|From left, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are introduced to start the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Ceremony on Thursday at the Bellagio Las Vegas. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)|
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 2, 2010) – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week culminates with Friday’s awards ceremony that regales five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and the entire No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.
But Thursday was about the industry as a whole – the sport’s drivers, owners, teams, fans, media and sponsors.
At today’s annual NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon held in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, the overwhelming theme was the highly competitive nature of the 2010 season.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France opened the event with his thoughts on why this past season – and this past Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – was so tight. He illustrated his point with a back story of a behind-the-scenes nature.
“I remember in January, having our press conference and talking about some of the things we were going to do,” France said. “[Vice president of competition] Robin Pemberton stood up and said the now very infamous words, 'Boys, have at it.' I said to myself for a moment, ‘Hold on, that's not in our script, that's not in our plan.’ But you know what, in a good way he was right. That's exactly what this sport needed to transition and take another good step forward. The result was from the start of Speedweeks throughout the season, you saw the level of competition go up.”
The proof was in the numbers, as the series saw record-highs in lead changes and leaders per race.
A number of postseason awards were given out during the luncheon, the last of which was the event’s namesake: the NMPA Myers Brothers Award. This year the honor was given to former NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter, who passed away in October at the age of 71. The emotional end to the ceremony included a tribute video and an acceptance by Hunter’s son, Scott.
Said host Mike Joy, “Before Jim found such great success with NASCAR and ISC, he was a very talented writer. He was one of us. And he always will be.”
|Dale Earnhardt Jr. accepts his eighth consecutive Hamburger Helper Most |
Popular Driver Award. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Also announced today was the Hamburger Helper Most Popular Driver Award, given to Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the eighth consecutive year.
At the event’s conclusion, the top 12 drivers were whisked away to do what comes naturally: Drive, though not exactly in the traditional sense.
|Jimmie Johnson does a burnout on the Las Vegas Strip in front of the Wynn Las Vegas, |
home of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony, on Thursday
during the NASCAR Victory Lap. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Prior to the Victory Lap, Johnson received the Key to the City of Las Vegas from Mayor Oscar Goodmanand Commissioner Tom Collins. Collins also presented a Proclamation recognizing Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 as Jimmie Johnson Day.
A large crowd also enjoyed a Q&A session with the top 12 at the NASCAR After The Lap, Made Possible By Coca-Cola and Ford, held at the Hard Rock.
|Johnson joins fans to watch as Kevin Harvick performs a burnout during the NASCAR |
Victory Lap in the streets of Las Vegas. (Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
For the second-consecutive year, Las Vegas hosts the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week, culminating with Friday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony at Wynn Las Vegas.
SPEED, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio will broadcast the event, live at 9 p.m. ET.
Here is the complete list of Thursday’s award winners from the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon:
- Buddy Shuman Award: Dr. Joseph Mattioli
- NASCAR Foundation’s Track of the Year Award: Daytona International Speedway
- NASCAR Marketing Achievement Awards: Nationwide Insurance
- NASCAR Home Depot Humanitarian Award: Tony Stewart
- NMPA Myers Brothers Award: Jim Hunter
- Hamburger Helper Most Popular Driver Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Coors Light Pole Award: Jamie McMurray
- DirecTV Crew Chief of the Year Award: Gil Martin (crew chief for Kevin Harvick)
- Goodyear Gatorback Belts Fastest Lap Award: Jimmie Johnson
- Goodyear Tires Award: Jimmie Johnson
- Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award: Earl Wheeler, Hendrick Motorsports (engine builder for Jimmie Johnson)
- Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew of the Year: No. 11, Joe Gibbs Racing
- Mobil 1 “Command Performance Driver of the Year” Award: Kurt Busch
- Moog Chassis Parts Problem Solver of the Year Award: Gil Martin (crew chief for Kevin Harvick)
- O’Reilly Auto Parts Position Improvement Award: Kevin Harvick
- Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award: Kevin Conway
- Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Jimmie Johnson
- Tissot “Pit Road Precision” Award: No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing
- WIX Filters Lap Leader Award: Denny Hamlin
- Championship Sponsor Award: Lowe’s
- Champion Crew Chief Award: Chad Knaus