All I Want for Christmas...
You know you look forward to it – that Christmas list some witty/perceptive writer creates each year, in which well-known personages are wished gifts that would be ironically perfect for them.
Well, you’re not going to get it here.
Instead of wishing Brian France a gift certificate to Jane & Charlie’s Family Values Buffet (no alcohol or drugs allowed), I’m going to selfishly make it all about ME, although you’re allowed to share in any and all of the items on my NASCAR wish list.
Before I start, though, a quick bit of advice. You may have heard that, over the holidays, we’ll be able to see the Comet 46P/Wirtanen up in the sky at night. Don’t believe that propaganda. Those bright, moving objects are actually Santa’s racing helpers, moving so fast that they spread fiery hot light in their wake. That’s Joe Weatherly delivering all the kids’ toys – he has the sense of humor for that job. If you asked for alcohol, that black-and-gold sleigh has Curtis Turner behind the wheel. And for those homes where people are on the lookout and it takes special skill and sly-ness to get the job done, Santa knew that, even without a lot of experience, David Pearson would be perfect
For all the stuff on my list, I want The Intimidator steering that sleigh. This is all really important, and anybody who’s inclined to mess with it needs her or his cage rattled a bit.
OK, Santa and Helpers, here’s what Frank wants going around in circles this Christmas:
First and most important, Santa, I want a starting lineup composed entirely of vehicles that got there by qualifying fastest – NO provisionals, NO charters, NO special exceptions. Be fast or be in the hauler. That’ll be front-and-center under my tree.
Second, I’d like all the cars (or SUVs, trucks, mini-vans, crossovers, hybrids or squirrel-on-a-treadmill-powereds) to look like those I see on the street. This is, after all, STOCK CAR RACING. When I want something else, I go to see sprint cars.
Keep ‘em safer, but otherwise turn back the clock and make stock cars look like STOCK CARS again
Third, I think we need smaller engines. There’s virtually no stock vehicle identified with the kind of motor NASCAR uses today, so let’s fix that, and maybe younger folks will figure out what we’re all about.
Fourth, we need tires that are less perfect. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of skill needed to get a current stocker through the turns at top speed without wiping out, but if you’re having to saw the wheel the whole time because the tires DON’T grip all that well, that requires a little know-how, too, and it just might take some of the focus off “dirty air.”
Fifth, how about a 50-page rule book. Nothing more complicated than that is needed.
Sixth, how about one new rule: cars have to be painted the same color and basic design, regardless of sponsor changes. This might help new fans develop favorites, since they’d be able to tell who was who. It used to be that you know what a Petty car looked like, or a Wood Brothers car, Bud Moore car or Smokey Yunick car. Nowadays, in contrast, who can really say what Clint Bowyer’s car looks like?
Which of these is the definitive “look” for #14. (There are a couple of others.)
Seventh, qualifying day(s) used to be really exciting, and many had good spectator turnouts, but now with short fields, they’re boring. How about keeping those rules simple enough for more teams to give the sport a shot, making qualifying a big deal again.
Eighth, how about doing something dramatic with the Xfinity Series, so that it’s not just Cup-light with mostly young, “who’s he/she?” drivers waiting for Cup rides. Maybe make it for SUVs or hybrids or something different. I’ve believed in you for a lot of years, Santa, so I’m not going to be any more specific with this one – I’ll leave the fix up to you and let you surprise me.
The sponsors probably wouldn’t go for something like this, but MAYBE there’s a place for silliness in our effort to create an Xfinity Series that would start pulling in the fans again.
Ninth, I really want to ask for the end of developmental driver programs, Santa, but instead, maybe you could just limit all up-and-coming drivers to those who really love to race and want to do short tracks on their off nights – sprints, late models, modifieds or anything similar will be just fine. If developmental drivers turn out to be the next Tony Stewarts, Kyle Larsons, Kasey Kahnes, Erik Joneses or Christopher Bells, that would be OK.
Finally, for tenth, do all this with a LOT less money than it costs to play the Cup game today. You can do it, Santa. That sleigh doesn’t look a whole lot more high-tech today than it did when Clement Moore wrote “’Twas the Night before Christmas,” so I know you do it with magic, and magic is exactly what this sport needs more of today. I really want drivers with dreams to have a decent shot at trying their luck in a NASCAR touring series, and that means the budget bar needs to be a whole lot lower. You do it with toys, Big Guy; how about doing it with my beloved sport.
Thanks, Santa, and Merry Christmas.
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
Here’s my wish for all of you: Take the best calendar you’ve got – I’m addicted to the one on my phone – and reserve some dates for racing activities as early as possible next year. Indoor racing is great where it’s available – I spent a few past evenings between Christmas and New Years with Ricky Dennis’s Arena Mini-Cup racing series at the Richmond Coliseum, back before its demise, and I already have the dates reserved for the Racing Xtravaganza car show in York in early February. Around these parts, everybody knows that Lincoln Speedway opens the season – weather permitting – the last Saturday in February.
Whether your poison is Cup or karts, it’s time to put dates on the calendar for the shows you really want to attend. Then you just need to keep looking at online and other news outlets for other interesting opportunities.
Of course, we’d be appreciative if you kept an eye on Race Fans Forever, too. With luck, we’ll still be around to continue our conversations with you.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
Just for fun, here’s a Christmas wish that’s (a little) older than me, from Speed Age magazine in 1948