Consider it the verbal version of "boys have at it." This year, as part of the weeklong series of events leading up to the championship banquet, Ford and Coca-Cola sponsored the NASCAR After The Lap event. It's a press conference on steroids where drivers are known for speaking in an unguarded way that usually elicits howls of laughter from the drivers and fans.
This year's event, which was held at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, lived up to its billing as a no-holds-barred event. The 12 drivers from the Chase answered question submitted by fans while ESPN's Jamie Little held court as the master of ceremonies. The room was a sea of Technicolor NASCAR jackets worn by fans that had bought tickets to see their favorite drivers tell-all.
The afternoon started with one lucky NASCAR fan winning a new Ford Explorer and another taking home a year's worth of Coke. Champ Tony Stewart lamented that even he couldn't finagle a year's worth of the soft drink. And the first question for the drivers came from Snooki, of "Jersey Shore" fame. Naturally, she wanted to know who was the biggest partier.
The only thing more unusual than the light snow some areas of Las Vegas received this morning was seeing a reluctant Jeff Gordon break-dance on stage. After Jimmie Johnson let it slip that Gordon was known as a break-dancer in his early years, the crowd began chanting, "Gordon, Gordon, Gordon." Eventually, a very reluctant and embarrassed Gordon did a very brief dance in the middle of the stage to a roar of approval from the crowd.
Jeff Gordon break-dancing
My favorite moment of the event came when a question from a fan asked which driver had the most luck getting dates. Drivers began pointing fingers at Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt claimed he didn't have "game," but the crowd wasn't buying it. Carl Edwards agreed with the crowd as he told a story about one of his first encounters with Earnhardt. When Edwards had just started his career in Cup, he was at a stoplight in Charlotte, North Carolina when an SUV stuffed with young women pulled up next to him. And who was driving? Dale Jr., of course.
Judging from the crowd's reaction, I would say that the fans loved the ability to experience the drivers' personalities in a venue where they weren't under pressure to speak like packaged corporate pitchman.
Proceeds from the event benefited The NASCAR Foundation, which raises funds for children's charities and other causes across the nation.