With the new year approaching quickly, some folks in NASCAR ought to be thinking long and hard about their 2009 seasons and what they should be doing differently in 2010.
For most folks in the garage, coming up with a new year's resolution should be pretty simple. For almost all of them, following through will be difficult at best. No matter what their situation may be, every driver and team in NASCAR has some formidable challenges up ahead next season.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here's a list of some new year's resolutions within the sport.
John Andretti, David Gilliland, Travis Kvapil, Casey Mears, Tony Raines, David Stremme, et. al.: Find a ride. Two of these guys will probably be racing for Front Row Motorsports next year, although it's not a given which ones. A third will probably take over the No. 09 for Phoenix Racing. The rest will play the waiting game.
TRG Motorsports: Keep on improving. By far the best start-up team of 2009, Kevin Buckler now has a past champion in Bobby Labonte under contract, sponsorship for a third of the season from TaxSlayer.com, and could very well land Ask.com and Academy Sports because of their relationships with Labonte from last year.
It's a much quicker rise than Front Row, and while they won't be winning championships anytime soon, establishing the car solidly in the top 35 would be a start.
Richard Childress Racing: Return to its 2008 form. Eliminate the unsponsored car, contract back to three race teams, and see if that helps any. There's no driver available who's really the answer to improving that fourth car.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Become more like the Junior we knew and loved at DEI. The key difference between Hendrick Junior and DEI Junior is that with DEI Junior, the racing came first and the celebrity (from sponsorship deals to opening bars to his race team) came second.
Ever since the switch, he hasn't been the same, and it's because he's spread so thin. Put the right people in place to take care of everything else for you, get in the car, and just focus on driving. The sponsorship deals will always be there.
Kyle Busch: Avoid burnout, not burnouts. Running a potential three-truck operation while also mounting championship chases in Sprint Cup and Nationwide could really do a number on the young driver.
Keep in mind that when Kevin Harvick had an incredible 2006, winning the Busch title and finishing fourth in Cup, his race team was already well established, making things a lot less stressful. Busch is in his first year as an owner in the bigtime. If he can win 10-plus races over those three series in 2010, it'd be a victory of sorts.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing: Ensure that 2009 gains with Juan Pablo Montoya translate into wins for Montoya and Jamie McMurray. The No. 1 car has made the Chase before. McMurray had his best years in Ganassi equipment, specifically the No. 42 that Montoya currently drives. But neither of those cars has won since June 2007, before their teams' merger, when the No. 1 won at Dover and the No. 42 won at Infineon.
Roush Fenway Racing: Matter in the Chase again. With the No. 26 contracting, the absolute best members of RFR will be on its four teams. There is no excuse for Carl Edwards to go winless again, especially with the amount of sponsors on that car. What, no love for Matt Kenseth, Kellogg's, Scotts, and Subway?
Michael Waltrip Racing: Keep facilitating those awesome commercials. Mikey, Reuttie, and Ol' DW are a hoot. I'm sure Martin Truex Jr. ("he's the man!") will be just as funny. And hey, you guys have a technical alliance with JTG, right? Get Marcos Ambrose in on the action!
Mark Martin: Stay classy. Don't aspire to being a GoDaddy girl. You've actually won races (plural).
Jimmie Johnson: Go to Formula One (or not).
NASCAR: Nothing. Honestly, since they standardized start times for next year (an excellent move, but a long time coming), they're not going to feel the need to make any more substantial changes for the better until 2014. So don't alter anything, boys, lest you arouse the masses to complain again.