NASCAR honors Jimmie Johnson as Jay Mohr brings the comic relief

Jerry Markland

The Sprint Cup awards ceremony honored Jimmie Johnson for winning a sixth championship, while host Jay Mohr did his best to keep the proceedings fun and entertaining.

It was a night of celebration and frivolity. As the NASCAR community toasted Jimmie Johnson for winning a sixth series championship, host Jay Mohr did his part to keep the Sprint Cup awards ceremony entertaining.

With a multitude of zingers, Mohr rifted on some of the sport's biggest names including jabs at Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. As Patrick sat near the front of the stage alongside boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Mohr asked if she was comfortable as "I know you're not used to being this close to the front."

Neither Patrick nor Stenhouse looked amused as they shot steely glances toward the stage. And when she later accepted an award and thanked fans for their support, Patrick fired a retort saying, "It's pretty safe to say Jay Mohr is not one of them."

"Danica, I hope you're not too uncomfortable. I know you're not used to being this close to the front."—Jay Mohr

Mohr also asked Clint Bowyer "How's that poison oak treating you, brother? I guess I'm not the only bad actor here." This was in reference to Bowyer's crew chief asking him to "itch" his arm moments before he suspiciously spun at Richmond, which triggered a serious of controversial actions by Michael Waltrip Racing that led to NASCAR imposing record fines on the organization.

And with the news that Bowyer had recently become engaged, Mohr offered some advice: "You're going to be great at marriage since you're already good at apologizing at things you may or may not have done."

There were also frequent barbs directed at Gordon and his last-minute inclusion into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s inability to find Victory Lane in a season filled with five runner-up finishes and several near-misses.

And Mohr wasn't the only one wise cracking, as several drivers partook in the fun. "All you guys have silver spoons, and Tony Stewart's not here giving you a hard time about that," said Joey Logano making light of a remark Stewart said about him earlier in the year after the two had a run-in.

The ceremony also was filled with several poignant moments. After becoming the first driver to make the Chase driving for a single-car team, Kurt Busch said it was the second biggest accomplishment of his career only behind his 2004 championship season.

Busch's younger brother, Kyle, gave heartfelt thanks to his teams' families for the sacrifices they made throughout a long and arduous season. And Gordon concluded his speech by remembering former NASCAR driver Jason Leffler, who lost his life in a June sprint car crash.

But this night was about honoring Johnson, who for the sixth time in his career was seated at the head table alongside team owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus.

In his customary fashion, Johnson humbly downplayed his accomplishments and quickly passed the credit to his team. He made little mention of winning the Daytona 500 or his five other victories in 2013. Instead, he talked about the birth of his second daughter in September and the joys of parenthood, which he called "the greatest thing I've ever experienced in my life."

He closed his nearly seven-minute speech with a quote from Nelson Mandela, the South African leader and human rights activist who died Thursday.

"'Sport has the power to change the world; it has the power to inspire,'" Johnson said. " 'It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.' That's true. And that's NASCAR."

In a night filled with a spectrum of emotions, it was a fitting way to conclude the festivities.

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