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NASCAR Victory Lap photos: A fire on the Strip, plus a new 3-year contract


Tom Donoghue/

The 2011 NASCAR Week Victory Lap on the Strip and a fire on Nov. 1, 2011.

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2011 NASCAR Week: Victory Lap and Fire

The 2011 NASCAR Week Victory Lap on the Strip and a fire on Nov. 1, 2011. Launch slideshow »
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The 2011 NASCAR Week Victory Lap on the Strip and a fire on Nov. 1, 2011.

NASCAR Victory Lap

NASCAR Victory Lap

NASCAR Victory Lap

NASCAR Victory Lap

2011 NASCAR Series champion Tony Stewart says he’s leading the racecar drivers in wanting a new 3-year renewal with Las Vegas for the Victory Lap and Champions Week to stay here through 2014. NASCAR President Mike Helton told me exclusively: “I’m confident that we’ll wrap up all the details in the next few weeks and announce the renewal. Vegas is the best place for our NASCAR fans to come each year for this.”

Tony told me: “All the drivers want to stay in Vegas for this, and I’m the leader of that fight. We love coming here. The fans love coming here. Where else would you do this but Vegas and get crowds like this?”

Fans were lined into the thousands three deep up and down the Strip yesterday, and fans had the extra thrill of seeing Ryan Newman’s #39 U.S. Army Tornado Chevrolet explode during a demonstration doughnut and spin burnout between the Palazzo and Treasure Island. He also blew out a tire spinning through the engine debris and had to leap from the vehicle in flames.

If it wasn’t embarrassing enough that our vigilant police then stopped the stunts and didn’t allow Las Vegas brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch to show their spin skills, Ryan then had to sit and let Kurt push the broken-down racecar all the way to the Hard Rock Hotel for the NASCAR Fan Fest.

Thanks to Tom Donoghue for his amazing photos of the explosive Victory Lap. Luxor headliner Carrot Top rode in one of the cars -- fortunately not Ryan’s! Thanks also to Richard Corey for all of his YouTube videos of yesterday’s thrills, spills and chills in the cold, near-snowy weather and high winds.

I had the fun of introducing the Top 12 drivers: obviously three-time champion and this year’s winner Tony, back-flipping rival Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon Denny Hamlin, Ryan, Kurt and Kyle.

At the wild, free-for-all Q&A conducted by Las Vegas darling Jamie Little of ESPN, Jeff surprised all of us with a remarkable demonstration of breakdancing. He told me it was something he used to do at school after hours with his pals. “I’m very rusty now and wouldn’t dare spin on my head, but I did use to do it. It wasn’t at all good for my back, and I gave up breakdancing when I hurt it.”

Tony drove right into the Joint at the Hard Rock in his winning #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet under a shotgun spray of silver foil stars. Country star Blake Shelton and “Jersey Shore’s” Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi took part with video questions for the drivers, one of whom noted that he thought her show was really “Jersey Whores.” That got the crowd shrieking, cheering, stomping and applauding!

Later, I took on announcer duties for Tony’s live 3-hour Sirius Radio Stewie Awards in the jam-packed lounge at the Hard Rock and then joined TV titan Jerry Springer as dueling guests for a segment. Jerry told the audience jokingly that NASCAR fans were the biggest fans -- and participants -- of his 21-year-old “The Jerry Springer Show.” We announced the winners of the Fifth Annual Stewie Awards voted on fans for the best, boldest and funniest moments of the NASCAR season. If you missed it, catch the Sirius rebroadcast at 3 p.m. ET tomorrow and again 6 p.m. ET Sunday.

Guests on the program included NASCAR President Mike Helton, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, auto-racing legends A.J. Foyt and Leonard Wood, comedian Bill Engvall, Jerry and yours truly.

The 2011 Stewie Award winners: Best Original Drama, Tony Stewart; Bonehead Move of the Year Award, J.J. Yeley; Feels Like the First Time Award, Trevor Bayne; Best Vocal Performance, Pastor Joe Nelms; Best Driver2Crew Chatter, Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Best Original Comedy, Greg Biffle and Boris Said; Best Stunt Sequence, David Ragan; Boys, Have At It Award, Jeff Gordon and Trevor Bayne; the Social Stewie Award for the year's best social media quote, Matt Kenseth; the Stewie Lifetime Achievement Award, chosen by Tony and co-host Matt Yocum, was presented to Leonard Wood.

Tony said: “Hosting the Stewies is always one of the highlights of Champions Week for me. This year with my NASCAR win made it incredibly special. This has been an amazing season for me and the team, and it’s great to share it in Vegas with the fans.” Tonight, he will be crowned champion and honored by NASCAR drivers and executives in a black-tie ceremony at the Wynn after walking the red carpet. Reba McIntire and Kid Rock are the entertainment at the live telecast starting at 6 p.m. PT.

Tony summed up: “It’s always the best time in Vegas, and we’ll be back if I have anything to say about it for many years to come.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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