While it always seems that Christmas rolls around faster than Carl Edwards can turn a lap at Bristol Motor Speedway, Yuletide is here again, and it's time to speculate on what Santa might be putting under the tree for some of NASCAR's favourite personalities.
With Jimmie Johnson scooping a third straight Cup Series title, and others seemingly not getting what they asked for this time last year, some of the requests might be for more of the same, but there are also a few novel requests being posted this time around.
For Jeff Gordon:
a fifth Sprint Cup championship, and his first under the Chase format. Under the previous scoring system, Gordon would have six titles at this point, but he's hungry to prove he can win the Chase before he retires. Gordon will turn 40 in August 2011 and, based on his contribution to the sport - and to the world overall - there's no one in the garage more deserving of success. Gordon won't match Richard Petty's record 200 wins, but he's already granted more than 200 wishes to children battling life-threatening diseases under the auspices of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
For Jimmie Johnson:
a handicap. Now that he's developed a strong affinity for golf, Johnson will certainly understand the concept. When you're demonstrably better than your competition, you have to start at a disadvantage. Why not make Johnson sit out the Chase race of his choice, just to see whether any of his rivals can score more points in ten races than Johnson accumulates in nine. Carl Edwards was the only Chase driver within 195 points - the total for a race winner who leads the most laps - at the end of the 2008 season....
For Carl Edwards:
a happy marriage. Edwards will take the plunge in January, when he plans to marry fellow Columbia native Dr Katherine Downey. From all appearances, it's an excellent match. Not only is Dr Kate smart and personable, but she's also a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation. If Edwards strains a muscle during one of his more ambitious workout sessions, she'll be there to help.
For AJ Allmendinger and Regan Smith:
full-time Sprint Cup rides. Not to mention any names, but these two guys are more deserving of driving contracts than a number of 'ride-arounds' who are signed to long-term deals. Allmendinger showed what he can do at the end of the season, when, as a temp, he outran both his stablemates at Gillett Evernham Motorsports over the final five races. As more highly-touted open-wheel stars fell by the wayside, Smith persevered to win Raybestos Rookie of the Year honours. He also won the second race at Talladega - until a subjective call by NASCAR, for passing Tony Stewart beneath the yellow line, took the victory away.
For Tony Stewart:
one victory in 2009. That's would go a long way toward validating Stewart's choice to leave Joe Gibbs Racing to pursue the elusive dream of success as an owner/driver. Stewart may be mercurial, but he's also a fan favourite, and he's also one of NASCAR's most generous spirits, as his unflagging commitment to Kyle and Pattie Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp will attest. NASCAR needs all the high-profile drivers it can muster, and Stewart is near the top of the list. The sport also needs him to be competitive.
For the Budweiser Shootout:
a second stab at defining the field. Though it may not be a points race, the Budweiser Shootout will kick off the 2009 season on 7 February, and the field won't include Stewart, 2008 Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman or Juan Pablo Montoya, all of whom are out because of manufacturer changes between seasons. We've whipped this horse before, but it's time for Budweiser, Daytona International Speedway and NASCAR collectively to augment the qualifying system that limits the field to the top six cars of each manufacturer, based on owner points. During this transition year, why not grandfather in all pole winners and previous champions and give the fans the star power they deserve?
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News
There are probably more deserving gift ideas for others in the NASCAR fold, so why not let us know your thoughts via the