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July 30, 2014

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Preview: 2013 NASCAR Champion’s Week speeds into Las Vegas

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NASCAR

2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, now a six-time winner, and Miss Sprint Cup Brooke Werner.

2012 NASCAR Champion's Week: Sprint Cup Series Awards Red Carpet at Wynn

Brad Keselowski and Roger Penske arrive on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards red carpet at the Wynn on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Launch slideshow »

2012 NASCAR Champion's Week: Victory Lap on the Strip

Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Brad Keselowski at the Victory Lap of 2012 NASCAR Champion's Week on the Strip on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Launch slideshow »

All 13 NASCAR superstar Sprint Cup Series drivers, including 2013 winner Jimmie Johnson — now a six-time champion, have arrived for Champion’s Week, a four-day, nonstop whirlwind of events. On Tuesday at FOX 5 studios, Jimmie hit a $250 jackpot on a NASCAR-themed slot machine, to which he added $300 out of his own wallet to donate to the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Jimmie also visited the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign with 2013 Miss Sprint Cup Brooke Werner. NASCAR President Mike Helton hosted Tuesday night’s annual Champion’s Dinner. It has been three years since Jimmie celebrated his championship win in Las Vegas, although he did attend the 2011 and 2012 ceremonies as a contender.

“Winning races does it all,” he said. “That is my focus and my brand. What is next is what keeps you motivated.”

Jimmie is now just one championship win away from matching the record seven titles won by Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. “I never could have dreamed this big,” he added. “When I hear my name mentioned alongside Petty and Earnhardt, it still feels surreal.”

In advance of Thursday’s Victory Lap burnouts down the Strip, the celebrations kick off this afternoon with the first event: a free Fan Fest at Fremont Street Experience with NASCAR show cars on display.

Starting at 1:30 p.m., the drivers will walk a red carpet through the crowds en route to the Third Street stage. They’ll play in a “Deal or No Deal”-type stage game show hosted by ESPN’s Jamie Little and 2012 Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon. Two fans will be chosen from the crowd to participate, and a third will be selected from Las Vegas Motor Speedway social media. The winner will attend Friday’s televised awards at Wynn Las Vegas. (FOX Sports, 9 p.m. ET)

New this year to the Fan Fest is “Legends Chat” featuring 1999 champion Dale Jarrett and legendary NASCAR team owner Leonard Wood, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year. Leonard fielded winning cars for Dale, David Pearson and Cale Yarbrough, just to name a few.

Tonight, I’ll join the drivers at Tryst in Wynn and appear on Claire B. Lang’s NASCAR Radio show (Sirius/XM Ch 90). On Thursday, it’s the Victory Lap at 3 p.m. starting outside Planet Hollywood, with two burnout sections, doughnut skills and pit stops all along the Strip. The drive team will perform a pit-stop change in front of the Bellagio Fountains.

I will be on the mic to handle the driver introductions. The other pit locations are at Tropicana, Palazzo, Harrah’s and M&M World and Coca-Cola near MGM Grand. To celebrate the season and hometown hero Kyle Busch’s strongest-ever finish, M&M will give away 1 million free bags.

Afterward, the drivers will head to Pearl at the Palms for After the Lap, which is a no-hold’s barred Q+A with fans and all 13 drivers. This has produced hilarious conversations and spontaneous dancing challenges in previous years with the drivers, so expect the unexpected. Remember Jeff Gordon’s breakdancing and Denny Hamlin “Dougie”? Proceeds from the $20 tickets benefit NASCAR Foundation.

Friday’s black-tie awards dinner at Wynn starts at 5 p.m. honoring the Top 10 drivers in the final standings and crowning the champion driver and team owner. Check back to Vegas DeLuxe for our coverage of Fan Fest and the Victory Lap, with live Twitter reports @robin_leach.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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