NASCAR Winston Cup Champion's Week -- Day 4
Times Square appearance, NASCAR/IMAX movie preview kept Kenseth busy on Thursday
NEW YORK (Dec. 4, 2003) -- The pace is picking up and the NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, as you might expect, is having no trouble keeping up.
Matt Kenseth's whirlwind "Champion's Week" in New York City hit full stride on Thursday, with three appearances for the driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Ford.
The day began with Kenseth being greeted by several hundred fans at the NBC Experience store in Rockefeller Plaza for an autograph session. He was joined by NASCAR Busch Series champion Brian Vickers, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil, NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year Jamie McMurray and Kenseth's Roush Racing teammate Kurt Busch.
Then it was on to Times Square, where another crowd of several hundred awaited. Kenseth was given a proclamation from the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, proclaiming Friday, December 5 as "NASCAR Winston Cup Series Day in New York." Presenting Kenseth with the proclamation -- which he accepted on behalf of the entire NASCAR Winston Cup Series -- was Kenneth Podziba, Commissioner of the New York City Sports Commission.
With the No. 17 DEWALT Ford show car parked in the Times Square plaza, and a continuous Kenseth highlight video playing on Times Square's trademark massive video screen, Podziba read portions of the proclamation.
Before doing so, Podziba told the crowd that NASCAR "is the fastest-growing sport in the country and we're honored that NASCAR comes to New York every year."
Said Kenseth: "It's an honor to be standing up here on behalf of NASCAR, Winston and all the drivers."
After accepting the proclamation, Kenseth and his crew chief, Robbie Reiser, posed for pictures in front of -- and atop -- the show car. They then signed autographs for a half-hour, as fans continued to flock to the plaza.
From there, Kenseth and Reiser joined the rest of the NASCAR Top 10 -- plus Vickers, Kvapil, McMurray and NASCAR's touring and weekly champions, at the Loews Centerplex IMAX Theatre, a first-time site for NASCAR's annual press conference during Champion's Week.
A crowd of approximately 500 donned special IMAX glasses to watch a preview of NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience, a film slated to be released next March. The preview came after the driver introductions, NASCAR President Mike Helton's annual "State of NASCAR" speech and a spirited Q & A session with the media in attendance, involving Helton and NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France.
Following the preview, drivers in the NASCAR Top 10 -- plus NASCAR Vice Chairman Bill France -- were available for one-on-one interviews.
* What's on tap tomorrow for the champion ... Before accepting in excess of $5 million in point fund money at the Friday night awards ceremony in the Waldorf=Astoria Grand Ballroom, Kenseth will have another busy day. The day will begin with the Myers Brothers Breakfast, a National Motorsports Press Association-led annual function at the Waldorf's Starlight Roof, where a variety of awards will be presented. In the afternoon, there's the traditional Park Avenue photo shoot with the No. 17 show car and the Winston show car. After a brief respite, Kenseth will don a tuxedo for the awards ceremony, which starts at 7 p.m. (And will be televised on a tape-delayed basis, starting at 9 on TNT.)
* It's official: Elliott cutting back schedule ... Thursday at the Waldorf, Evernham Motorsports announced that its 2004 lineup will include Bill Elliott, but as expected, Elliott will run a reduced race schedule. NASCAR Busch Series standout Kasey Kahne will succeed Elliott as the driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge. Jeremy Mayfield will continue as driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge and Tommy Baldwin will join Evernham Motorsports as team director for the No. 9 Dodge team. Elliott announced his intentions to run a limited schedule for several years and remain with Evernham Motorsports as mentor and coach to the team's drivers. Elliott's role will expand in a business capacity.
* Sauter moves to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in '04 ... Johnny Sauter will drive Richard Childress' No. 30 AOL Chevrolet in 2004, it was announced Thursday at the Waldorf. Crew Chief Kevin Hamlin is switching from the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet to the No. 30, and is bringing the rest of the No. 31 team with him.
What: NASCAR Winston Cup Series Awards Ceremony.
Who: Top 10 drivers in the final 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup championship standings, led by champion Matt Kenseth.
Where: Grand Ballroom, Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, New York City.
When: 7-10:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Dec. 5.
TV: TNT (tape-delay), 9 p.m.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.