In a wide-ranging telephone conversation this week, my son suddenly said, “I have an idea for a column you could write.’’
Now this isn’t something I’ve heard often from anyone in my family. Usually, even if they read what I’ve written — which is not a given — the most I can expect is a “That was a nice story.’’
The idea put forward by the scion of my small family was for a “Best of 2010’’ column.
“You could write, like, what was the best press box meal of the year?’’ he said.
OK. Why not?
Without question, the best press box meal of the year was at Martinsville, where the famous red-skinned hot dogs doused with chili and onions are as good as it gets at a race track — unless you want to count the two-inch-thick grilled pork chops they used to serve at Talladega.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my son was onto something. So, here, for what it’s worth, are a few of my personal bests of the last year:
THE BEST HYPE OF 2010: Danica Patrick’s NASCAR debut at Daytona International Speedway. The buildup to the IndyCar glamour girl’s part-time move to stock cars was bigger than the advance setup for the next day’s Daytona 500. Oh yeah, she crashed out after 69 laps and finished 35th.
THE BEST WEEKEND OF 2010: Kyle Busch become the first driver to ever sweep races in all three of NASCAR’s professional series in the same weekend, taking the Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Bristol last August.
THE BIGGEST NASCAR WIN OF 2010: Jimmie Johnson’s victory at Dover in the second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. After finishing 25th in the Chase opener at Loudon, Johnson bounced right back and gave notice to everyone concerned that he wasn’t ready to end his unprecedented string of Cup titles. Starting with that Dover win, Johnson finished with nine straight top-10s and came from behind to beat Denny Hamlin and win his fifth straight championship.
THE MOST DISAPPOINTING NASCAR FINISH OF 2010: Denny Hamlin’s 12th-place run at Phoenix in the penultimate race of the season. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, seemingly in the catbird seat on the way to his first Cup championship, had to pit 14 laps from the end of a race he thought he was going to win because of poor fuel mileage. Hamlin lost all but 15 points of his lead over Jimmie Johnson and came away from the disappointing race with bloody knuckles from slamming his hand into the dashboard in frustration.
THE MOST HEARTWARMING WIN OF 2010: Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving a No. 3 Chevrolet to victory in the July Nationwide Series race at Daytona. Richard Childress had to give Earnhardt special permission to use the No. 3 that Little E’s father made famous, and Junior made it pay off with a win that brought tears to Childress’ eyes and pleased many in Earnhardt Nation.
THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF 2010: It’s got to be my longtime favorite driver, Mark Martin. I know sports writers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but it’s hard for me not to root for a driver who is by far the closest to my age among the current NASCAR stars, and a great guy to boot. After a great run at the Cup championship in 2009 that included a pair of victories, Martin was barely competitive in 2010. Hopefully, Sprint Cup’s resident graybeard can earn Comeback Driver of the Year in 2011.
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE FIRST OF 2010: Chip Ganassi, who has often been accused of having (Roger) Penske envy, outdid his longtime rival by becoming the first team owner to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray, the biggest surprise of 2010, turned into a big-win guy, while Dario Franchitti gave Ganassi yet another open-wheel win at Indy. Now, if Ganassi can only find a way to beat Penske to a Cup championship, he will be a truly happy man.
FINALLY, THE BEST (OR WORST) OF DRIVERS FOLLOWING NASCAR’S MANDATE TO “HAVE AT IT, BOYS’’: There were plenty of crashes, retaliations and harsh words during the chippy 2010 season, but the most entertaining was the confrontation between 20-year-old Joey Logano and grizzled veteran Kevin Harvick. After Harvick wrecked Logano at Pocono, the youngster erupted on the radio, saying, “I’m going to (bleeping) kill him.’’ He drove to Harvick’s car on pit road and tried to get to the elder driver, getting into a shoving match with his crew. After NASCAR got everyone settled down, Logano delivered the quote of the year: “It’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do.’’ DeLana Harvick got into the spirit of the debate by then producing T-shirts for women that blared: “I wear the firesuit in this family.’’
We can only hope that 2011 is as much fun as 2010. Hope my son enjoys the column.
Happy New Year to all.
Mike Harris was the long-time auto racing beat writer for the Associated Press and is now a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com. Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.