Wish list for racing fans
December 23, 2006
Tonight is the night that the fastest driver of all time makes his yearly run. Yes, I’m talking about Santa, “Big Bubba” Claus, who puts every race driver in the world to shame.
I mean, who else could drive all the way around the world in 24 hours, while making 427,913,877 pit stops to deliver toys? Even with his fantastic pit crew, the Rainbow Elves, who can change two Goodyear sled runners and dump in 22 bushels of Purina Reindeer Chow in 12.9 seconds, “Big Bubba” Claus does most of the work himself.
This year, his primary sponsors (as usual) are Mattel, Fisher-Price, Nintendo, Sony, Lionel, Tyco, and Amazon.com. With eight Rick Hendrick-prepped reindeer power at the front of his “Sleigh of Tomorrow,” “Big Bubba” is likely to set yet another new record this Christmas Eve. Luckily for all the other drivers in the world he only races in the off-season…otherwise Daytona, Indy, Lemans, and every other race in the world would be a Claus benefit.
I know that everybody has lots of things on the list they sent Santa, but here’s what I would like to see under some Christmas trees early tomorrow morning:
For open wheel race fans: reconciliation between the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series. The split in big-league open wheel racing has gone on for far too long, much to the detriment of teams, fans, sponsors, tracks, and everyone concerned.
Santa, I know it’s a big job, probably harder than achieving peace in the Middle East, but give it your best shot, OK? If you can make it happen, I’ll try to see to it that Rudolph becomes the permanent Pace Reindeer for the combined series.
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For brand-loyal NASCAR fans: The hope that NASCAR will find that the Car of Tomorrow has insurmountable problems, forcing the sanctioning body to abandon the idea and return to business as usual. The project is supposed to enhance safety, reduce costs, and improve competition, but a lot of critics don’t think it will do any of those things. Besides, it’s ugly. Didn’t the common template homogenize the appearance of the different makes enough without this final step to a “spec” car?
For Brian France and the rest of the NASCAR hierarchy: Some ideas that will bring the fans back. With slumping TV ratings and empty seats in the stands, could it be that the most popular racing series ever could be on the decline? Santa, leave Brian a hearing aid in his stocking, so he can listen to the fans a little better.
For Formula 1 fans: A replacement for Michael Schumacher. There have been F1 stars before who have been head and shoulders above the competition, from Juan Manuel Fangio to Jimmy Clark, to Ayrton Senna . . . but nobody has dominated so thoroughly for so long. This one will be a tall order to fill, Santa, but keep an eye on that Alonzo kid.
For the Nextel Cup rookie class of 2007, especially the open-wheel veterans like Juan Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger: A lot of patience, respect for the veterans, and a willingness to learn a new way of racing. If Denny Hamlin has written a book on his rookie year in Cup, buy it, read it, memorize it. If he hasn’t, see if you can get him to.
Finally, for racers and race fans everywhere, I hope you find what you want under the tree, whether it be an autographed Dale Earnhardt Jr. helmet, tickets to Talladega or Indy, a new carburetor for your hobby stock car, or a gift certificate to a racing school. Just remember, if you go out to celebrate the holidays, party hearty but don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve had a little to much Christmas cheer. The best drivers in the world can’t handle drinking and driving, so don’t think that you can. Don’t ruin your holiday and someone else’s . . . have a designated driver or take a taxi home.