LAS VEGAS (Dec. 2, 2010) – Hendrick Motorsports collected several awards during Thursday's annual NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, which was held in the Bellagio Hotel & Casino. But the theme of the event was the highly competitive nature of the 2010 season. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France opened the event with his thoughts on why this past season – and this past Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – was so tight. He illustrated his point with a back story of a behind-the-scenes nature. “I remember in January, having our press conference and talking about some of the things we were going to do,” France said. “[Vice president of competition] Robin Pemberton stood up and said the now very infamous words, 'Boys, have at it.' I said to myself for a moment, ‘Hold on, that's not in our script, that's not in our plan.’ But you know what, in a good way he was right. That's exactly what this sport needed to transition and take another good step forward. The result was from the start of Speedweeks throughout the season, you saw the level of competition go up.” The proof was in the numbers, as the series saw record-highs in lead changes and leaders per race. During the program, France also announced a NASCAR partnership with American Ethanol and ethanol advocacy group Growth Energy. As part of the association, a new contingency award known as the “American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award” will be given throughout the season. Hendrick Motorsports collected several of the postseason awards, which were given out during the luncheon. ·Most Popular Driver Award: Dale Earnhardt Jr. ·Goodyear Gatorback Belts Fastest Lap Award: Jimmie Johnson ·Goodyear Tires Award: Jimmie Johnson ·Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award: Earl Wheeler, Hendrick Motorsports (engine builder) ·Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Jimmie Johnson ·Championship Sponsor Award: Lowe’s ·Champion Crew Chief Award: Chad Knaus At the event’s conclusion, Johnson, Jeff Gordon and the other top 12 drivers were whisked away to do what comes naturally: Drive, though not exactly in the traditional sense. For the second consecutive year, thousands of fans lined The Strip to watch the top 12 take the popular “Victory Lap.” Starting at Planet Hollywood and ending at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the highlight once again were celebratory burnouts on the streets of Las Vegas by all 12 drivers. Prior to the Victory Lap, Johnson received the Key to the City of Las Vegas from Mayor Oscar Goodmanand Commissioner Tom Collins. Collins also presented a Proclamation recognizing Thursday Dec. 2, 2010 as Jimmie Johnson Day. A large crowd also enjoyed a question-and-answer session with the top 12 at the NASCAR After The Lap held at the Hard Rock. For the second-consecutive year, Las Vegas hosts the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week, culminating with Friday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony at Wynn Las Vegas. SPEED, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio will broadcast the event, live at 9 p.m. ET. Following is a complete rundown of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week activities. Friday, Dec. 3 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony: The big show starts at 9 p.m. ET, crowning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion driver and owner and honoring the other drivers who finished in the top 10 in the final series standings. The star-studded entertainment lineup for the ceremony includes country rockers Rascal Flatts, comedic host Frank Caliendo, country singer Martina McBride, singer Colbie Caillat and a performance from the Las Vegas show “Viva ELVIS by Cirque du Soleil.” A Sam Bass custom designed Gibson Les Paul guitar being played by Rascal Flatts and signed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and the band will be auctioned to support the NASCAR Foundation beginning Friday, Dec. 3 at www.NASCARFoundation.com.