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This will be the first time since NASCAR’s Championship Week Celebration was in Vegas that I will not be attending.  There is a personal reason I am not attending, but even without that I had not planned to attend this year but instead going to Disneyland this year (postponed Disneyland too for that personal reason).  Mostly because it seems that After The Lap which was always my favorite part of the weekend- has turned more into a concert and less of a driver Q&A. Based on what I see from the schedule of events there aren’t many events for Champions week where all the drivers are together- which kind of bums me out. This year, After The Lap, starts much later, is located in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip and according to everything is scheduled to run a full three hours.  I have also heard that the fees on tickets for the event now cost more then the tickets to the event- so there is that. This part disappoints me greatly. Don’t let me disuade you from going. After The Lap is held at The Cosmo on Wednesday Nov 29th at 8:00 PM: Tickets for After The Lap.

There are improvements to the week long festivities especially over recent years when it was quite obvious to this fan that SPRINT’s support of the series was waning. Last year’s event was minimum and paltry. One of my favorite new events that is part of the champion festivities is that the championship drivers are having scheduled autograph sessions which I think is a great idea. However- you can only attend one of the autograph sessions (although if you a stealthy pair of fans you could have one fan sign up for two tickets to one session and the other friend sign up for another session) so you are limited to the four drivers in the session you sign up for.  A majority of these sessions have already reached their cap for this year unfortunately but there are a few sessions with tickets left so I wouldn’t wait much longer to sign up for one- at Driver Autograph Sessions (best I can tell these are free but you need tickets).

Dale Jr Fans will be especially treated to an event just to celebrate him (I assume that he won Most Popular Driver again). There appear to be tickets left for this event but be warned- these tickets appear to range in price from $188 to over $400 a ticket (YOWZER) tickets to appear to come with a drink voucher (Still YOWZER). This will be held at the Cosmo on Tuesday Nov 28th.  Dale Jr Appreci88tion Event.

There are some other free events- including a the victory lap and fan headquarters at THE PARK (which is located outside of New York, New York)…but if you are going to champion’s week be prepared to shell out some dough to see your favorite drivers (unless you happen to be lucky enough to bump into them in their hotel). For more information on NASCAR Champion’s Week in Vegas visit: Champion’s Week at NASCAR.COM

Two races into the playoffs and I am just now making my predictions as to who will win the cup.

Speaking of the cup- surely by now you have seen the new trophy? I have seen and heard both positive and negative comments about the trophy. Personally I like it- I love the section at the top that at a glance to the non-NASCAR trained eye just looks like a random squirrelly design but is really comprised of the outline of the tracks. I LOVE that part of the trophy the most.  I have no problem with the new series sponsor making a new series trophy.

Back to my predictions though. I am going to say that Martin Truex Jr is going to win the championship. I feel that is pretty safe bet to take don’t you? He has all those championship stage win points to carry him through to the final four so unless he has a pretty disastrous stage two I do not see a “final four” in Homestead-Miami without Martin Truex Jr in it.  So since my bet on Martin Truex Jr is so safe- who should I say will be the other drivers he is up against in that last race? I would put my money on Kyle Busch for sure but who else? As much as I would love to see Ryan Blaney or Kasey Kahne or one of the other one win underdogs in the final four I think the other two drivers will be Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.

The Stewart-Haas Racing fan in me would love to see Harvick take home the cup but I really think that the Toyotas have something that the Fords just do not seem to have under the hood. Not sure what it is not being a technical person with my nose under the hood of either car but it is quite obvious to this race fan that there is something that is favoring the Toyotas this season while leaving the Chevys and Fords in the dust. I also wouldn’t mine seeing Kyle win the Championship- I have always liked Kyle as a driver. He’s got a certain something. And I wouldn’t mind seeing Jimmie Johnson win- if only to get that mythical championship number 8. You can say what you want about Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus and that Lowes 48 team but this is a legacy in the making.  (more…)

(photo source: Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Over the last several years the cup series in NASCAR has suffered as some of the elite drivers retire or just disappear (Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle) and for me the excitement behind NASCAR started to wane significantly – especially since “my” driver retired last year.  This year the writing of the posts don’t come organically as they use to when I always had a horse in the race, a dog in the show, however you want to term it.  Sometimes I struggle for what I want to write about and I am sure that it shows in my posts. However that is not the case this week. This week after the race I sat down with my notepad and it flowed naturally like it use to. Why? Because I was excited with that race in Pocono- which is slightly odd because if you go through my archives  I refer to this track as evil on multiple occasions.

Why was I excited by Pocono? How could you not be?  You had a pole sitter who lead a hundred laps or so and won a segment in Kyle Busch. You had Kyle Larson who had been strong all day win a segment. You had a seven-time champion and most recent race winner suffer a brake failure and slam the outside wall quite hard while another Chevy driver suffered a simultaneous brake failure a few seconds later and end up catching fire near the inside wall and had to jump out of the car before safety crews arrive. This fire caused a red flag.  You had mother nature heating up the track and the drivers. You had at least drivers with shifting problems- which caused the most popular driver in NASCAR to go home early.  You had a first time cup series driver get nailed for speeding twice during the same pit stop sequence. Oh and don’t forget one of NASCAR’s most prominent teams had three of their four drivers suffer incidents causing them to be unable to continue. Oh and that doesn’t even take into account that finish and boy howdy was that a finish.

(Photo Source: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

So let’s talk about that finish: First Ryan Blaney has to fight to pass Kyle Busch. And everyone knows Kyle Busch isn’t going to be easy to get around nor should he be. Kyle fights to retain his position hard including some incredible blocking from the inside up to the wall.  But Ryan Blaney eventually is able to get his nose underneath Kyle and get by him.  But then you have Kevin Harvick- who is also known to be one of the best at wrapping up a race.  Darrell Waltrip doesn’t call Harvick “the Closer” for no reason afterall. So Blaney now has to keep Harvick behind him, awhile continuing to drive a flawless race because you know that the minute Ryan Blaney so much as wiggles Harvick will get by him. But alas Blaney was able to hold off Kevin Harvick and take the checkers. So that was a great ending. But what I left out- is that Ryan Blaney did all this with out being able to communicate on the radio with his team. While he could here them- they couldn’t hear him and had to result to hand signals to let them know what kind of issues he was having. And the best part of all? Was that during the pre-race show Chris Myers asked Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip if he would win this year and they both said NO!! HA!

This wasn’t a fluke and it was just a matter of time before Blaney won. However he was not alone! The younger drivers all really flaunted their stuff during the race at Pocono. I mean look at these finishes: Ryan Blaney (winner). Erik Jones (3rd), Chase Elliott (8th). I mean it- the young guns are coming.

Drivers that impressed (besides winner Ryan Blaney): Erik Jones, Chase Elliott

Drivers that disappointed: Clint Bowyer, Danica Patrick

I am going to admit it- it has been a long time since I have been to a Truck Series race- especially a truck race at Las Vegas!  So when Misty mentioned us applying for credentials to cover it I was totally for it!!

One of the best things about the truck race at Vegas is that they let anyone in the NEON GARAGE which is one of my favorite parts of Las Vegas Motor Speedway because you can look right in to the garage bays and watch the crews work on the trucks! The kids their with there parents wandering around the Neon Garage seemed to really enjoy the “behind the scenes” views- and they especially enjoyed it when the drivers would wander over to the autograph windows at the rear of each garage bay between practices.  Sometimes the garage passes are a bit pricy for the cup races and might prevent families from enjoying the garage area. The fact that the neon garage was free was great because the kids could experience the garage area for free which makes the event family friendly! And that is how you hook a young race fan.  You let them into the garage area.  Trust me. I know these things.

It was also fun to watch some of the pressers- some of the younger drivers in the series are far less media saavy than more experienced truck and cup drivers (I am especially thinking of Ryan Blaney here- I don’t know if he is shy or what but he hardly looked up at all during his presser znd his hat was screwed down tight on his head- you could barely see his face).

But everyone, fans, drivers, media: was there for one reason! THE RACE. The race was awesome and did NOT disappoint. Race winner was a very excited Timothy Peters!

Here are some pictures from here and there around the track:

Monitors in Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Neon Garage

Monitors in Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Neon Garage. (Photo Credit: Amy K. Marbach).

Many more pictures after the jump…

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