Roger Diez: Christmas gifts – and coal – in motorsports
Here’s wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas, and the hope Santa leaves whatever you asked for under the tree Sunday night. If he forgets something, cut him a little slack. With 7.5 billion people on the planet, Santa will really have to hustle to get everything delivered overnight. I have it on good authority he has a new sleigh chassis built by the Mercedes Formula One team, and has outfitted the reindeer with new aerodynamic antlers to reduce drag. But he’s going to have to beat the Formula 1 average pit stop time of 3 seconds at every house to get them all done. A 13-second NASCAR-style stop definitely won’t get the job done. Just to make sure, I’ve got the Santa pit sign hanging next to the chimney so he doesn’t miss my house.
Some of the folks at NASCAR are quite happy with their presents, but others must have been on Santa’s “naughty” list. Martin Truex Jr. got an early gift, a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship, and Bubba Wallace is thrilled with his new Cup ride with Richard Petty Motorsports. William Byron is delighted to have a Hendrick No. 24 Chevy under his tree, and new teammate Alex Bowman is equally thrilled with his No. 88 ride from the same toy store. Erik Jones’ present is a shiny new No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and Kurt Busch receives a long-awaited new contract with Stewart-Haas.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans got the worst gift of all, loss of their hero from Cup competition. Don’t worry, Junior Nation, your boy will be commentating on TV next season, so you can vote him most popular broadcaster. And some other folks are less than delighted with the lumps of coal in their stockings. Matt Kenseth lost his Cup ride, and must feel like Bob Cratchit getting fired by Scrooge. Danica Patrick got a double lump of coal – losing both her Stewart-Haas Ford ride and her boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. But she’ll get her revenge in May, when she’s planning to go out in a blaze of glory with the Danica Double, running both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte Memorial Day weekend.
The open-wheel boys got some gifts and some coal as well. Josef Newgarden got an IndyCar championship trophy, and Takuma Sato collected an Indianapolis victory. But Mikhail Aleshin, Charlie Kimball, and Max Chilton were looking at stockings empty of a 2018 ride. However, Santa must have checked his list twice, because Kimball and Chilton have been picked up by Trevor Carlin’s “Blue Army” team for a full season effort next year. For the Formula One crowd, Lewis Hamilton’s present was a fourth World Driving Championship, while teammate Valtteri Bottas got three wins and a renewed contract for 2018. And Brendan Hartley and Pierre Gasly both found Toro Rosso contracts in their stockings. Robert Kubica is hoping for a Christmas miracle to put him in the second Williams seat, but Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat got only a lump of coal and a hearty “good luck” from the team. And Formula One fans everywhere got a huge lump of coal with the change in TV broadcast outlets, which means the loss of informed, intelligent, and humorous commentary from David Hobbs and Steve Matchett.
I hope whatever you find in your stocking or under your tree will be just what you wanted. Merry Christmas!