10 Things NASCAR Fans Should Ask Santa for This Christmas
It's that time of year, NASCAR fans.
Santa Claus is coming to towns—and race tracks—all over America.
His sack of presents is full, but who should get what?
For the track owner trying to fill empty seats, it's obvious. He needs more paying customers. But what to get the driver who has everything? More downforce? Better grip?
Forget it. Just like regular Christmas is mostly for kids, a NASCAR Christmas should be more about the fans. Here are 10 gifts Santa could bring that would make NASCAR fans everywhere happy.
10. Fantastic Finishes
Every race can't be close at the finish, but it sure would be nice.
There were several fantastic finishes in 2013, and the margin of victory was one second or less in 20 races—up from 17 in 2012, according to NASCAR.com.
There was the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, when Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne dueled side-by-side for a dozen laps before Kenseth won at the end. There was the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway in May, when David Ragan slayed all the big names to win on a last-lap push from teammate David Gilliland. And in March, there was Kyle Busch zooming by on the outside as Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin banged on each other.
Let's have even more of the same in 2014, please.
9. Anybody but Six-Time
Let's get one thing straight first: Jimmie Johnson is a great champion.
He's talented, hard-working and enormously successful—and it seems he is destined to own more Cup championships than anyone in NASCAR history. His current total of six is only one behind current record-holders Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Furthermore, he represents the sport as a champion should, and he's simply a down-to-earth, nice dude.
Enough already, though. At least for a season.
It would be a brighter 2014 for everyone but greedy 48 fans—and arguably better for the overall popularity of NASCAR—if someone besides Johnson won the title next time around. When Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski won titles in 2010 and 2011, respectively, to break Johnson's string of six consecutive championships, it made those seasons more interesting.
Johnson is not done winning championships and someday will likely be regarded as the greatest stock car champion of all time. But Santa needs to drop a lump of coal in Six-Time's stocking this Christmas.
8. More Bubba, Less Busch
Darrell Wallace Jr. made history when he became the first black driver in nearly 50 years—and only the second black driver ever—to win a NASCAR race by capturing the Kroger 200 Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway in October.
His nickname is Bubba, and it would be nice going forward if he continued to win more races in the Truck Series and eventually in the Nationwide Series as well.
Both of the lower-level series could use a whole lot more Bubba and a whole lot less of Kyle Busch, who already has proven 10 times that he can out-drive everybody in them when he drops down from the Sprint Cup Series.
The irony is that Bubba's full-time ride in the Truck Series is with none other than Kyle Busch Motorsports.
7. Smoke Rising
Love him or hate him, or even fall somewhere in-between, NASCAR is better off with Tony Stewart behind the wheel of a fast race car than with him hobbling around on crutches or on a scooter.
Stewart's 2013 Sprint Cup season ended abruptly when he suffered a gruesome broken leg injury in a sprint-car accident on a dirt track in August.
He later visited the Sprint Cup garage and motored himself around on a scooter that hardly filled his need for speed—or satisfied fans who missed Smoke rising to the top of the leaderboard on the track.
As of mid-December, all signs pointed to Stewart being able to make a no-holds-barred return to the track for the 2014 Daytona 500 in February. Let's hope it happens, even if he needs all of Santa's helpers—and doctors—to make it so.
6. Not-So-Grumpy Old Men
There may be other drivers who are older (Joe Nemechek comes to mind), but Kenseth and Gordon remain competitive.
Kenseth's run at the 2013 title (he led the points much of the season and ultimately finished second to Johnson) was one of the best stories of the year.
When Gordon sprung up out of seemingly nowhere to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and then won at Martinsville late in the Chase to give himself an outside shot, it was another of the season's best storylines.
Yes, they're in their 40s and their best years probably are behind them, but it's better for the sport when they're running well enough to stave off middle-aged grumpiness.
5. More Formidable Fords
The 2013 season was not a good one for Ford.
After switching from Dodge to Ford, Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing not only failed to successfully defend his 2012 Cup title, he also failed to even make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The Roush Fenway Racing stable of Fords, driven by Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., also arguably underachieved—and it had more to do with than race cars lacking consistent speed than the drivers' abilities.
The only driver of a Ford who exceeded expectations was Joey Logano, who made the Chase in his first year driving for Penske after years with Joe Gibbs Racing.
It's a better show when the Fords can compete more consistently with the Chevrolets and Toyotas. Put a reindeer or two under the hood if that's what it takes.
4. Fireworks and Fistfights
There is nothing like a good fistfight at a NASCAR race. Verbal sparring is fine, but fighting is even better.
There were a fair share of altercations in 2013.
Joey Logano had a busy March, getting into it with Denny Hamlin at Bristol and taking him out at Fontana shortly thereafter. As if that wasn't enough, Logano also got into it with Tony Stewart following the race at Auto Club Speedway.
And then there was the strange incident at Richmond after a Truck Series race that led to the arrests of two Richard Childress Racing crewmen after they sought out driver Nelson Piquet Jr. in the infield following the race. Earlier, Piquet and fellow driver Brian Scott had gotten into it on pit road, and Piquet attempted to kick Scott, well, below the belt.
That's the kind of stuff we're talking about here, Santa. We'll take all the fireworks we can get.
3. More Dale, Less Danica
Raise your hand if you've had enough of the Danica Patrick hype.
Then brace yourselves, because there will no doubt be more to come in 2014.
What NASCAR really could use is more Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Victory Lane and less Danica everywhere else.
Earnhardt is coming off his best season in seven years, finishing second five times and fifth in the final points. He failed to win a single race once again, though. If he got on a roll and started ripping off some wins, it would send fans into a frenzy and television ratings through the roof.
As for Danica, wake us up when she does something noteworthy on the track—and then backs it up by doing something noteworthy again before half the season or more passes.
2. Common Sense for Clint
He could have said no and kept driving. Just remember that.
Instead, Clint Bowyer threw the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup into turmoil and launched one of the biggest scandals in the sport's history when he allegedly spun on purpose to bring out a late caution in a misguided attempt to help teammate Martin Truex Jr. qualify for the Chase.
Evidence showed that Bowyer was coaxed to do so by Michael Waltrip Racing officials, but he could have trumped them with common sense and drove on.
Instead, what he did ended up costing MWR millions in lost sponsorship money and his good buddy Truex his MWR ride. There isn't a lump of coal big enough to throw into the back of Bowyer's race car that could make all this right, but maybe Bowyer will be smarter in 2014.
1. Three for the 3
The 3 car is back in the Sprint Cup Series.
While there are a few folks who seem to be upset by that, far more are rejoicing its return to NASCAR's premier national touring series for the first time since Dale Earnhardt drove it in the 2001 Daytona 500 and perished in a last-lap accident.
That's because it will be driven Austin Dillon, who is no ordinary Cup rookie. As car owner Richard Childress' grandson, Dillon had close ties to the late Earnhardt and has the blessing of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others in the Earnhardt inner circle.
Nothing would be better than if Dillon were to win a pole, a race and Rookie of the Year honors in it, giving him three great accomplishments in the 3.