Roger Diez: The nice and naughty in racing
December 22, 2018
Christmas is only three days away, so I imagine all of you have your Christmas wish lists all filled out. Folks in the racing world do as well, but I'm afraid a few might end up with the motorsports equivalent of a lump of coal in their fireproof Nomex stocking.
There were a few early presents delivered. Joey Logano got a shiny new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup trophy, something he's had on his wish list for quite a while. Santa brought Lewis Hamilton his fifth Formula One Drivers' title in November, and an even earlier present in September to Scott Dixon, his fifth IndyCar championship.
A couple of NASCAR drivers who were looking to have a bad holiday after the loss of their driving jobs were surprised with new TV gigs. Jamie McMurray will be going to FOX as a NASCAR analyst, while A.J. Allmendinger is joining the NBC Sports broadcast team covering a range of motorsports events. His first assignment will be the 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 26, a race he'll also be driving in!
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IndyCar fans got a nice present with the announcement Weathertech Raceway at Laguna Seca will be the season finale for the 2019 season, replacing Sonoma on the schedule. I've raced and announced races at both tracks, and while Sonoma is a fun, technical track, Laguna is magical. The signature Corkscrew turn where Alex Zanardi made "the pass" in 1996, is one of the most famous corners in all of racing. Some of the IndyCar teams will be testing there in January.
NASCAR has gifted its teams with a puzzle to work on for 2019. The sanctioning body has made some interesting technical rule changes. These are designed to tighten up on the creative impulses of crew chiefs that led to several P1 penalties in 2018. So the teams will now have to figure out how to stay both fast and legal … not an easy task.
As for unfulfilled Christmas wishes and dreams, there are quite a few of those, too.
NASCAR is hoping Santa will bring them a full-time multi-year sponsor for their premier Cup series. Monster Energy is on a year-by-year lease, and could pull the plug after the 2019 season. The fact the series is rumored to be up for sale won't help NASCAR's prospects. It better work hard to stay on Santa's "nice" list.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel wants a faster car so he can beat Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes in 2019. Ferrari fans want Vettel to stop hitting other cars. After a strong first half of 2018, Ferrari lost a step and Mercedes picked up the pace. Frustration led Vettel to make some questionable moves on track, leading to contacts that left him the worse for the encounter. Perhaps 2019 will bring that superfast Ferrari the four-time champion wants.
The Verizon IndyCar series is hoping for enough cars at Indy 500 qualifying that bumping once again provides the drama it used to. Indications are Santa may bring that present. With McLaren and Fernando Alonso on the entry list and a few other new teams and one-race team expansions, a qualifying field of 36, 37, maybe even 40 cars is possible. For sure the lone 2018 bumpee, James Hinchcliffe, will be paying close attention.
And last but not least, Chevy fans are asking Santa to bring their teams a few hints to get a better handle on the Camaro body in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series in 2019. And Ford Fans are hoping that switching to the Mustang next season won't give the Blue Oval teams the same headaches the Chevy guys had last year.
As for me, I'm just wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Racy New Year!
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