Views from the Grandstand

Kay Bell | December 01, 2011

Dear Racing Santa …

Here are suggestions for perfect presents to the racing world

It’s that time of year again, Santa. Racing is taking a brief break just in time for you to rev up your sleigh and see how good your MPR — miles per reindeer — will be this holiday season.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, from left: Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon pose with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy in front of Buckingham Fountain during Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Day on Sept. 15 in Chicago.

Since you’re so busy, I’m once again playing race fan elf to let you know what drivers, teams, racing series and we fans want and need.

Crow for me

And could you please bring a bottle of barbecue sauce to go with it? You see, Santa, I’m going to have to eat that bird since I dissed NASCAR’s new Chase for the Championship Wild Card system. It seemed to me to be just more tweaking of the Chase system, which I still hate. But it actually was interesting and, dare I admit it, fun. Letting two drivers who win the most races but who don’t make the top 10 into the Chase added new blood and the need for some math skills. Most noteworthy, it rewarded winning, something that seemed for too long to be of little value as teams too often drove for points. Well played, NASCAR. Could I have some slaw on the side?

A calculator for NASCAR

I know, Santa, I just praised the wild card computations, but the sports-powers-that-be still need to work on the overall scoring system. Three bonus points for a win? Really? With a higher-quality calculator, you can add up how much better it would be to award more points for winning, at least five and more like 10, to really spur the teams toward the checkered flag.

A calendar for IndyCar

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard needs to wake up and realize the only way his series can break out of NASCAR’s shadow is to get on TV when the sports schedule isn’t overstuffed. The first six weeks of the year, from New Year’s Day until the Daytona 500, are wide open on the racing calendar, and Bernard needs to schedule as many races as possible in that fallow period. Surely the Indy cars could run at Homestead, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Fontana, Calif., without too many early-year weather issues. In fact, a spanking new calendar might make it clear that IndyCar chiefs ought to just yank their whole schedule forward by a few months. They should dominate the first few weeks of the year, then run their normal spring and summer schedule and finish the season with that highly successful Baltimore street race on Labor Day weekend, before college football and the NFL crank up.

An ankle cast for Brad Keselowski

No, Santa, I’m not wishing any injury on Brad. But since he had such success this past season in the Sprint Cup races following the broken ankle he suffered during a test session at Road Atlanta, Keselowski and team might want to try to re-create the situation as much as possible next year. That’s right, driving with the bruised, bone-chipped joint, BK won at Pocono and Bristol and notched three other top-six finishes to jump from 21st to 11th and secure a Chase wild card spot.

A gigantic medal for Kip Hughes

The 27-year-old Hughes, who competes in regional events at Oklahoma Sports Park, is my racer of the year. During a race a few months ago, Hughes literally saved a fellow driver’s life. Terry Muskrat was trapped in his car after it flipped during a multiple-car accident and was engulfed in flames. Hughes immediately stopped his car in the middle of the track, ran to the burning car, ripped down Muskrat’s window netting and pulled the trapped driver out in time to save him from serious injuries.

Hughes’ heroism sure makes it clear there’s more to life than racing. And with that in mind, here’s wishing readers a wonderful, safe and satisfying holiday season. May Santa bring you everything on your wish list, and we’ll see you in the grandstands next year.

Kay Bell is an Austin, Texas-based writer. When she’s not yelling at her television during NASCAR races, she blogs about taxes and other financial topics at www.dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com.

LOOSE LUGNUTS

Bed and Bathurst

I stayed up far longer than I expected a few weeks back to catch the live broadcast of the Bathurst 1000 from Australia on Speed Channel. I’d always been curious about the Bathurst, a storied 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) road race that is the most anticipated event in the Australian V8 Supercars Championship Series. And while I didn’t know any of the drivers, I had great fun watching the souped-up Holdens and Fords rocket around the spectacular road course atop Mount Panorama, which is widely considered one of the world’s great racetracks. Winner Garth Tander held off ­runner-up Craig Lowndes by a fraction of a second after the two lapped nose to tail for 30 minutes nonstop in a duel made even better by the lack of bogus debris cautions or manufactured green-white-checkered finishes. The Supercars are scheduled to race at the new Formula 1 track in Texas in 2013, and now I can’t wait to see them in person.

Same old, same old

I had hoped NASCAR would heed the calls from everyone from me to its Sprint Cup drivers and shake up the tracks that make up the Chase for the Championship, but NASCAR says next year’s Chase races will be the same as this year. In my view, too many of the playoff circuits are similar, and I’d prefer to see the championship contenders prove their worth on a greater variety of courses. Maybe in 2013 …

Welcome, ’wagen

Volkswagen wants to overtake Toyota as the most popular passenger carmaker worldwide and is looking to raise its profile by getting back into racing in North America. Volkswagen execs considered developing a presence in NASCAR but decided they’d get more bang for their buck in either the IndyCar Series or the American Le Mans Series. The upside to the ALMS is that VW could race cars that look like their street vehicles in the GT classes. The IndyCar Series, which the VW chiefs went out of their way to call “attractive,” would give VW twice as many races as the ALMS per season as well as valuable mainstream exposure at the Indianapolis 500. My thought is that Audi (which is owned by VW) has already proved everything the company needs to prove in ALMS, so Volkswagen would be better off developing its own engine and chassis to join Honda, Lotus and Chevrolet in the IndyCar Series.

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