LAS VEGAS – Even if you saw Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards or have watched videos of some of the special moments during the event, you didn’t see or hear everything.
More happened backstage. Here’s a glimpse of what took place and what was said when the drivers walked off the stage:
Jeff Gordon says that now that he’s not a driver, he doesn’t know if he should be on the group text list of drivers. He says he’s offered to get off it but no one has kicked him off it. So will anyone do that?
“I don’t think our driver group text is all that elite of a group,’’ Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch joked. “We are all quite happy to leave Jeff within our group text. We feel him as a driver.’’
Said Clint Bowyer: “You need a guy like that on the driver group text whether he’s on the track or off the track. His experience, his education he’s had in this sport is second to none, and we need him in every kind of conversation we can have.’’
Told that no one had said he should be off the list, Gordon said: “I’m happy to contribute. Let’s get through the Daytona 500 and see how I talk about them (on the Fox broadcast as an analyst). Not that I’m going to talk bad, but I’m going to be honest. I would love to continue to be a part of it because I am passionate for the sport. I’m always going to be a driver whether I’m driving a car or not.”
Carl Edwards has talked this season about how much pressure he put on himself at the start of the year with joining Joe Gibbs Racing, but Friday night he related a story about the Las Vegas race and contact with Kasey Kahne that day.
“I didn’t realize until we got going how much pressure I was putting on myself and how hard I was trying,’’ said Edwards, who finished 42nd in that race. “Vegas stands out. I don’t know why, racing for fourth or fifth, just door-slammed Kasey Kahne and screwed up both of our races. Afterwards, I talked to Kasey and Kasey was puzzled: “Carl, that wasn’t even close.’’ I realized, man, I’m trying way too damn hard. I feel lot more comfortable now.’’
Martin Truex Jr.’s speech came before Jeff Gordon’s and meant that Truex then had to have photos taken with his fourth-place trophy and talk to the media. He left the room quickly so he could return to the ballroom and listen to Gordon’s speech.
During his speech, Truex had joked that he has happy to know he was the only driver Gordon ever called after wrecking them.
Gordon responded during his speech: “I’m just glad to know he got the phone call. That’s the first I heard about that and that was five years ago.’’
Truex, standing just inside the room near a group of photographers, smiled and laughed at Gordon’s comment.
Friday was special for Kurt Busch, who saw his little brother crowned champion. After his speech, Busch was asked about hugging his brother on stage.
“I’m just blown away,’’ Busch said. “It’s little Kyle. Now he’s big Kyle.’’
Busch said he had more he wanted to say to his younger brother during his speech but couldn’t because “I got choked up at the beginning.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his 13th consecutive Most Popular Driver Award and while many take it for granted that he’ll win the fan vote each year, he said he does not.
“I got to thank my father for how he carried himself and presented himself and what he did for the sport and the family and the name,’’ Earnhardt said “I came into the sport with a huge fan base due to their loyalty to him.
“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made some mistakes. I think I’m as good as I’ve ever been as a race car driver and outside the car as I’ve ever been and don’t take any of this for granted. I certainly appreciate every race and every lap and look forward to a couple more good seasons and having some fun and see where it goes from there.’’