Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas wish lists for all

Christmas wish lists for all,
With Christmas only four days away, there are many within NASCAR circles who have some rather specific items on their gift lists. Here’s a look at a few things they’d love for Santa to leave under the tree.

With five consecutive Sprint Cup championships now in the record books, Jimmie Johnson is measuring for more display cases for his trophy room. What concerns so many of his fellow drivers and teams is that as long as he and crew chief Chad Knaus are together, stopping their championship reign will be tough. The dynasty they’ve built is nothing short of incredible. No doubt, it’s a great Christmas season for El Cajon, Calf. driver.

Denny Hamlin’s Christmas list is short and sweet; 40 points more that what he had in 2010. The 39 he needed at Miami-Homestead Speedway last month to tie Johnson at race’s end and one more point to put him out front. Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford put together an eight-win season that had championship written all over it. But a late-race miscue in gas mileage at Phoenix with only one race remaining seemed to derail the team’s title hopes. Hamlin enters the 2011 season as Johnson’s strongest challenger to unseat the reigning champion.
Kevin Harvick is hoping to collect that elusive first Sprint Cup title in 2011. He wasn’t even among the 12 drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2009 and neither were teammates Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. Last Christmas, everyone at RCR went into a new year anxious to implement major changes within the storied organization. A fleet of new cars were built, key personnel entered into new roles and everyone began the season with title hopes the top priority. They came very close. Going into the final race of the season in Miami, Harvick kept the hopes of all RCR employees alive as he battled within the top three positions in points. In the end, Harvick finished third but a strong contender for 2011.

Carl Edwards wants a repeat of his 2007 Christmas wish. The next season, he won nine races but lost the title to Johnson in the final race. Last season, he won twice and added nine top-fives and 19 top-10s to his list of accomplishments. All Jack Roush-owned Fords struggled to get checkered flags until their overall program began to improve after Greg Biffle’s win at Pocono, Pa. in August.

Those wins came in the final two events at Phoenix and Homestead, Fla. to ended the year on a high note. The Columbia, Mo. native goes into Speedweeks in February feeling confident he can continue his win streak with a victory in the Daytona 500. The last title run for the Concord-based team came with Kurt Busch in 2004.

Matt Kenseth hopes his gift for 2011 includes getting back to his winning ways. His six top-fives and 15 top-10s was good enough to log a fourth-place finish in points but there’s plenty of room to improve. Kenseth’s quiet and methodical style keeps the competition guessing while he builds his title hopes. He won the Sprint Cup championship in 2003, the year before the current Chase system began. A little more consistency and he and his crew will be making headlines.

Greg Biffle finished sixth in points in 2010 but showed great championship strength toward the end of the season. The ingredients that seemed to be missing during the season came to life during the 10-race Chase. Biffle’s Christmas list certainly includes new Fords and the relatively new engine package for next season. The Vancouver, Wash. native had two wins, nine top-fives and 19 top-10s and has an established record on which to build. Look for some surprise success from him in 2011.


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