NASCAR Crowns Champion Today—Will The Banquet Be Safe at The Waldorf Astoria?

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer INovember 16, 2008

Today, NASCAR crowned the 2008 Champion at Homestead Miami Speedway.  The new champion is Jimmie Johnson, tying the three consecutive championships in a row record of legend Cale Yarborough.

So, the championship is settled and the top ten teams are now set.  But will they all be safe when they come to New York City for NASCAR's annual championship festivities at the Waldorf Astoria?

The Waldorf is one of New York's most posh and exclusive venues.  It has an impeccable reputation for quality, excellence, and class.

The hotel was one of the largest in the City on its opening.  It is also famous for its art deco design.

Unbelievably, however, there was a shooting in the lobby of this famed hotel very early this morning.  A retired New York police officer, serving as part of the security detail, was wounded in the melee as he tried to foil a robbery in one of the hotel shops.

The shooting took place in Cellini Jewelers, a specialty watch shop located in the Waldorf since 1977.  Witnesses say it sounded like a gun shot when a man in a track suit entered the store, smashing the cases with his handgun.

Security guard George Boyle grabbed the robber and wrestled him to the ground.  In the process, at least six shots were fired, hitting Boyle.

As he fell, another employee of the hotel apparently tackled the suspected robber, identified as Rafael Rabinovich-Ardans of Brooklyn.  Boyle was rushed to the hospital and is expected to recover from his wounds, while Rabinovich-Ardans has been taken into custody.

Guests described utter chaos at the Waldorf as the robbery and shooting took place.   One guest described screaming, gun shots, and guests running in panic through the lobby and out the hotel front door.

In just a few short weeks, NASCAR's elite are scheduled to arrive at this famed hotel.  Championship week festivities are scheduled from December 2nd to December 5th, with the banquet to be held in the Hotel Ballroom on December 5th.

Will the Waldorf Astoria Hotel be ready?  Will it be a safe venue for the top ten NASCAR drivers and teams to celebrate their 2008 victories?

There has been much controversy about keeping the NASCAR Championship banquet in New York City.  In fact, there has been much talk recently about moving it to LasVegas, a bigger venue for both race teams and fans.

These discussions are sure to intensify with the recent trouble at the Waldorf Astoria.  And perhaps this year, the NASCAR elite will be more concerned about the security details than the mobs of fans surrounding them as they celebrate the Championship week festivities.

Photo Credit:  Waldorf Astoria Website

Sources include Associated Press, NBC New York, and