So, yeah. Howie Mandel’s hosting the 2012 Sprint Cup Awards Banquet. Following in the footsteps of such comedians / hallowed entertainment icons as Jay Mohr, David Spade and Frank Caliendo, the “America’s Got Talent” and “Let’s Make a Deal” host will helm the Las Vegas ceremony later this month. He replaces Reba McEntire, who guided the action in 2011.
As with many of the last few hosts, save for McEntire and perhaps Caliendo, Mandel doesn’t explicitly have much to do with NASCAR or its fan base, which will undoubtedly cause many to wonder why he’s even there in the first place. According to Mandel, he’s “spent many years in [his] career evaluating and analyzing talent,” and he has no doubt that NASCAR competitors are among the world’s best talents.
Hmph. Not exactly most people’s first choice, although it’s important to consider the awards broadcast is often rife with moves toward an entertainment spectacle, exemplified by the sport’s choices of past and current hosts (otherwise, it’d probably be much like a race broadcast, with Mike Joy or Jerry Punch calling the shots). The selection of Howie Mandel certainly falls within this category, and while similar past hosts haven’t always been up to par, in the case of the “Deal or No Deal” host, let’s make a deal and see what he can do. Wait, that’s what you say on Wayne Brady’s game show? Oops.
So now that we know who will be at the podium for the 2012 ceremony, let’s take a look into the future. It’s 2013, everyone’s a little miffed because no one was able to beat Jimmie — again — and Howie Mandel won’t be coming back. Who should host, if not in 2013, then sometime down the road?
Here are a few options.
1. Anyone from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour
What, you think this is an easy pick? _Well, you know what?_ If it was a no-brainer, we’d be seeing at least one of them at the ceremony every year, wouldn’t we? Combined, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White probably have more fans who are also NASCAR supporters than any of the last few hosts combined (save for Reba, whom everyone and their brother secretly loves). Not only that, but they themselves at least get NASCAR. Hell, Foxworthy’s Grit Chip empire sponsored a Truck race not too long ago. Imagine a ceremony of Foxworthy’s “You might be a NASCAR fan if” jokes, or Engvall using every opportunity he could to use his “Here’s your sign” catchphrase (Note: everyone in the audience gets free ‘Here’s Your Sign’ signs and/or a supply of Foxworthy’s Grit Chips). All four play Vegas pretty regularly, anyway (I’ve been to the Vegas awards twice and saw both White and Engvall do a show)… shoot, why not get all four? Tandem hosting. Fun.
2. One of the guys who finished 11th, 12th or 13th in points
Beginning in 2011, NASCAR no longer honored each driver of the Chase at the Vegas ceremonies, instead opting for the top 10 (which, of course, recalls the banquet before the Chase expanded to 12 drivers). Let’s give one of them an opportunity to attend in a whole different light by hosting the thing. Some will be annoyed that they weren’t able to make the top 10, while the 13th-place driver might still harbor ill feelings from not making the Chase to begin with (see: Kyle Busch in 2012, potentially). Plus, who knows the drivers better than the competition themselves? We’d get some good-natured (or not-so-good-natured!) ribbing between friends (or enemies?) I’m sure Jimmie Johnson could put on a good show if he ever gets in that position (Spoiler: he probably won’t).
3. Stephen Colbert
A good majority of NASCAR fans (at least, from observations on various auto racing forums) tend to lean toward the conservative side of politics. Why not get the most popular faux-Republican in the country? Colbert can stick to the general spirit of the ceremony and sport while poking fun at it all the while. It might end up a little more like an Emmy broadcast than a NASCAR show, but perhaps the Comedy Central fake news show host’s brand of humor is just the kick in the pants it needs. The problem? He might be slightly too “A-list.”
4. An entertaining former driver
Kind of along the same lines as No. 2, except with a driver who’s been out of the sport for x amount of years. Could this include guys who are on the race broadcasts anyway a la Darrell Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and more? Very possible. In a city that has branded itself with a sense of excitement, why not Mr. Excitement himself, Jimmy Spencer? Delma Cowart never lost a party — how about he hosts the biggest one of the year? The list could go on and on and on.
5. A current Vegas staple
I’m thinking Terry Fator off the top of my head. It would be like having 10 hosts at once! Bring David Copperfield in to add some magic to the broadcast. Get the entire cast of Thunder from Down Under to please the ladies. Carrot Top comes to NASCAR races (he was even at the Vegas racetrack for some of the 2010 festivities). Or Kevin Burke. _Kevin Burke, guys._
6. The cast of “Jersey Shore”
Don’t front — you know you’d watch.
But don’t let the conversation stop here. Got any other ideas for a future banquet host? Think Mandel will do a bang-up job? Bring on the comments!
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