Thursday was filled with events including the NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, the Victory Lap and After The Lap at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

2010 NMPA Myers Bros. Awards Luncheon table settingThe luncheon took place at the Bellagio which was located next door to CityCenter so all I had to do was take the tram from my hotel over to the ballroom.

This year’s ceremony differed from last year’s event in that there was an actual sit down lunch and waaaaaaaaay more people in attendance. For the first time ever fans were allowed in where various sponsor contingency awards would be handed out. Not too long into the ceremony I spotted Dale Earnhardt Jr. sitting at a table directly across from mine maybe 5 or 6 tables away. I surprised myself in being able to spot him that far away (and in the dark), but I also noticed his girlfriend sitting with him from the Hall of Fame induction ceremony earlier this year.

I was also surprised by the chatter my sighting caused on Twitter because I didn’t think that noting Dale Jr’s presence was a spoiler. Were you really expecting some other driver to win Most Popular Driver? Yea, no.

After the awards luncheon I rushed over to the press room across the hall where all 12 Chase drivers and other award winners from the day–including Dale Jr.– would be to answer questions from the media. There was less than half an hour available to talk to the guys before they had to run off and change into their firesuits for the Victory Lap down Las Vegas Blvd.

This was not how I had envisioned things going down. Last year there was more time and I totally wasted it. This year I had far less time and I ran around like a crazy person trying to get as many drivers to answer the Inside the Actor’s Studio questions as possible. In the end I was able to get Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Rookie of the Year Kevin Conway, crew chief Chad Knaus, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer.

When I came up to Clint Bowyer he said something to effect of “thank God,” because he was happy to have someone interview him. It’s always surprising to see who ends up being left alone a lot. One thing I can tell you about everyone that I interviewed that day with the ITAS questions was that none of them had seen or heard of the show. Which kind of sucks in that they have no idea what to expect in terms of the questions. As you’ll see later on from the results of the interviews some were able to get through it easier than others.

The highlight of the session was Matt Kenseth. Most drivers see you as just another media person, and are barely listening to you or seeing you as another human being. I’m not saying they’re mean or are jerks, I’m not saying that at all–no one has ever been a douchebag to me. They’re just so used to this routine that they’re usually only listening just enough to hear the question and that’s about it. So when I introduced myself to Matt Kenseth, as I had with all of them, and said my name I almost missed his joke. He said “Oh, can you park my car?” I laughed and said, “No one ever gets that!” It wasn’t a particularly funny joke, but at least he heard me and was actually paying attention. Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer were nearby and Jeff heard me asking Matt the same questions, so he and Clint were asking each other what their answers were for “favorite curse word.” It was so cool to have them discussing my line of questioning even for just a moment.

As the time was counted down, “5 minutes left!” I tried to position myself between Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards in hopes that one would stop talking to whoever it was they were talking to. Unfortunately they didn’t. But overall it was a really good, productive 20 minutes!


The 2010 NMPA Myers Bros Awards Luncheon at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, NV

Before it filled in. The 2010 NMPA Myers Bros Awards Luncheon at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, NV on Thursday, December 2, 2010.

The 2010 NMPA Myers Bros Awards Luncheon at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, NV on Thursday, December 2, 2010.

Yummy chicken!

Best cheesecake ever

Best cheesecake I’ve had in a really long time. I ate the entire thing! 🙂

Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin

Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

(all photos credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)