Dear Santa... NASCAR drivers, officials and fans have a lengthy wish list this holiday season

Posted: Wednesday, December 22, 2004


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  Brian France¿s wish: Credit for making NASCAR more popular.

Brendan Gaughans wish: To prove former employer Penske wrong.

No matter how hard Santa Claus tries, it's difficult to put a bow on satisfaction. That's why Brendan Gaughan won't mind waiting 11 months to get his Christmas present.

All the son of casino magnate Michael Gaughan wants for Christmas is to prove Roger Penske wrong, and the only way to do that is win the Craftsman Truck Series championship next November.

Penske fired Gaughan at the end of his rookie season on the Nextel Cup Series circuit. He was hired last week by his father to run a Las Vegas-based truck team next year.


Tony Stewarts wish: A little love for a temperamental guy.

"The decision was more theirs than mine," Gaughan said. "It's their team, and if they didn't want me there, I didn't want to be there. I'm happy where I'm at now."

Gaughan pointed out he finished better in the rookie of the year standings than Brian Vickers.

"You never heard any rumblings coming out of Hendrick Motorsports," Gaughan said of Vickers' team. "You need to know you have the support of your team."

Gaughan finished 28th in the overall standings with one top-five and four top-10 finishes.


Mark Martins wish: Youthful magic in final season.

Now its Travis Kvapil's turn to be thrown under the sleigh in the No. 77 Dodge at Penske Racing South.

In returning to the Craftsman Truck Series, Gaughan is back on familiar ground. He won six races in his family's pickup truck in 2003 to earn his ride with Penske. If he can rekindle that kind of success, it will prove to be one of his best Christmas presents yet - even if it's 11 months late.

For others, the Christmas wish list is a lot easier.

Tony Stewart would like a little understanding. While he readily admits his temper gets him in trouble at the track, his work with charity groups basically goes unnoticed.

Stewart said he doesn't need approval from the crowd to enjoy his accomplishments, but it's human nature to want to be loved. For that reason, Stewart deserves a big hug for Christmas.

With the 2005 season being the last for Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, it would be nice if both could find some youthful magic under the tree. A couple wins each and a run in the Chase for the Championship would be a great way for both to wrap up their distinguished careers.


Brian Frances wish: Credit for making NASCAR more popular.

Jimmie Johnson got his biggest wish - a Caribbean Island wedding to model Chandra Lynn Janway two weeks ago - and that leaves only one hole in his life: A Nextel Cup Series championship. After finishing second in the standings during the last two years, maybe Santa will put a big bow on the trophy and put Johnson's name on it.

Current champion Kurt Busch has a short list, and for once, he's been more nice than naughty. After winning the championship with nine top-10 finishes in the Chase for the Championship, he hopes to find a little respect sticking out of his stocking on Christmas morning.

Series chairman Brian France and president Mike Helton deserve a little credit during the holidays. While many fans and race teams bashed the Chase for the Championship when it was created last January, it proved to be a credible way for the sport to distance itself from baseball, basketball and hockey. It solidified stock-car racing as the No. 1 spectator sport in the country and the second most-popular sport on television. It's often difficult to give NASCAR credit for some of its ideas, but in this case, they deserve some during the holiday season.


NASCAR fans wish: Better, more exciting races.

Joe Nemechek should get a 21-gun greeting; Ricky Rudd an impressive fly-by; Greg Biffle a snappy salute. Sponsorships from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and Army National Guard make all three very popular among the Armed Forces - and in recruiting offices around the country. More impressive, all three consider their relationships with the military to be more personal than business, so all three should get a hearty hoo-rah for Christmas.

Michael Waltrip should get a lifetime deal with every sponsor in the sport to represent them in television commercials. Nobody has a better knack for showing his personality in commercials than Waltrip - with the exception of Jeff Gordon's spot for Sunoco where he runs out of gas on the highway. Hang a few more scripts on the tree for Waltrip.

And for racing fans who bought tickets or spent hundreds of hours in front of the television this year watching the sport, they deserve a big present from NASCAR - better races. Either fix the cars or do away with tracks where it's impossible to race side-by-side. And you don't even need to wrap this present.

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