By Steve Mickey
This is the one column that I look forward to all year as I love to play Santa Claus for some of the Sprint Cup personalities that might not know exactly what they want left under the tree. This is where I come in because I try to make sure that they get something that they really need and may not ask for themselves.
Let’s begin with a little something for the Wood Brothers. Santa, this is their first year back in several years racing full time in the series so why don’t you let them start their return in style with a Daytona 500 win with rookie driver Ryan Blaney. It has not been that long since they won the Great American Race with Trevor Bayne who was also a rookie in the series.
Santa, I sure want you to remember Chase Elliott this season. It will be his first time running full-time in the Cup Series and if that isn’t enough pressure he will be taking over Jeff Gordon’s legendary No. 24 Chevrolet. A spot in the Chase for the son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott would go a long way in taking some of the pressure off the young driver.
This wish is for the Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon’s iconic No. 3 team. The return of the number that was made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. was highly anticipated but the on track results never lived up to the hype. Santa, not only does this team need a win, it also needs one of those precious sixteen slots in the Chase so it can return to the lofty standards set by Earnhardt when he was known as The Intimidator.
I don’t want to forget all of those that make up the so-called ruling class of NASCAR. Santa, please bring the sanctioning body a new rules package with low-downforce that will increase the action on the track. Last season they used it at a couple of tracks and everybody loved the results that put much of the outcome of the race back into the hands of the drivers. Let’s hope that the package you bring doesn’t need a lot of tweaking so the racing gets better with each passing race.
This is an odd request for the big man in the red suit since technically it is not about racing but it does concern one of the great race tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule. Bristol Motor Speedway will be hosting for the first time ever a football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech. The game is only three weeks after the track’s August night race so the track needs for you to bring it some great weather so it can turn the world’s fastest half-mile into a football field that will play host to the largest crowd to ever see a college football game.
Jeff Gordon may not be driving next season but Santa he still needs a little something when he wakes up on Christmas morning. He will be moving to the FOX broadcast booth when the season gets underway at Daytona working with Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip. Jeff is going to need to know how to speak a little faster and louder if he is going hang in there with ol’ DW. Darrell has a story for every lap and if Jeff wants to hang in there with him, he is going have to be quick with the comment or spend his time just smiling for the camera.
Tony Stewart will begin his final season in the series as he has already announced that he will be retiring at the end of the 2016 season. The former three-time Sprint Cup champion was always a threat to win any time the green flag waved but the last couple of seasons, his off-track problems and lack of competitiveness on the track has made him a middle of the pack driver. Santa, give him the kind of farewell season that you gave Jeff Gordon.
Santa, I don’t want to forget all of the race fans that have been so loyal to read this column for over 20 years. Please bring them a couple of tickets to a race and pit pass so they can have the ultimate race day experience. My personal wish for each you is that you keep the real meaning of this wonderful season close to your heart and always be thankful for the gift that God gave to each of us.