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CUP: Last Minute Stocking Stuffers

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Article by Jeff Hood, RacinToday.com

Christmas is the time of year when wish lists are floating around.

So aside from finding an 8-foot, high definition, flat screen television under my tree next weekend or hitting a multi-state lottery, here are a few items I jotted down that I’d like to see happen during the coming New Year:

For Mark Martin: A victory in the Daytona 500. In terms of popularity with fans and fellow competitors, a win on NASCAR’s grandest stage by Martin would rival the late Dale Earnhardt’s 1998 Daytona triumph.

For Darrell Waltrip: A new catch phrase. “Boogity, boogity, boogity” ran its course years ago.

For Joey Logano: More witty comments. His quote about Kevin Harvick’s wife “wearing the fire suit” in the family was an instant classic.

For Fox, TNT and ESPN: An upswing in ratings. I promise I’m not drinking the NASCAR kool aid by admitting that the racing was as good as ever in 2010. Hopefully, more fans will jump on the bandwagon and tune in next season.

For NASCAR’s Robin Pemberton: Another slip of the tongue. His out-of-nowhere “have at it, boys” comment during the media tour in January set the tone for the season and got a lot of mileage in the press.

For Todd Bodine: A sponsor. The reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and one of the class acts in the sport, the Chemung, N.Y. native deserves better than having to rely on his team owners to fund his effort.

For Barney Hall: Another year behind the MRN microphone. I know it’s time to go racing when I turn on the radio and hear the legendary Barney Hall utter “and the green flag goes in the air” and “he comes up through the gear box.”

For the NASCAR Hall of Fame: More visitors. Every NASCAR fan who will be within 200 miles of Charlotte in 2011 should make an effort to visit racing’s newest shrine.

For Talladega Superspeedway: Two more thrilling finishes. Darlington is my favorite track and every driver covets a win at Daytona and Indianapolis. But the record number of lead changes and pair of side-by-side finishes at Talladega in 2010 puts the mammoth oval in a league of its own when it comes to sheer excitement.

For Juan Pablo Montoya: An win on an oval. The Colombia native and former open wheel standout is simply too talented to have just two road course stock car wins on his resume.

For Dale Earnhardt Jr.: To be in the running for the Sprint Cup championship heading to Homestead. An Earnhardt contending for the title is the boost this sport needs right now.

For Denny Hamlin: A copy of the movie “Animal House.” The runner-up for the Sprint Cup championship admitted during the Chase that he had never heard John Belushi’s famous line about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor.

For Danica Patrick: A commitment to a single team. This back-and-forth business between Indy Cars and NASCAR isn’t going to work. Pick a series and stick with it.

For Kyle Busch: To keep his competitive fire in-check. If a judgement call goes in his favor (such as going below the yellow line to win the truck race at Talladega), all is right in his world. But if he loses a race on a judgement call (such as Carl Edwards supposedly jumping him on the final restart in the Nationwide Series race at Texas), there is hell to pay afterwards.

For Paul Menard: A Sprint Cup victory. The Wisconsin native continues to show improvement each season. Don’t be surprised to see him wheel a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet into victory lane in 2011.

For Tony Stewart: A truce with the press. No driver in the garage works harder than Smoke to belittle the print media. Ok, we promise to quit asking silly questions if you pledge to discontinue hurling smartass responses in the media center.

For Jeff Gordon: Another gig as host of Saturday Night Live. Admittedly, it won’t deliver the same ratings NBC enjoyed when Betty White hosted the long-running program earlier this year. But what the heck. The four-time Cup champion is well-known around the country. And who knows, it may turn Gordon’s racing luck around.

For Jimmie Johnson: A Home Depot gift card. Would the Lowe’s driver dare to roam the aisles of his local Home Depot?

For Brian France: Jet fuel for his corporate plane. NASCAR’s CEO should be a regular fixture at the race tracks each weekend. He should follow the lead of his late father, Bill France Jr., and rule the sport with an iron fist each weekend.

For David Pearson: A standing ovation following his Hall of Fame induction speech. The Silver Fox should have been a shoe-in for induction in the inaugural class this year.

For Clint Bowyer: A stuffed lobster. To replace the one that turned up missing following his victory in New Hampshire in September.

For every NASCAR crew member: A well-deserved break at Christmas. I’ve been around this sport long enough to know the hardest-working folks are the crew members, who regulary pull off 14 hours day at the track and more countless hours at the shop earlier in the week. Rest up, my friends. Speed Weeks in Daytona is just around the corner.