony, now cold, damp, and unappreciative of Zippy laughing at him, buddies up to Chad Knaus, coaxing him into putting something like butter in Johnson’s now vacated chair. It ends sometime in the wee hours in the morning after Johnson gets Zippy to help him rearrange Tony’s hotel room, coming to a close with Jimmie’s trophy pasted to the ceiling of his room and Tony’s shoes floating in the bathtub like little toy boats.
What a story that would make the next morning. Imagine that: drivers having a little harmless fun. That’s old school, really, because the drivers always used to have a lot of harmless fun. It wouldn’t hurt NASCAR or anyone’s sponsor. In fact, in this day and age of so many of NASCAR’s personalities lacking-well, personality in the eyes of many fans, it would probably help.
Not to mention, the banquet wouldn’t be boring anymore,