For the last several years, NASCAR has hosted a game-show style fan event in Las Vegas to help showcase the Chase drivers' personalities and kick off Champion's Week in a fun way.
The first year, a mean-spirited roast of Jimmie Johnson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway didn't fly with the drivers. So a Family Feud game replaced it in 2010.
That was fun, but last year's NASCAR Newlywed Game – in front of an enthusiastic crowd on downtown Las Vegas' Fremont Street – was the best of any format. With original host Bob Eubanks guiding the program, the drivers were asked several awkward questions and there were hilarious moments. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
This year's idea – "Are NASCAR drivers smarter than fifth graders?" – was a good concept in theory but ultimately didn't work as well as 2011. The drivers tried to ham it up a bit and engage another huge crowd in their answers, but the presence of young children onstage made it more of a cute event than an uproarious one.
The Chase drivers were paired into six teams, each of whom played in Round 1. Most of the questions were solvable – both by the drivers and fifth-graders – but some of them were stumpers.
Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were eliminated after Johnson said a cantaloupe was a fruit with one seed. Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. – the only driver to predict he WOULD be smarter than a fifth grader – were also gone after Round 1 (Bowyer rejected a math question about Johnson painting five-sixths of a room because, as he said, Johnson could always get more paint from his Lowe's sponsorship).
Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon aced the first round, but were eliminated when a tiebreaker turned out to be most combined wins in a season. They only had four, which was less than the other three teams who advanced to the second round.
In the finals, the Greg Biffle/Matt Kenseth team and Kevin Harvick/Denny Hamlin team both missed a question, which meant Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski could go for the win with a sweep.
Stewart earlier backed into two correct answers like a driver stealing a rain-shortened race (in a question about hyperbole, for example, Stewart mentioned he was actually hungry enough to eat a horse – and was given credit for the response). And Keselowski, though known as one of NASCAR's most intelligent drivers, seemed content to let his team's fifth grader make the calls.
The little girl delivered for Keselowski and Stewart in the final round, and this season's NASCAR champion lifted her up above his head like he was hoisting a trophy.
It was a kid-friendly moment for Keselowski, who was earlier scolded by Kenseth and Biffle's fifth grader for drinking a beer in front of the students.
"That's totally inappropriate," the kid said.
Perhaps it was the presence of those kid censors – who won't be present when the drivers are encouraged to rip on each other during Thursday's "After the Lap" show – prevented NASCAR's stars from having as much adult fun as they would have liked.