It’s good to be back in front of the computer banging out another column after spending the entire Christmas week in a house (a very cold house) that had no electricity. The days got long and the Christmas spirit at times started to fade, but it did give me the chance to search my inner self to try and come up with a few New Year’s resolutions that might just be what some involved in the sport need to ensure themselves a successful 2010 season.
My resolution for Jack Roush would be that he would find a way during this off-season to narrow the gap between his Ford operation and the domination that Hendrick Motorsports displayed this past season with its Chevrolets. Roush has always been a familiar face in victory lane, but this season he was only able to make three visits, with two of them coming in the first two races of the season with Matt Kenseth.
My resolution for former Kurt Busch crew chief Pat Tryson would be the ability to enjoy the kind of year with new driver Martin Truex Jr. in 2010 that he should have been able to with Busch last season. Winning a couple of races and finishing fourth in the Chase was apparently not good enough for Busch, as he put Tryson under the bus after the last race of the season at Homestead instead of parting ways on a positive note.
I can’t leave Kurt’s baby brother Kyle out of my list of resolutions for next seasons. My resolution for him is to stop believing that he has to live up to his ‘rowdy’ image. No doubt he is one of the greatest talents in the sport today and maybe one of the greatest ever, but we may never see him reach his full potential until he can learn to control his emotions behind the wheel. He needs to learn that there is nothing wrong in not leading every lap, and on those days when things just don’t go your way, it is fine to accept a top-10 finish and then move on to the next stop on the schedule. Someday he is going to put it all together, and Jimmie Johnson will have a fight on his hands when it comes to collecting championship trophies.
Everybody seems to have some advice for Dale Earnhardt Jr. so my resolution for him would be the ability to just listen to those people who can help him the most. The first name to come to mind would be crew chief Lance McGrew. Crew chiefs are put in those positions because they know how to make a car handle and to go fast. Sometimes it’s just a matter of believing in your crew chief and giving him a chance to make things go your way.
Richard Petty has done all there is to do in the sport but is still content to return his operation back to victory lane on a regular basis. He won twice last season with Kasey Kahne with an operation that was lacking sponsorship and manufacturer support. He has since switched from Dodge to Ford by joining up with Doug Yates, so my resolution for him is to find some sponsors that will give him the money to compete with the rest of the series. No owner should have to field teams with so little money that he can’t guarantee his driver that he will see a check after the race.
Michael Waltrip’s resolution for this season should be to become the best owner in the series. His Toyota operation is finally showing signs of being competitive with David Reutimann winning the first-ever race for Michael Waltrip Racing last season. By replacing himself with Martin Truex Jr. for the upcoming season, he has taken maybe the biggest step the operation has needed in seeing that it becomes a threat to win on any given weekend.
We the fans need a resolution of our own and that is for the sport to somehow recapture some of the excitement that it had when it was booming back in the ’90s. I’m not trying to put a finger on any one reason why the sport has lost some of its luster, but let’s face it, the excitement level has slipped over the last couple of seasons. We could make a list of what we believe are some of the causes but no matter how long that list gets, the real solution lies on the track where the rest of the series must catch up to Jimmie Johnson and his team. He has earned all four of his titles but the best thing this sport needs is a battle to keep him from winning his fifth — not just during the summer months but also all the way through the Chase to Homestead.