NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week is returning to Las Vegas for the third straight year in 2011, and the schedule of events released Monday promises a good time for fans who make the trip.
That's not just a public relations line, either. It really is a fun experience.
Since leaving New York City for Vegas, NASCAR has promoted several events that allow fans to see beyond their favorite drivers' all-business personas at the track and get an up-close look at the Chase drivers' humor and wit.
Here's the schedule of event for the upcoming Champion's Week, if you're making the trip:
• In the two previous years, NASCAR held a charity event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (a roast of Jimmie Johnson the first year and a game of Family Feud between the Chase drivers in 2010).
This year, the free event moves to the Fremont Street Experience (2:15 local time) and will feature a Newlywed Game among the top 12 drivers, who will be randomly split into pairs and answer questions about one another.
Can you imagine the hilarious possibilities? Rivals such as Kurt Busch/Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch/Kevin Harvick could potentially team up.
If you're going to Champion's Week, this will definitely be a fun event.
• The annual NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon starts at 11 a.m. at the Bellagio. It's usually kind of boring (they give out all the contingency sponsor awards and the champion crew chief award, etc.), but it's open to fans for the second year in a row. Stay tuned on details for how to get tickets.
• NASCAR's "Victory Lap" down the Las Vegas Strip is the signature event of Champion's Week. The top 12 cars parade down the Strip from the Planet Hollywood Casino down to the Wynn, do a burnout and come back the other way. There's also a pit stop along the route. Get your cameras ready.
• Following the parade, the "NASCAR After The Lap" begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Tickets are $20 each (check out NASCARafterthelap.com) and proceeds benefit the NASCAR Foundation.
Personally, I've never been to this event but really regretted missing it last year. Apparently, drivers are extremely honest and answer unfiltered fan questions rather bluntly. I'll be there for sure this year.
• Ah, the banquet. Now known as the "2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony," the famed banquet you see on TV every year will again be at the Wynn (6 p.m. local time). SPEED will have coverage beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern, but it will be tape-delayed (there's a gap in the banquet to actually eat dinner).
You're going to have to either know someone or win a contest to get a banquet ticket, but fans will be part of the festivities for the third straight year.