NASCAR Sprint Cup: Some Wishes for the New Year

Hank EptonCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 14:  The sun sets behind the grandstands during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

In a little more than three weeks, the NASCAR Sprint Cup season gets underway. It’s not a race, but the preseason testing at Daytona on the new surface gets cranked up.

As you’re reading this, rest assured someone on one of the teams is thinking about how to get a little more speed out of their car, score a few more points along the way, find a 10th on pit road or find a 100th in qualifying.

So in a sense, maybe it’s already started.

Before everyone gets too deep into thinking about the 2011 season, here are just a few wishes for the coming year.

First off, let’s hope 2011 is just as safe as 2010. The Car of Tomorrow has proved to be a remarkably safe race car. If Elliott Sadler’s Pocono accident is the litmus test for safety, then NASCAR is becoming the gold standard in the industry. It’s something to be very proud of.

Every engineer and every team should consider it a great accomplishment that the CoT is becoming a shining example of how to make an incredibly dangerous sport a little safer with every tiny innovation.

NASCAR has developed a great safety record over the last few years with its cars and let’s hope that it continues.

Secondly, let’s keep our fingers crossed that the Chase for the Sprint Cup, in whatever form it takes for 2011, brings us just as compelling a championship run as 2010 did. Without question there are a lot of people unhappy with who won it, but that would have happened if Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick won as well.

The health of the sport depends on competitive racing. Bill France Jr. used to always say he didn’t want anyone stinking up his show. As long as more than one team has a shot to win the title at Homestead, by definition no one team stunk it up.

Three guys had a real shot at it headed into the season finale; hopefully it’ll be more in 2011. The gap is closing at the top and the tighter the gap, the more competitive the racing—the better the storylines, and the more interest it generates. Greater interest means a healthier sport.

Third, NASCAR is doing a better job than ever of tipping its collective hat to its past. The Hall of Fame was a long overdue shrine to the sport’s biggest stars and its very small beginnings. Let’s hope NASCAR realizes that the men and women who made the sport go in its infancy are easily as important as the superstars it creates today.

NASCAR needs to create a “classic” entry into the Hall every year to ensure that even as it enshrines the personalities everyone knows quite well, it honors those who gave more recent stars a stage on which to perform.

Finally, as goes the economic health of our country, so goes the health of NASCAR. Our sport is driven by our economy probably more than any other in America. Sponsors have to come in and participate.

More participation means more jobs in the industry and a better economy means more people can go to the races. Nothing says a successful sport like watching television and not seeing an empty seat in the house. Getting to the race shouldn’t be out of reach of anyone who wants to go. Let’s get people back to work and let’s get the ticket prices in the wheelhouse of the men and women who make the wheels go ‘round.

Those wheels are on the race cars, but they’re also the wheels that keep America going. Maybe when we see racing get healthier by more teams and more jobs, it’s a sign that things are getting better for everyone. In that way, NASCAR is just one of the ships that will rise in the tide of prosperity.


It’s just prosperity.

When everyone has that, maybe everything will be great again.

It’ll be great for the guys going around the race track and the people sitting around your kitchen table.

Yeah, prosperity should just about get it done in 2011.

Maybe we should just wish for that and everything else will take care of itself.