Rivals must step up against Johnson

Jimmie Johnson’s team once again sat at the head table at NASCAR’s

awards banquet, but for those teams that missed the opportunity to

make history in Las Vegas, have no fear, because not all is lost.

Yes, Johnson made NASCAR history this year by winning four

consecutive championships, so it will be interesting to see whether

anyone steps up to challenge him next season.

Who will take the crown from the No. 48 team? The bull’s-eye

on Jimmie, Chad and the entire Lowe’s team has increased 10-fold.

The driver and team that beats the 48 will write their name in the

NASCAR record books.

As a competitor, I never like to be embarrassed. It motivated

me to work harder to beat opponents and show them I am better than

they are. If you aren’t motivated now more than ever to take your

game to another level and bring down the 48, you need to go get a

job in a fast-food restaurant or something, because you don’t

belong in NASCAR.

If I had been getting my nose rubbed in it for the past four

years like the 48 has done, I would dedicate every waking hour of

every day to knocking them off the top of the mountain. The

gauntlet has been thrown down. They are laughing at all the other

competitors over there at Hendrick Motorsports.

I mean, c’mon! It’s bad enough Jimmie has won four in row,

but you had Hendrick Motorsports sweep the top three positions in

the points this season. If you want some of that, you’re going to

have to “man up.” If you haven’t already started, then you are

already behind.

Banquet thoughts

Last Friday night, we saw a NASCAR banquet held somewhere

other than New York for the first time since 1981. My opinion is it

now needs to stay in Las Vegas. I thoroughly enjoyed the change,

and I wasn’t the only one who felt like that.

From the folks I talked to in Las Vegas to the folks I talked

to when I got back, they all agreed having the banquet there really

fits what we do. Las Vegas is a fast and furious town just like our

sport. At the same time, it can also be very serious when need be.

I like the fact that we have a race in the city where the

banquet is held. The Las Vegas NASCAR race has always enjoyed

overwhelming support from the public. You might even say it has

taken on a life of its own. I just simply think we could not have

picked a better place to make it happen.

Some folks have asked me if once the NASCAR Hall of Fame

opens in Charlotte next year, will the banquet move there?

Naturally, that is a NASCAR decision and not mine.

I love the city of Charlotte. Let’s face it, that’s where I

was born and raised. That being said, right now you really can make

a lot of things happen in Las Vegas more than you can in pretty

much any other city in the country. You could bring in so many acts

to entertain at the banquet, and they literally are just across the

street in most cases from where it was held last Friday.

The other really neat thing was the addition of the fans to

the banquet for the first time. If you walked down a New York

street and asked 100 people about NASCAR, I doubt you would find

very many who knew about our sport, let alone care about it.

The response in Las Vegas is just the opposite. I got the

opportunity to talk to and spend time with a lot of fans out there

last week. With anything, there are always areas to improve, but I

really think we hit a home run last week. We established a great

baseline, and I have yet to hear a negative comment on the switch

out West.

I was fortunate to be right in the middle of the action

Friday night, and I think we did a great job of stepping up the

program. From the attire to the Red Carpet treatment, everything

just was so good. Let’s face it, our banquets in the past have

gotten flat and stale. I never felt like that happened Friday. I

thought that was so very refreshing. It was just a cool night.

I believe NASCAR saw a lot of positives coming out from its

decision to move the banquet to Las Vegas. I also believe it will

continue to build on that. A championship weekend deserves a big

stage, and I think we delivered that in spades. I would also

venture to say we passed everyone’s expectations.

I was excited to be part of SPEED’s first-ever broadcast of

the banquet. I can’t wait to do it again next year.