Posted: Thursday November 30, 2006 11:48AM; Updated: Thursday November 30, 2006 1:34PM
Several drivers also made a pit stop -- or photo op -- at Tiffany & Co.
On Thursdays of Champions Week, NASCAR and the National Motorsports Press Association holds its annual Myer Brothers luncheon at Cipriani restaurant. Special awards are handed out, and the champions from all of NASCAR's series (Busch, Craftsman, etc.) are recognized. Next comes a photo shoot with the NASCAR champions at Rockefeller Plaza.
Despite the locale, the events in New York mean more to NASCAR fans across the country than they do to those who live in the Big Apple. The fans in Nashville and Talladega take the NYC visits as validation of their sport. But the residents of New York -- in large part -- see the NASCAR group as little different than a tour group from out of town.
Truth be told, the circuit does act the part.
Over the years, NASCAR has had drivers ring the opening bell for the stock exchange and held country music concerts at Radio City Music Hall. The champions photo shoot has been held with a horse-and-carriage in Central Park, with the New York Fire Department, and on board the aircraft carrier, U.S.S Intrepid. Another big part of the annual celebration are the slew of appearances by NASCAR drivers on television shows broadcast from New York, from the Late Show with David Letterman to Regis and Kelly.
Wrapping up the week is yet another production, the now-televised awards banquet, which lasted four hours last year, complete with brand-name music acts and a comedian as emcee.
For as much as NASCAR has used Madison Avenue to expand across the country, the circuit has yet to really tap into the heart of the New York market.
So how to fix that problem? Simple -- just offer up the real deal.
For a decade NASCAR has been looking for some place to build a track in the New York City area, a stage they could call their own. And while plans have been floated to open a track in Staten Island, they remain on the drawing board.
Until those plans become real, until the city gets an opportunity to soak up the racing religion amid the roar of the engines and the screaming throngs, NASCAR will remain little more than a sideshow to the town.
And there are only so many dog-and-pony shows any city can stand. Even the biggest one.