Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. "on set".
Webster's dictionary defines a soap opera as such:
"A radio or television serial drama of a highly melodramatic, sentimental nature: so called because many of the original sponsors were soap companies."
That is very interesting. NASCAR itself depends heavily on sponsorship and drama to continue normal operations. On the whole, it really does have much in common with the qualities of a soap opera.
However, some personalities transcend the larger picture to create a mystique and aura captivating enough to star in their own mini-soaps.
Here are 10 characters/drivers, a working title for their show and a brief synopsis of that plot. The reality of NASCAR blends with behind-the-scenes melodrama (fiction) to morph into entertainment fit for the daytime television audience.
Some are set to premier next year, while others have longer back stories that will continue on just like a real soap opera.
Jimmie Johnson has been the star of Legacy and Lamentation for the past six years. The first year saw his climb to the apex of success, the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
The winning continued for four seasons. Sometimes he dominated, yet others were dramatic comebacks. The seasons focused on different aspects of his greatness.
He has built a legacy, but a turn of events in the sixth season has left viewers tuning in feverishly to see whether or not he can continue his legacy. Things are looking worse than ever before.
Private scenes show Johnson preparing his eventual lamentation of not continuing his legacy. He knows the day will eventually come; it is up to him whether or not the show will continue for a seventh season.
There are five episodes left in the current season.
"Dr. Clarkson, you are a deceitful fellow".
Looking for Tomorrow, starring Denny Hamlin, began one season ago and looks to be continued for a long while.
His almost unmitigated success in 2010 all came crashing down during the last race of the season, where he saw his dreams of success fade away with the burn of rubber and the screech of metal.
He knows not what to do. He begins to see a sports psychologist in 2011 (season two), to no avail. He tries everything that he can and, after much turmoil, gets another shot at the championship.
It does not go well. Setbacks ensue and he finds himself out of contention much earlier than planned.
The synopsis for season three is that he returns to the sports psychologist, only to find that the shrink had been having an affair with his girlfriend the whole time. Angry and inspired, a new female love interest is introduced to get him back on track.
Season three begins with a sunrise. A new chance for success awaits with the woman of his dreams by his side. Writers of the series have yet to determine the outcome of the third season, set to premier in February, 2012 as part of the late winter programming.
Jeff Burton plays the role of himself in Going Walkabout. The story centers on Burton achieving continued success through the 2006-2010 seasons. He never misses the Chase.
That success, however, is a double-edged sword because he really just wants to get away from it all. Season six premiered in 2011, but Burton has been strangely absent. His familiar No. 31 Caterpillar is on the track every week, but viewers never see his face.
Does he have a stunt driver posing as himself? Season six is all about the search for Jeff Burton.
A new and mysterious character is introduced this season. He is an affable Australian named Marcos Ambrose.
Ambrose is only seen talking to Burton mysteriously on the telephone in various episodes.
Towards the end of the season, in the midst of the jubilance of his first victory at Watkins Glen, Ambrose spills the beans and tells fans, friends and family that Burton has finally "gone walkabout" in Australia.
Season seven is poised to see the return of the real Jeff Burton, perhaps with a new sponsor and outlook on life.
Until then, we have only the fractured conversations between Ambrose and Burton to keep us tuning in each day.
What happens when the cheers and adulation die down . . . ?
The biography and character development of Kyle Busch is the main subject of Wounds Left Unhealed.
Kyle is a rowdy rebel eager to please only himself in the early seasons of his life. Now a maturing man, he has risen to the top of NASCAR as a serious contender to win any race, at any time.
In the soap's latest installment, he came from 43rd place to finish second in Charlotte. Looking for adulation after this achievement, he is dismayed to find that he is being approached by the handsome and dashing Carl Edwards, none too happy with Busch's effort at race's end.
He is speechless and inwardly crushed. He hears in his head the booing that greets him at all turns. He hears the chants of "Cryle, Cryle, Cryle" and the absolute joy of spectators when he crashes.
But, over the course of these seasons, he has grown into a stronger, more resilient man. Now, more than ever, he leans on the support of his older brother Kurt to finish off his molding process into a man.
He may not be there yet, but future seasons will show his metamorphosis into a strong man who finally bandages the scars of his troubled youth.
This is Daytime Emmy picture pose.
Constantly compared to his father, a seven-time champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed great promise early in his career. Then, after several seasons, the well of the Fountain of Youth ran dry.
He has not won since 2008, and that is the main drama of On the Precipice of Where We Were. It focuses on the trials and tribulations of a man, blessed with so much talent, trying just to claw back to the mediocre success of yester-year.
The most current season produced an episode where he was closer to victory than ever before. High tension ensued on the final lap, final turn; his car just ran out of gas and was overtaken by the conniving and opportunistic antagonist, Kevin Harvick.
However, hope still abounds. He made the Chase at the end of 2011. The show may be cancelled at season's end. Writers are still mulling over various plot directions.
At the press conference announcing Bowyer's contract
Next season will see the premier of an entirely new soap opera with the working title of A New Dawn. Executive Producer (owner) Michael Waltrip has stated that this is a "watershed" moment in the history of his team, Michael Waltrip Racing.
Indeed it shakes up the structure of NASCAR team racing. Fresh out of the clutches of his parsimonious former-owner Richard Childress, Bowyer is set to inherit the keys to the kingdom of a team where he will be, even before getting in a car, its most successful driver.
How will he get along and share information with his new teammates Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann? TBD.
Will antagonist Richard Childress find another driver to fill Bowyer's departure, or will he have to constrict and run Richard Childress Racing as only a three-car team? Also TBD.
Find out next season.
In a spin-off of one of the most successful soap operas of all time, As the World Turns, Carl Edwards is currently negotiating a new show with executives entitled As the Victor Flips.
Interest by television executives was flared after he spent a very healthy portion of the 2011 season first in points, then held on to the lead again at Chase's mid-point. They believe he is endlessly marketable.
He is confident and articulate on-screen and has more sponsorships than they could ever hope for in a leading man's role.
Nothing is final yet, as he has to complete the season as champion, otherwise the show will be red-flagged before it ever begins to shoot.
Edwards will be a busy man next year if he can attain the title of champion this year.
Juan Pablo Montoya has true crossover appeal. He has raced and won at all levels and circuits in which he has competed, yet he still arduously attempts to gain the support and friendship of his NASCAR colleagues.
Against All Peers focuses on Montoya and his struggles with antagonists such as Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer. Due to Bowyer's contract conflicts with A New Dawn, most enthusiasts expect the show to focus on his conflict with Newman.
JPM does not give and inch and races rough. 2011 has been a rough year for him and his frustrations seem to play themselves out on the grand stage of the racetrack.
This is only a developmental script waiting in the wings to be launched when tensions begin to boil in the middle of next season.
No. 22 Penske Dodge driver Kurt Busch has attracted attention for his radio communications with his crew chief, Steve Addington. Rumors abound that a script may be in the works focusing on his ranting and ravings during races.
The premise, here, is how communication can alienate a team and crew chief. In Lieu of Communication is said to pinpoint the ascerbic nature of Busch's words and the tailspin that has ensued during the 2011 Chase. Backstories include his numerous pole victories that yielded mediocre results in the regular season.
Tangential stories will focus on his constant rivalry with champion Jimmie Johnson and the role that that may have played in his demise.
The key factor for this series will be whether or not crew chief Steve Addington stays on the team next season or will be torn asunder by the flame of Busch's beratements.
The saga of Danica Patrick in Life Evolving Rapidly has been heating up for the past three years. Sprung into stardom on the back of a fourth-place finish at the 2005 Indianapolis 500, Danica's life has been a whirlwind since that time. That is the crux of the storyline.
The series will take a dramatic turn in 2012 which will see her step into the NASCAR Nationwide Series as a full-time driver. Writers and editors alike thought it too dramatic and unrealistic a plot line to have her plunge headfirst into the trenches of the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
She will gain more by waiting and honing her skills before ascending to the most competitive level of stock car racing. The drama of next season will rest on her searching for her first NASCAR victory, and thus entering herself in the history books as NASCAR's first female visitor to Victory Lane.