Happy 2011 to all you loyal race fans. Here we are at the beginning of a new year, and only a few short weeks away from the start of the racing season. New Year's is the time for making resolutions, so I have come up with a few I'd like to see this year.
Kyle Busch: Try to be a little more personable. If your personality could just match your driving ability, you'd be a shoo-in for Most Popular Driver.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Make the most of your new crew chief and team. This could be your make or break year, so get back on the winning track.
Jimmie Johnson: Give somebody else a chance to take home the Sprint Cup at the end of the season. Don't you have enough of them already?
NASCAR: Back off a bit on the "Boys, have at it" philosophy before somebody gets killed.
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard: Fire Brian Barnhardt and put somebody in charge who won't ruin races.
FOX: Call the exterminator and get rid of that varmint Digger.
Milka Duno: Find some other sport to pursue ... perhaps curling or bocce ball.
American Businesses: Pony up some sponsorship dollars. You had record profits last year, and race fans are loyal consumers.
Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel: Try not to run into each other this season. And Mark, no more aerobatics in your race car.
NASCAR teammates: Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, the same goes for you guys. Play nice with your teammates!
A.J. Allmendinger: With the new, slimmed-down Richard Petty Motorsports operation, it's time to score your first Cup win.
Juan Pablo Montoya: Get that first oval victory. Daytona might be a good place to do that.
Michael Andretti: If you want to get back to the winner's circle, fire Marco and re-hire Tony Kanaan.
IndyCar Series: Try to select a TV partner with a little broader reach than VERSUS.
Jeff Gordon: If you can't put up a win this year, maybe it's time to consider a team owner role.
Mark Martin: It's your last chance for that elusive Cup championship. It's now or never.
Reno-Fernley Raceway oval: Make the most of your new NASCAR sanction, and put on a great season.
Reno-Fernley Raceway road course: Bring back the Reno Historic races.
Northern Nevada race fans: Patronize your local race tracks; Reno-Fernley, Rattlesnake Raceway and Top Gun in Fallon, and Lovelock Speedway.
Mackena Bell: May 2011 be your breakout season. Get noticed by a Camping World Truck, Nationwide, or Cup team.
Dave Despain: Keep up the good work on the best damn motorsports show in SPEED or any other network.
All the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams will have a chance to test the new paving at Daytona during "Preseason Thunder," January 20 through January 22, with the 23rd as a rain day. A number of teams participated in a tire test on the new pavement in December, but this will be the first time on the track for many of them. Crew chiefs will be busy finding out exactly how the new surface will affect their cars' setups, which will be critical to making a good showing at the season opening Daytona 500 on February 20.
The IndyCar series schedule starts on March 27 on the street circuit at St. Petersburg, Florida. This will give Danica Patrick time to get in some more NASCAR Nationwide series seat time before switching to open wheels. 2011 will be the last year for the Dallara/Honda spec cars, which were already long in the tooth a couple of years ago. This year the series needs to build fan interest for the changeover to the new rules package in 2012.
Formula 1 will begin their season on March 13 at Bahrain. Two of the 20 races on the schedule, the UBS Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai and the Grand Prix of India in New Delhi, are subject to course approval. As has been the case for the last few years, there are numerous rule changes for the designers and teams to deal with for 2011. I'll get into details on these changes in a future column.