Wednesday afternoon, 4:15 p.m.
NEW YORK CITY - The first order of business for NASCAR on Wednesday in New York City was to see how many people 10 stock cars could annoy at one time.
OK, maybe that's not quite fair. There were a lot of fans, far more than I would have ever expected, wearing NASCAR gear and braving the cold to see the top-10 drivers in the final Nextel Cup standings take their "Victory Lap" through and around Times Square.
ABC gave the event really short shrift on its "Good Morning America" show, spending most of the last half-hour rehashing Helio Castroneves' win in the "Dancing with the Stars" competition instead.
But as the drivers went about 1.5 miles around the normally busy streets right in the heart of New York City's midtown, a lot of people were watching. Many of them were, at least apparently, NASCAR fans because of all the stuff they were wearing. Many more were just curious onlookers, wondering what in the heck was going on.
Somebody from NASCAR said that 150,000 people watched the cars drive on such famous streets as Broadway and Madison Avenue. I don't know how you would begin to estimate a crowd for that event. I completly accept the fact that at least that many - probably a lot more - were in the general area as it all was happening.
People who actually were in or around what amounted to a parade said lots of folks dressed in normal business attire were stopping to take photos with their cell phones. At least some of those photos, I'll bet, were taken to serve as excuses as for why someone was late for work.
I cannot even begin to imagine how many permits and excpetions and whatever you want to call them it takes for NASCAR to pull that thing off.
The "Victory Lap" was followed by a breakfast event inside the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. NASCAR is trying to involve the fans more in Champions Week activities, and that's good.
It ought to do a lot more in that regard, though.
It doesn't matter to me where the awards ceremony is held as much as it does that the way its staged now send the wrong message.
The banquet itself is Friday night in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria, and if a fan off the street tried to get in there he'd be wrestled to the ground.
The banquet, with its black-tie dress code, comes off as being all about who can and can't get in.
It absolutely ought to more about letting fans - the people NASCAR tells everybody make the sport what it is - be a part of the celebration of the year that just passed.
And why aren't the Busch and Truck series champions being honored along with Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on Friday night? Why do those series have their own banquets, events that don't get nearly as much attention?
Shouldn't Carl Edwards get more attention for winning the Busch Series than somebody will for finishing 10th in Cup points? I certainly think so.
Anyway, after the deal at the Hard Rock, more media gathered at the 21 Club for a luncheon with champion Jimmie Johnson.
He was telling me the story of what happened to him Thanksgiving weekend when he went to see the Oklahoma Sooners play a football game. Johnson's wife, Chandra, is a big Sooners fan and they know people who are connected to the football team.
So after the Sooners beat Oklahoma State, Johnson follows the team off the field through the cheering crowds into the locker room. The players are celebrating the big win that got them into the Big 12 championship game and having a great time. Johnson is just taking all of this in until someone introduces him to the team.
"These guys go nuts," Johnson said. "I just sort of gave them a thumbs up and one guy, No. 25, came over and grabbed me by the arm."
According to a roster on internet, that would be senior defensive back D.J. Wolfe.
"He pulls me into the middle of their huddle and they're all jumping up and down and I am in there getting all banged around," Johnson said.
"It was awesome."
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Wednesday afternoon, 4:15 p.m.