The holidays are over, and that means it’s time for everybody to get back to work.
That includes yours truly, who took some time over the break to get away from the world of racing in an effort to rejuvinate myself for the upcoming NASCAR season. Hey, when you have a season that’s over 40 weeks long, sometimes you need a little break in order to get excited again, right?
So my down time got me thinking, what would I like to see in the 2011 NASCAR season? And despite my chronic case of offseason writer’s block, I actually came up with some stuff. If you don’t like it, blame my doctor who told me it was still OK to write despite my condition.
And if you do like it, remember that I came up with this all by myself:
New winners. 2010 was a great year for NASCAR, but it had its flaws. One of those was that the season produced exactly zero new winners. Sure, seeing Jamie McMurray have a career season and witnessing David Reutimann go out and earn a win without Mother Nature’s help were both nice stories. But it’s time for the AJ Allmendingers and David Ragans of the sport to have their time. Hopefully they’ll get it in 2011.
Tough Trucks. Am I the only person who is severely disappointed in the direction the Camping World Truck Series is going? Todd Bodine, bless his heart, may be the biggest crybaby in all of racing, and he’s now the defending champion of the series notorious for being the toughest in NASCAR, if not all of auto racing. And it seems as though he may not having any trouble repeating in 2011. The Truck Series is getting soft, and it’s time for somebody to get in there and toughen it up. And no, please not Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick.
Better Rivalries. I’m not necessarily looking for new rivalries this year; just better ones. We had a good rivalry last year with Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski, and we had a few more flare-ups during the first season of “Have at it, boys” racing. But if NASCAR wants to attract more interest, it’s going to need some more real, relevant rivalries in all 3 divisions.
Rookies. After Kevin Conway ran away with the 2010 ROTY while only finishing in the top 30 once, NASCAR has no new rookies for 2011. There are drivers with the potential to move up to the Cup Series this year, with Trevor Bayne and Justin Allgaier coming to mind. But in all likelihood, NASCAR may go without any rookies this season. That has to change as the sport is in need of some new drivers.
Success for the little guy. No, I don’t mean Mark Martin, although that would be popular. I’m talking about the smaller race teams. The team that comes to mind for me is Keyed Up Motorsports, which is going to run at least the first 5 races of the season with driver Scott Riggs. This team and driver combo paired up for one race last year and ran on the lead lap most of the night, but never returned for another race. It sounds like they may try to go the full season this year, and hopefully they and all the smaller teams will find success.
Return of the King. After losing his star driver Kasey Kahne late last year, it seemed as though Richard Petty and his team may be all but finished. That’s not the case as AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose will be carrying the flag for the newly bought(yes, again) team in 2011. Allmendinger showed flashes of brilliance at times in 2010, and we know Ambrose can compete for wins on the road courses. Hopefully one or both of these drivers can get the King back into the Winner’s Circle once again.
A Nationwide-only champion. It sounds as though NASCAR is going to make it a certainty that the Nationwide Series title will only be won by a Nationwide-only driver. And it’s about time. Sprint Cup drivers have dominated the Nationwide Series for years, with the championships being determined, at times, by over 600 points. With young, hungry, talented guys like the aforementioned Bayne and Allgaier having a shot at competing against each other for the Nationwide title without interference from Cup vets, the series may be worth watching again.
Less Whining. For the love of all that is good, these drivers make millions of dollars a year to do something we wish we could do for free. I have no problem with guys being mad about not winning; that’s just competitive nature. But events like Kasey Kahne quitting on his team at Charlotte because his car was bad or Jimmie Johnson complaining about guys bumping into him at New Hampshire are part of the reason why people don’t watch the sport. They can get that kind of talk from their two year-old. Shut up and just drive the flippin’ car!
A somewhat-competitive Dale Jr. I’m not known for liking Dale Earnhardt Jr…by anybody. Even when he was in his prime I felt the guy was overrated. But there’s this tiny little part of me that wants him to be at least somewhat competitive. Maybe it’s because I’m sick of hearing Jimmie Johnson’s name, or just because I thoroughly enjoy laughing at his ingenious post-race quotes. He doesn’t have to win many races, or any. But a somewhat-competitive Junior might be good for the sport. And his fans deserve it.
More Wide-Open coverage. Never gonna happen, but I do enjoy watching the Coke Zero 400 mostly because of TNT’s annual Wide-Open coverage. You get to see more racing, less commercials, and, alright that’s about it. But hey, it’s cool. It’s not going to happen because NASCAR might actually lose money, but I would like to see more of it.
A new champion. Like I said, I’m sick of hearing J.J.’s name, and I know I’m not the only one. Maybe I’m biased, and if I am, that’s cool. But I just feel that it’s time for some diversity up at the top of the NASCAR totem pole. Johnson will go down as one of the all-time greats; no doubt about that. But in all honesty, some of us are getting bored. Either the guy at the top has to change, or a whole bunch of channels will.
What other things would you like to see in 2011?