LAS VEGAS — NASCAR has restructured its champions awards ceremony to the point where its former vernacular title — “the banquet” — doesn’t even apply.
There is no more dinner between comedic acts, musical performances and select awards.
It’s a 90-minute ceremony with two NBC broadcasters (Krista Voda and Rutledge Wood) serving as hosts. The band Train will play a song or two.
Dinner and socializing with more music will occur afterward, with all the guests invited to celebrate the season. It’s not even a black-tie required affair Thursday night at the Wynn Las Vegas.
Some might look at it as NASCAR scaling back, and it certainly is in a way. When money is tight, a gala is a good place to cut.
But it also is quite appropriate considering the champion. Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing won their first title together based on a team concept that is somewhat no-frills of its own.
Want a part or materials to go fast? The money is in the budget for that. In fact, if crew chiefs and engineers don’t create new parts and pieces often, they probably would get a grilling from team owner Barney Visser. The millionaire loves innovation and wants to know what will make a car go faster this week than it did the previous week.
He doesn’t need to spend money on a sign for the shop (there isn’t one). The offices are far from lavish. There is no museum. Nothing oozes flash just for the sake of flash.
So a 90-minute, let’s-get-the-awards-presented show and then either go celebrate, go to the hotel, or go home fits right in with that Furniture Row Racing mold.
“Get the job done,” Truex said Wednesday as he summed up the attitude. “And then go have some fun with everybody and celebrate.”
Not everything is simple. Truex had his speech written and then rewritten. He knows what he wants to say. It likely won’t last too long.
“I feel good about it,” Truex said. “They’re only giving us five minutes this year. So short and sweet.”
Crew chief Cole Pearn gave a quick speech Wednesday during the Myers Brothers Awards event and joked that he had a lot of people to thank and understood if people wanted to close their eyes.
They would have only blinked before he had completed his speech, which was part of a 70-minute awards ceremony that previously had lasted more than two hours, including a lunch.
“It’s nice [this championship banquet] kind of worked out that way, for sure,” Pearn said. “Even [Wednesday] was super efficient.”
Expect more of the same Thursday night.
“We are going to get it done, keep it simple, be respectful and get on with our business,” Furniture Row general manager Joe Garone said.
The question is can Furniture Row keep its focus on speed and not want to have a little more flash as it seeks additional titles?
An organization that won eight times in 2017 — after coming into the season with just six wins in all its history — might want to have more swagger and sparkle.
“In a lot of ways, it’s business as usual,” Garone said. “We’re already looking at areas that we feel like we were weak and looking at what we’re going to do over the offseason to get stronger.
“It will definitely be tougher next year. All of the ships in the harbor have been raised. We’re already nose-down working.”
While the format fits Furniture Row, it also fits for the rest of the field. It stinks sitting there having lost in the running for the title. So 90 minutes has to be better than 240.
“I think it fits a lot of people in the sport,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. “Like a lot of things in NASCAR, it just takes a little time for it to come around.”
Truex has even been able to fit in everything he has wanted to do in the 10 days since winning the title. He got to the Florida Keys on Wednesday (instead of Monday) following the championship and had Thanksgiving with the family as planned.
He then spent time with his remote-control boats on the weekend before going to Denver for events Monday and then to Las Vegas.
Just like his season, he seemed to be in control.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Truex said. “It’s been busy. But I’ve definitely enjoyed it.”
Can the fun continue?
“One thing I feel really confident about is just us being us,” Pearn said. “I really don’t think it changes it other than we don’t have to worry about people saying we can’t close the deal or we can’t win it out.
“To be able to do that, to just have the monkey off your back and just focusing on trying to win more races is a good feeling.”