2012 Sprint Cup Series banquet: Best and Worst

Howie Mandel, awards host, speaks to champion Brad Keselowski, center, and team owner
Roger Penske at Friday's ceremony.
Credit: John Gurzinski/Getty Images for NASCAR
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – except for the annual Sprint Cup Series Awards ceremony.

Friday’s affair at the Wynn Las Vegas honored first-time Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and team owner Roger Penske. Though the night is in the books, there’s still plenty to talk about: the speeches, the host – Howie Mandel, the performances, the skits, the jokes and of course, the fashion.

At Skirts and Scuffs, our team of editors broke down the Best and Worst from this year’s banquet.

Best speech: Tie between Roger Penske and Brad Keselowski. Both showed class and humility in their off-the-cuff speeches. Keselowski, 28, displayed remarkable poise for his youth.

Most awkward speech: Kasey Kahne. Kahne is comfortable doing press at the track and sponsor events, but public speaking at a formal event just isn’t his thing.

Line of the night: "This speech was my last job for the year and my ass is clocking out!” Clint Bowyer

Runners-up for line(s) of the night:

"Man, it’s been one crazy year. We had the privilege of seeing Juan Pablo Montoya light the torch in Daytona to kick off the 2012 season. We got to see Tony Stewart show off his shot-put skills at Bristol. And Clint ‘Usain’ Bowyer - although you got your first running award, though that will probably be the first and last - showed us his running skills at Phoenix. So there's a lot of athleticism in that group." Kevin Harvick

“As Jack (Roush) said, he’s going to the dark side. I’m not really sure what that means, but take a flashlight!” Greg Biffle on departing teammate Matt Kenseth

"I might have to ditch my T-shirt and jeans for black slacks and a starched white shirt ... Nah, I can't do that. I'll leave that to you (Penske)." Tony Stewart

“And Brad, before I came up here, I tweeted you my congratulations, so we’re good.” Jeff Gordon

Best offer: During his speech, Penske asked Stewart to drive for him in next year’s Indianapolis 500. “How about doing the double at Indy this year? Are you available?'' the team owner asked, serious about the offer. We hope Stewart considers it!

Clint Bowyer had the line of the night.
Credit: John Gurzinski/Getty Images for NASCAR
Most awkward topic: Clint Bowyer, running man. While the crowd and viewers at home were amused, the incident at Phoenix is still too fresh for him.

Best sport: Gordon being ribbed over wrecking Bowyer at Phoenix.

Best shout-outs: Tony Stewart to the late, beloved NASCAR official Jim Hunter, and also to the nation’s soldiers. Jeff Gordon to the late dean of motorsports journalism, Chris Economaki.

Most uncomfortable-looking owner: Richard Childress during Harvick's speech. Runner-up: Jack Roush during Kenseth's speech.

Best skit: Drivers throwing helmets, inspired by Stewart’s display of anger at Kenseth at Bristol.

Best presenter: Comedian Rob Riggle for calling Kenseth "The Silent Assassin."

Best videobomb: Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass in Howie Mandel’s interview of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Classiest part of entire program: Including Matt Kenseth's mother and FOX broadcaster Chris Myers’ son in the list of those who passed away in 2012.

Best Howie Mandel moment: Mandel interviewing drivers in disguise was hysterical, showcasing the host’s strengths. Runner-up: Telling Keselowski he should put the big Sprint Cup trophy on the stage next to his big beer mug.

Worst Howie Mandel moment: Mandel’s meltdown over the teleprompter woman was unprofessional. In general, he seemed out of his element and uncomfortable. Also a big no-no: Repeatedly mispronouncing Keselowski. If you’re going to host the awards, you should know how to pronounce the Sprint Cup champion’s last name.

What was Willy Wonka doing at the banquet?
Credit: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for NASCAR
Host suggestions: At Skirts and Scuffs, we’d like to see someone who knows about NASCAR, whether a fan or an insider, host the awards ceremony. Here’s our wish list of potential hosts: Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, Dale Jarrett, Brad Paisley, Craig Ferguson (he's had several NASCAR drivers on his late-night talk show), Jeff Foxworthy, Kenny Wallace, Angie Harmon.

Worst performance: The Beatles LOVE. Cirque du Soleil is a highly talented and respected group of performers. But while the Beatles are timeless, jumping around to the group’s songs was not. I was incredibly distracted by a performer who looked like Willy Wonka moving around. The performance didn’t fit in at a NASCAR banquet.

Best performance: Phillip Phillips’ breakout hit “Home” delivered the perfect note to close the banquet. The “American Idol” winner nailed his performance, and his down-home style really fits the sport. Runner-up: Train.


We can’t talk about the awards without talking about the fashion, so here we go … 

Chandra Johnson's gown drew differing reactions
from the Skirts and Scuffs editors.
Credit: John Gurzinski/Getty Images for NASCAR
Best dressed female: This category was tough between the wives, girlfriends and broadcasters, so we broke it up into two categories:
  • Best-dressed female, non-broadcast: Ingrid Vandebosch stunned in a strapless, body-hugging black dress that complemented her dark hair and skin tone.
  • Best-dressed female, broadcast: SPEED's Danielle Trotta shined in a glittery white gown.
Worst-dressed female: Presenter and U.S. Olympic swimmer Rebecca Soni. The silver gray, one-shoulder number was hideous and did nothing to flatter her.

On the fence: Chandra Johnson gets a special mention here for her long-sleeve, flowing yellow dress. Some of the Skirts and Scuffs editors, including yours truly, thought the dress fit Chandra’s elegant sense of style - the wife of Five-Time didn’t overdo it. Others thought her gown looked matronly, like a banana peel or curtain (ouch!).

Best-dressed male: Roger Penske. The Captain knows how to dress his finest. His best accessory was his first Sprint Cup trophy.

Worst-dressed male: Rutledge Wood. Though his casual ensemble was more representative of his easy-going personality, I would have loved to see Rut go more formal for the banquet setting.

What was your best and worst from the banquet? Let us know in the comments below.
2012 Sprint Cup Series banquet: Best and Worst 2012 Sprint Cup Series banquet: Best and Worst Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Sunday, December 02, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. Such a fun report from the banquet. I watched it on TV but that is nothing to hearing from someone who was there. Thanks!!

  2. Agree with your comments about host actually knowing something about NASCAR wholeheartedly! Also agree the Cirque bit was NOT something that would appeal to NASCAR fans--and having seen other Cirque performances, not one of their best either!

  3. Dead on. You nailed every detail. Chandra Johnson's dress was too matronly for her age. KK had us laughing until we cried with his deer-in-the-headlights look during his speech. The man needs some lessons in handling this kind of situation.
    Agreed, The Captain and the Champ spoke from the heart- eloquently and with great grace, both of them. Shows why they're doing well together in this tough business.

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