Everybody wins if NASCAR moves awards party here

My cell phone must have had issues on Thanksgiving, which would explain why NASCAR chairman Brian France didn't call to wish me a happy holiday. Maybe he'll give me a buzz during Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or on Christmas.

He keeps forgetting to give me his personal cell number, so I'll have to use this space to send him a note.

Dear Brian,

Hope you've enjoyed your stay this week in New York City leading up to tonight's annual NASCAR Nextel Cup banquet.

Surprised you're even there after the folks on Staten Island jilted your dream to build a track for a Cup race near the Big Apple. At least your cousins at International Speedway Corp. were able to unload the toxic land it had purchased for a racetrack.

Having the banquet at the storied Waldorf-Astoria seems an unsavory reminder that NASCAR really isn't wanted in the country's biggest market.

Why keep the banquet there?

It probably was your late father's idea to have a Wall Street presence when he moved it there 27 years ago.

(I'm sure it's difficult for you to attend the banquet and go through the holidays for the first time without him. It's still a shame Bill France Jr. died in June. I'm sure a worthy tribute will be part of tonight's ceremony.)

I've heard rumors that you've been pursuing an NFL franchise for Los Angeles. I wish you luck. But if you can't sell out two Cup races near Los Angeles, how can you expect to sell out eight football games?

I'll give you credit for the Chase for the Championship, which has become a model for other contrived playoffs on the PGA Tour and in NHRA drag racing.

Your Car of Tomorrow has become the Car of Now as the only one that will be used henceforth in the Cup series. The CON (sorry about the acronym) narrows the scope by which teams like Hendrick Motorsports can bend your rules as easily as they bend sheet metal. Most importantly, the CON's safety enhancements are top-shelf.

I won't ruin this note by asking you to explain two years of declining TV ratings and too many empty seats during the 10-race Chase.

The only reason the Cup banquet was moved to New York was to woo corporate America. That goal has been accomplished. Now it's time to move to greener pastures.

You always say fans are the top priority. If you truly believe that, then it's time to open the Cup awards presentations to the people who purchase your sponsors' products, buy race tickets and souvenirs and watch or listen to your races.

Bring the show to Las Vegas and invite the fans.

I'm not being a homer.

The only other worthy market would be Charlotte, N.C., but that area already has three major Cup events. Most drivers, crew members and owners live near there, so it wouldn't be special for them to host the banquet.

A week in Las Vegas would be a festival. It would be an event for all reasons.

You could hold the dinner in the arena at Mandalay Bay or MGM Grand Garden. After that, open the doors to around 10,000 fans who would gladly buy their way in to be part of the awards show. Give all proceeds to various NASCAR charities.

Bring the boys (crews and drivers and their families) to Las Vegas the preceding Monday with various events leading up to the big Friday awards presentation.

Sponsors can join their drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for laps at the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

Send the top 43 Cup cars. Park them inside one of the convention halls for a massive display and hold driver autograph sessions. Let teams sell souvenirs.

Get the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority or Las Vegas Events to fund the cost of the cross-country caravan of race-car haulers

Parade all 43 down the Strip and through downtown the day before Friday's ceremony.

Putting 43 cars on the Strip will be a worthy visual.

Give the festivities to the fans who have been able to share the excitement only through abbreviated TV or satellite radio broadcasts.

I hear a seat and dinner tonight goes for $2,000. You get can a heck of a buffet here for that much dough.

Get fans involved and hold it in a city that will welcome you with open arms. Do this, and the next time you say fans are the most important element of NASCAR they might believe you.

Have a safe holiday, Brian. Hope you get to do your holiday shopping here next year.



Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.