1. Banner Brainstorming – Mike Helton said in New York last week that 2007 was a “banner year” for NASCAR. Which makes me wonder, if you were designing a banner to summarize NASCAR’s season, what would it say? Suggestions welcome.
2. Spade Said – From what I’ve heard, most people didn’t find David Spade all that funny at the banquet – although I personally preferred him to Jay Mohr. I had to laugh though when Spade referred to Jimmie and Chandra Johnson as the “prom king and queen” – because it was so true.
3. Musical Mismatch – Whether it was last year’s banquet performance by Jewel or this year’s by Kelly Clarkson, the whole musical portion of the show is a complete mismatch for the overall feel and formality of a black-tie event. In fact, there were so many blank stares on the faces of the audience members during Clarkson’s first song that cameras didn’t bother showing the audience at all during her second song. I don’t blame Clarkson, but she and her band were totally out of place here.
4. Drive for Five – No, not Jeff Gordon, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Junior won his fifth straight Most Popular Driver award in 2007 based on fan voting. That ties him with Richard Petty and Bill Elliott as the only drivers in the history of the award to win five straight. Gordon finished second in this year’s voting, followed by Michael Waltrip, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart. Unfortunately, Junior’s success with popularity didn’t translate to the track this year; 2007 was his first winless season in eight years of Cup racing, and he finished 16th in points.
5. Smoke Signals – If there was any question regarding how Stewart felt about finishing sixth in the points this year, he summed it up pretty succinctly in his banquet speech, stating that he was there to collect his “whatever-place trophy.”
6. Casting Call – Ever wished you could turn your love of NASCAR into a paying job? SPEED is currently recruiting Tour Coordinators to join the cast of a NASCAR-related program that will run January through November 2008 – and fans are invited to apply.
7. Loose Ends, Part One – As the 2007 season draws to a close, I can’t help but wonder what happened to some once-hot stories from earlier in the year which seem to have mysteriously faded from the headlines. For example, whatever happened to the charges against Waltrip for reckless driving and failure to report an accident, stemming from an April rollover in his personal SUV? The latest update I can find is that a hearing on the charges was postponed from May 14 to June 25… and then nothing more was reported. How did those charges pan out?
8. Loose Ends, Part Two – Whatever happened to Operation Wax Smoke? Earlier this season, Kevin Harvick announced plans to try and raise $100,000 for the Victory Junction Gang Camp. If he succeeded, he would have had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wax all the hair off Stewart’s back and chest. In exchange, Stewart was going to match the donation and shave Harvick’s head. Latest update I could find on this one is that less than half of the original “Wax Smoke” goal had been raised to date. Really?
9. Loose Ends, Part Three – Whatever happened – or will happen – with that incident involving Kahne and a security guard at Homestead in November? It was alleged that Kahne pushed a security guard to the ground after Kahne’s brother was denied access to the drivers’ motorhome lot; the last update I could find was that the local police and NASCAR were both investigating after Kahne labeled it a misunderstanding. Has the matter been dropped – or will it fade away similar to the way Waltrip’s driving incident did some months ago?
10. Space Race – Not that they need it, but drivers will have an extra incentive to win the 2008 Daytona 500. One of the prizes going to the race winner will be a green flag flown on a December mission of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Both NASA and NASCAR are celebrating their 50th anniversary next year, and a number of cross promotions are in the works. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Gentlemen, start your engines!”… don’t you think?