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Notes: Mandel spices up NASCAR interviews

November 30, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

LAS VEGAS -- Truex Jr. counts blessings after Sandy; Hamlin happy to have Kenseth

Comedian Howie Mandel brought his act to Las Vegas a day early -- and incognito.

The host of Friday's Sprint Cup Series awards banquet at the Wynn, Mandel turned up at Thursday's interview sessions after the Myers Brothers Luncheon wearing a wig and holding a microphone, pretending to be a member of the press corps.

As Dale Earnhardt Jr. began to answer a serious question, Mandel yelled from the fringe of the scrum, "Can't hear you!"

Earnhardt began again. Mandel interrupted. "Can't hear you! Not getting it. Can you talk so we can all get it?"

"I can only speak as loud as I can speak," Earnhardt replied.

"OK, go ahead," Mandel said.

A radio reporter, who didn't recognize the comedian, offered to hold his microphone closer to Earnhardt.

"No, I've got it," Mandel said.

For the third time, Earnhardt began to answer.

"Louder!" Mandel shouted, and Earnhardt smiled as recognition dawned.

"I know this guy," Earnhardt chuckled. "I know who this guy is. He's going to keep going."

"He's screwing up my sound bite," said the radio reporter.

"Louder!" shouted Mandel before exiting the group, leaving Earnhardt and the reporters laughing.

* Mandel to host Sprint Cup Awards

Truex Jr. counts his blessings

New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. and his family were lucky.

When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in late October, the Truex home avoided major damage. Those living close by weren't as fortunate.

"My family made out very well for the situation and the area that they are in," Truex said Thursday before leaving for the NASCAR Victory Lap on the Las Vegas Strip. "They're a mile from people that lost their homes and had serious flooding and a really bad time with it. We were very fortunate that all of my close friends and family didn't have any major problems, which is great.

"But at the same time, a lot of people in the community are struggling. Lost houses and things and places where I grew up going to, like the Jersey shore, right there is just in shambles. We're trying to do all we can to help. My foundation set up a fund, and we've raised I think over $150,000 up to this week, and we're starting to disperse those funds to families and help people that really need it."

Given his non-stop late-season schedule, Truex hasn't had a chance to visit his home state since the hurricane, but his charitable work has arrived ahead of him.

"We took a truck load of supplies up there two weeks ago, I think, and we're getting ready to do another one. Just trying to help as much as we can, giving back and trying to get those people on their feet, because it was a tough time for them.

"No, I haven't been back, and I won't be probably until Christmas. That will be really our first time. We've been so busy it's been hard to get away."

* Truex Jr. focused on relief effort

Hamlin lobbied for Kenseth

Denny Hamlin thinks Matt Kenseth will be a perfect fit for Joe Gibbs Racing, and he made his feelings known when Kenseth started discussions with the organization.

JGR announced in early September that Kenseth would drive the No. 20 Toyota for the organization next year. Roughly two months earlier, Roush Fenway Racing had revealed Kenseth would be leaving after 13 full-time seasons.

"I was one that definitely pushed for Matt to come over to Gibbs, and I just think that he's really going to mesh well with me and Kyle [Busch]," Hamlin said. "I know that Kyle does a lot of short-track racing with Matt's son [Ross Kenseth], and I know that me and Matt have very similar driving styles on the race track.

"I look forward to that communication and just hearing about how he did things versus how we do things, and, really, that's what makes teams stronger. When Kyle came over in 2008, it was that drive that kind of pushed me to that next level --having someone come over and push you to be better. I think it's going to be no different with Matt."

* Kenseth's move becomes official | Hamlin: 'Great guy to fill seat'