I have yet to miss a NASCAR Champions Week in Las Vegas. Luckily for me Misty lives nearby so I am able to attend some of the fun! This year we actually splurged and got a room at the Palms since that is where After The Lap was to be held again. It was a nice room and casino (not that I had much time to gamble).
Anyway- the fun for us started at Fan Fest where all 16 2014 Chase Grid drivers where scheduled to walk the red carpet and sign autographs for fans before taking part in a fun game on the stage that was set up at the end of the carpet. The event was held on Fremont Street again this year and fans had started lining the red carpet early to get a glimpse of their favorite driver:
Many fans stand there for HOURS waiting to catch a glimpse of their drivers. You can’t help but make small talk with them. And yes I did run into a “That Guy” fan as I normally do- this one was technically speaking a that girl fan…who happened to be a Kyle Busch fan. But the cutest thing I spied during all those hours on the red carpet? One particularly adorable little Dale Earnhardt Jr fan waiting patiently to see Dale:
Soon the drivers walked through:
I don’t know if it was because there were 16 Chase grid drivers this year, because the drivers were more than a tad late getting to the red carpet or some other reason- but the drivers- with the exception of Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr all seemed to really hurry down the red carpet. Jimmie mostly just walked down waving and rarely signing stuff- which was sad for the nice couple beside us who where donned head to toe in Lowes gear and really looking forward to him coming down the carpet.
Thursday is always the busiest day of the week for NASCAR Champions week in Vegas for me- because it’s all about watching the Victory Lap and then sprinting to After The Lap. I admit- that I really wish they would make the victory lap earlier or the After The Lap later- so that there is more time to get from one activity from the other. We decided we would view the lap from the same place we did last year since we had such a great view of the “driver intros” they do.
We got there early to stake a good spot and found that they were still setting up the start finish line:
As we soon figured out they weren’t setting up a driver’s intro stage as they had in previous years past. I was disappointed that I picked this spot- if I had known that they weren’t setting up a driver intro stage I would have moved down to wear they do the burn outs and taken burn out pictures. They lined up the cars and the drivers got off their bus and just walked directly over to their cars. I really missed the pom and circumstance of the previous years with the driver intro stage and the introducing of the drivers and all that:
The cars lined up on the Las Vegas Strip for their victory lap (with fans already taking spots on the crossover bridge to watch):
Unfortunately from my position I couldn’t really get any good pictures of the drivers getting into their cars despite my best efforts ( hence why I always like the driver intro stage!)
We left shortly after all the drivers took off for their victory lap and started towards the Palms for After The Lap- which you would think would get us there in plenty of time- and we did make it prior to After The Lap- but we didn’t stay for burn outs since we wouldn’t have seen them anyway. I know what kind of hideous traffic we encountered trying to get to the Palms (and remember- we have a local in our party who knows the surface streets well) so I can only imagine what kind of traffic those who waited for the burn outs encountered.
I relied solely on my cellphone for pictures during After The Lap and got this great one (considering it’s a cellphone pic) of Kevin Harvick being brought out on stage as the 2014 Champion:
After The Lap is my favorite activity! I love the drivers bantering back and forth and luckily they had a portion of the talk where all 16 drivers were on stage this year (last year they did half and half and the drivers were not all on stage together at any one point). The drivers really show us a glimpse of their personalities and that is what I love! If you missed After The Lap you can find replay of NASCAR After The Lap here.
In previous years the show cars for the chase drivers were all found in different spots on Las Vegas Boulevard. This year however they were all in one place- and I really liked that too. They were all in the Linq- a shopping plaza that features the High Roller observation tower (a really big, really slow Ferris wheel like structure in which riders are standing in pods (it’s so slow that you can willingly walk around the pods- you barely know you are moving- except that- well you are REALLY far up after awhile). There was also a stage set up in the plaza where drivers “dropped by” and had appearances as well as a NASCAR.COM merchandise store in the Flamingo (which is on one side of the plaza) featuring chase driver merchandise (and some Tony Stewart & Danica stuff as well- they was the only non-chasers who had merchandise that I saw) available for purchase. I loved that all the cars where available in one place:
So just to sum things up- I thought the drivers seemed really rushed during the red carpet event compared to years past and the changes to the start/finish line portion of the victory lap let me down. BUT on the plus side AFTER THE LAP did NOT disappoint and I loved all the cars being in one location (The Linq) on the strip!
So that was NASCAR Champions week in a bundle. Stay tuned- I will be posting a second post with just a couple of my FAVORITE pictures I took from the celebration that didn’t make it into this post.
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