Johnson's Las Vegas celebration, Danica's IndyCar deal, more
NASCAR Awards Ceremony moved from New York City to Las Vegas
Danica Patrick signed three-year contract extension with Andretti Autosports
Chad Knaus’ used his 2008 Awards Ceremony gift to document history
After nearly 30 years in New York, NASCAR has traded in "I'll Take Manhattan" for "Viva Las Vegas."
The annual Sprint Cup Awards Celebration has left the historic Waldorf-Astoria in Midtown Manhattan and is heading to the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel this week. It's a dramatic move for NASCAR officials, who believe their show is no longer appreciated in New York City. New Yorkers are not as impressed as others by the loud, colorful stock cars parading down the streets for the annual Show Car Parade, and many viewed the sport's annual pilgrimage to The Big Apple as an annoyance.
Enter Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, where the gaudier, the better. And few sports are more extravagant than NASCAR, which loves being loud, colorful and "in-your-face" raucous.
The biggest challenge NASCAR might face in its new location is getting the teams, crew members and media to leave the Craps table, Roulette Wheels and Black Jack tables in time to be seated for Friday night's show.
But move over Wayne Newton -- Jimmie Johnson will be the star of this show. The 34-year-old driver will be honored for his record-breaking fourth straight Cup title on Friday night.
"I'm excited for it," Johnson said of Champion's Week, the celebration dedicated to his accomplishments. "I understand the reasons we were in New York, and I'm going to miss that. But I think from working the banquet like I have the last three years and being the champion and running around town, we're going to have a lot more free time and better use of time in Las Vegas. With the holiday shopping and all that goes on in the city, we spend a lot of time riding in an SUV from obligation to obligation. Maybe it'll allow me to have a little bit more sleep between all the fun that we're having."
Kurt and Kyle Busch, who grew up in Las Vegas, will be showing Johnson where exactly to celebrate.
"It's going to be fun," said Kurt, who finished fourth in the Cup standings. "There's going to be that atmosphere that everybody feels when they go to Vegas, that is let loose, let your hair down and have fun."
Danica's IndyCar Deal a "GoDaddy" Moment
In finalizing a deal first reported by SI.com in August, Danica Patrick signed a three-year contract extension on Monday to remain in the IndyCar Series with Michael Andretti Autosport. Patrick wheeled her IndyCar onto the set of ABC's Good Morning America to make the official announcement and to indicate that GoDaddy.com would replace Boost Mobile/Motorola as the sponsor of her IndyCar ride.
However, it's beginning to look like her ambitious goal of competing in a limited NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule will not fall into place. NASCAR sources are privately whispering that team owner Rick Hendrick has told Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to focus on his own Sprint Cup performance instead of becoming involved with Patrick at JR Motorsports.
When asked for an update, Hendrick said, "No. I'm right where I was [before Homestead]. I know no new news.
In the meantime, Patrick can concentrate on what she does best: driving an IndyCar.
"I'm happy to be able to announce that I'm returning to Andretti Autosport," Patrick said. "Michael Andretti has helped me become a better driver and we hope to accomplish a great deal during the next few years together. Bob Parsons and Go Daddy have believed in me from the start. You know, my lifelong goal is to win the Indy 500 and I'd love to do that in the GoDaddy.com car."
Patrick remains a central focus of GoDaddy.com's advertising campaign, which will increase over the next three years. (Financial details of her new deals were not made available.)
"Danica is the quintessential Go Daddy Girl," said Parsons, who is the founder and CEO of GoDaddy.com "Danica is a beautiful woman competing in a male-dominated sport. She's passionate. She's focused. She's all about doing what it takes to win and we love that about her. Not to mention she's edgy, smokin' hot and as tough as any competitor anywhere. We are very good together."
A Youtube Moment
Crew chief Chad Knaus wanted to make sure he had a way to remember making NASCAR history as his driver, Jimmie Johnson, captured a fourth-straight Cup title two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So he brought a tiny, hand-held video recorder with him to his pit box so he could capture the moment.
"I got that last year when we were in New York for the banquet," said Knaus. "I took some video of that when we were up there cruising around New York City and doing all that stuff and it was a lot of fun, and then I took it on vacation with me last year, and I haven't used it since. It's still actually got the same videos on it.
"I wanted to record [the finale] because I don't enjoy what we do enough in the moment typically, and I don't do a good job of keeping records and memorabilia and things like that," Knaus explained. "I don't have a whole bunch of clippings and all that stuff. I just don't keep that stuff.
"I knew this was going to be a big deal, and I wanted to be able to have something to remember it by, because even through all of the stuff that's going on, and it's a bit of a whirlwind, you forget, and I wanted to try to document it a little bit."
No word yet if Knaus is going to post his videos on "YouTube."
At Last, It's All Mine!!!
Last week, Micheal Andretti officially became the sole owner of his IndyCar Series team, which will be renamed from Andretti Green Racing to Andretti Autosport.
Andretti and his former business partners announced their decision to split their racing and promotions businesses into two separate companies on August 20. The team, which claimed IndyCar Series crowns in 2004 with Tony Kanaan, in 2005 with Dan Wheldon and in 2007 with Dario Franchitti, won the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 (Wheldon) and 2007 (Franchitti), and heads into next year's Firestone Indy Lights season as two-time defending champions.
"This is a great day for all of us," Andretti said. "We're very excited about the future of the team and we are looking forward to being a contender again in 2010. Everyone at Andretti Autosport is 100 percent focused on winning races and championships. We have a lot of work to do this winter, but everyone is committed to the job and we're looking forward to 2010."
Quote of the Week
"Yeah, it is humbling. I can remember looking at him with wide eyes, and it was like, Wow, how did you do it? How do you get there? And really coming to grips with it in my mind that there's no way I would ever do it. So to be here and to have the same amount of championships and the experience and all the success we've had and race wins, it's hard to believe. When I really think about it, it is really, really hard to believe that eight years ago, I was like, Hey, man, can you help me win one? And here we are with all this."
Quote of the Week II -- Hendrick Domination
"This year I would have liked to have seen Jeff Gordon win number five, Jimmie win four straight, and Mark [Martin] win his first one. The goal going into next year now will be win races and get all four teams in the Chase. So I feel real good about the fact that we're rolling into the year with virtually no changes. ... You know, I believe that as soon as they finish this one Chad Knaus was thinking about number five, and Jeff Gordon and Steve Letarte are thinking about beating those guys. The planning and the execution have already started."