Put the 12 drivers from the Chase on a stage, add a cooler full of beer and questions from NASCAR fans and you get a raucous, funny and sometimes raunchy look at the drivers from the 2012 season.
That was the scene at Thursday night's NASCAR After The Lap charity event at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. The yearly event provides an environment where the restrictor plate of corporate speak is removed and the drivers are free to banter with one another as NASCAR fans look on. I found myself wishing all post-race question-and-answer sessions could be as colorful as Thursday's event.
The performance started with each driver walking through the crowd of fans after being introduced. Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski was introduced last and slowly made his way through the crowd, shaking hands and posing for pictures in the style of a president entering the House of Representatives chamber before the State of the Union address.
The night's humorous high points came in the form of answers to questions about Jeff Gordon's break dancing talents, the most unusual autograph requests drivers receive and Tony Stewart's lack of a workout routine. Gordon, who did perform a short break dance last year, refused to repeat it this year.
Stewart held court as the funniest and most engaging driver as he delicately told of signing an autograph on a woman's breast and later by engaging in a brief onstage workout routine with Rutledge Wood from the Speed Channel. Wood was dressed in a pink, Richard Simmons-like outfit.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. mustered some laughs when he was asked what question he gets asked the most. "I get asked to get married," Junior said. "I used to get asked a lot when I was younger. I guess they're giving up."
Brad Keselowski kicked off the tone for the night by admitting to host Jamie Little that he was buzzed and seemed to suggest that his fellow drivers were responsible for plying him with alcohol. Little, who probably felt like she was herding cats, handled her duties as master of ceremonies well, even when a restless Clint Bowyer left the stage a few times to refresh his plastic cup which drivers joked was full of hard liquor.
Judging from the size of the crowd, it was obvious that NASCAR After The Lap is a hit with fans and is a great way to see drivers in an environment where they can let their hair down.
Ticket sale proceeds from NASCAR After The Lap support The NASCAR Foundation, which supports children's charities across the country.