Each season, every driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series strives to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and earn an invitation to the year-end banquet in Vegas in December. While only one driver can be crowned the champion and earn the coveted seat at the head table, all the drivers know that an invitation to the banquet means a season of very hard work has paid off and it’s time to celebrate all of their accomplishments.
The wives and girlfriends also love it because it means our boys trade out their fire suits for tuxedos and, of course, we get to glam up for an evening full of fun! Las Vegas rolls out the red carpet -- literally -- for the NASCAR bunch and the whole town embraces the sport, which is a big reason why we all love to go! The festivities are held at the beautiful Wynn hotel, but over the course of three days NASCAR takes over the whole town … even closing down the strip at one point so the drivers can do burnouts! Here is a behind-the-scenes look, with a little girly perspective, of our time in Vegas because as we all know, what happens in Vegas … well, it all ends up on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
We arrived in Las Vegas on Tuesday and if you have never been out here, you really must add it to your bucket list. The bright lights of the strip and the many sites are overwhelming and probably the main reason the traffic is always terrible on the strip! Everyone just stops and stares at the giant flashing signs, various street shows and the extremely interesting Vegas characters strolling the strip. (Seriously, you could people-watch all day!)
When we arrived at the Wynn hotel, we literally walked through the middle of a koi pond with islands of Christmas trees and palm trees. After checking into our room with this stunning view, that’s about when all hell broke loose.
With the Chase format, 12 … wait, scratch that … 13 drivers are eligible to compete for the championship title, but only the top 10 walk the red carpet, which puts us girls in a bit of a situation. Do you buy a dress early or not? I get too nervous, regardless of where we are in points, to buy one before the season ends because I am afraid to jinx it, so that said I purchased a dress just a few short days before Thanksgiving. It needed extensive alterations and I was not able to pick it up until Tuesday morning before we had to fly out to Vegas.
The first thing I did when we got to the room was try on the dress. What happened next is kind of a blur, but it involved a long, loud scream and then hysterical crying. Kyle came rushing in to see what was wrong. Bless him, he meant to be sympathetic but could not contain his laughter as he asked me if I was going for the Madonna “cone boob” look. Absolutely not! The dress was altered in such a terrible way that the 1980’s called and asked for their dress back!
Anyway, long story short, after taking the dress to the hotel alterations department, we found out that it was not repairable and that I needed to go on the hunt for a new one just two short days before the banquet. With all that stress, I went and did the only logical thing a girl can do: we went out for margaritas … lots of margaritas!
If you are ever in Vegas, stop by the Aria Hotel’s upscale Mexican restaurant, Javier’s, and try one of their jalapeño margaritas. It’s fantastic! Kyle and 2013 Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton even shared one fried ice cream with two spoons at dinner! That’s friendship!
If you are going to have a dress disaster, I have to tell you that Vegas is the ideal town to have one in. Ladies, if you are looking to shop ‘til you drop, there are malls galore! From the Fashion Show Mall that has live runway shows throughout the day to the Caesar Forum Shops, where it looks like you stepped back into ancient Rome with massive goddess statues and a stunning, ever-changing sky above you; the actual stores are almost an added bonus!
As I was on the hunt for the perfect gown, the drivers took to the streets of Vegas to do a fun and interactive Deal or No Deal game with the fans. From autographs to big prizes such as tickets to the 2014 Vegas race and the grand prize award that Kyle had in his case, which was a trip for two to the banquet, I saw by the response on Twitter that everyone was having a great time!
I was having an awesome time too. With the many options out here in Vegas, it took me only a few short hours to find a replacement gown and I was back to the hotel to meet up with Kyle for a fun NASCAR evening.
The night started with the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Reception followed by the Sprint Media Reception. Here, many of the media who you know and love and who keep you up to date all race weekend long were in attendance.
After mingling with many members of the media, including Jeff Gluck and his lovely girlfriend Sara, and discussing their off-season plans, I bumped into the beautiful Miss Sprint Cup gals. Topics of conversation included Kim’s intense kettle bell workout and lots of baby talk with Jaclyn. I am so sad she won’t be at the track next year, but am very excited for her and her husband to welcome their new baby in a few short months.
While mingling, Kyle and I were asked to go live on Sirius XM NASCAR with Claire B. Lang. If you missed the show, we talked about our off-season plans which include binge watching all of our favorite shows that we didn’t get to watch during the year (American Horror Story and Blacklist) and going to the Super Bowl.
The evening concluded at the Carnevino restaurant at the Palazzo hotel. If you are looking for a fantastic Italian restaurant, this is the place! From spaghetti with clams, shrimp, lobster and calamari in it, to steaks with your choice of ten different sauces on top, to Nutella fritters (!!!) for dessert, this extensive menu is in a league of its own.
Thursday in Vegas has to be one of the fans' favorite days. The strip closes down for an awesome burnout show where all the drivers show off their skills for the crowd. Since Kyle is from Las Vegas, he is a born showman and, in my opinion, his burnout in the M&M’s Camry definitely stole the show! Of course, I’m a little biased so … what did you all think?
Following this event, the drivers went to the Palms hotel for NASCAR After the Lap where the boys come out for a Q&A session and things always get wild! This is always a highlight of the week so all us girls went over to watch and I’m sure glad we did because it was hysterical! One fan asked Kyle if he wasn’t a driver what he would be doing. His response was a first base baseball player and he told the story of how growing up he loved to play baseball and was really good throughout Little League but his parents had him choose one sport between baseball and racing since the intense schedules began to conflict with each other. Other interesting stories included Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s addiction to eBay which had the whole crowd, including the drivers, in tears and then everyone’s advice to Clint on marriage. My favorite was Jimmie’s recommendation to always say two little words: “yes, dear”.
Following this fun event, Kyle and I went off to the City Center Mall so I could go for another dress fitting (yes, we were less than 24 hours from the banquet and I was panicked!) and here we stumbled upon what is now one of our favorite restaurants in Vegas.
It is called She by Morton’s and the food was outstanding! Boasting a variety of steaks and seafood like a traditional Morton’s, this gem also has an extensive appetizer selection so we opted to skip entrees and try a few different small plates. From sea bass bites to guacamole with crab in it, everything was fresh and delicious, but it was the drinks and dessert that really just blew us away!
They are known for their cupcake shots, which are beyond delicious, so I got the recipe for all you “mixologists” to make at your next party. It consists of ¼ oz vanilla vodka, ½ oz cake vodka, ¼ oz Tuaca and ½ oz of cream all mixed together. Then take a shot glass and line the rim with vanilla frosting and then dip into sprinkles. Pour the drink in and enjoy! Trust me, it’s amazing!
For dessert, we had a popcorn ice cream milkshake. Yes, you read this right and my mouth is watering again as I type the words. We also had a crazy peanut butter and jelly concoction which was out of this world!
The day of the banquet was finally upon us and at noon that day, I got the call I had been waiting for; the new dress was altered and ready for pick up. HALLELUJAH! The gown was a very pretty cream color with beadwork in gold and silver and ostrich feathers adorning the bottom. It reminded me of a 1940s Old Hollywood glam gown so after perusing Pinterest, I found a winged-out, smoky eye in dark browns and, of course, my signature red lip that really completed the look. Ladies, check out my blog, http://samanthabusch.com/2013/01/make-up-trend-the-red-lip/, on how to do the perfect red lip that lasts all night long!
For the hair, I wanted soft waves with lots of volume and a vintage-inspired hair clip to pull part of the ‘do up. Kyle opted for a classic black tuxedo and a simple black tie and he looked so handsome!
After walking the red carpet, we were seated and the show began! Jay Mohr hosted it and was hilarious! Granted, he didn’t pick on Kyle or I, maybe that was because we went to his improv show in L.A. earlier this year and the two had a chance to talk. Honestly though, he did have some good one-liners! For those of you who tuned in, what did you think and what was your favorite joke?
The whole show was a star-studded event with performances by John Mellencamp, Dierks Bentley and Sara Bareilles and there were various stars to introduce the drivers, including Alyssa Milano and Michael Rooker, who played Rowdy Burns in 'Days of Thunder', to introduce the one and only Rowdy Busch! Kyle was a natural up on stage, working the crowd with a mix of humor and sincerity and I can’t lie, I was very touched by his words to me. If you missed Kyle’s speech, you can view it here.
The whole event that NASCAR put on in Vegas was truly remarkable. No detail was overlooked and I was honored to be in attendance. The banquet was a culmination of a great season on- and off-track for us! We have had a really blessed year that we must thank God for. And I so enjoy interacting with you fans throughout the year, both at the track and via social media! I love seeing how passionate you are about Kyle and NASCAR in general. NASCAR truly has the best fans in all of sports! I hope you enjoyed my take on the week’s events and I look forward to sharing more of our adventures throughout the year!
See more pictures from Vegas here: http://instagram.com/samanthabusch