With another racing season in the books and a new year upon us, it’s time to make a list of things that would help racing fans enjoy 2012 even more.
While some drivers deserved only a lump of coal in their stocking, some found hard luck in 2011 and deserve something better. So without further ado, here are our humble suggestions on how to make 2012 great year for motorsport enthusiasts (in alphabetical order):
Fernando Alonso: A competitive car
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Alonso can drive the wheels off a grand prix car. He was the only Formula One driver in the top six teams to outscore his teammate more than 2-1 in points. The two-time world champion squeezed every ounce of performance out of a poor 2011 Ferrari, taking one win and 10 podiums in 19 starts in a car that didn't deserve to be in the top-4. In comparison, his teammate, Felipe Massa could not do better than a fifth place finish in the same equipment. While Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel hogged the spotlight as he ran away with the 2011 F1 title, Alonso deserved more recognition for a stellar performance in a comparative dog of a car.
Kurt Busch: A great big sock to shut his yap
Yes, we all get frustrated every so often, but the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion takes it to a whole new level. Busch parted ways with the Penske team following a profanity-laced tirade directed at a respected TV reporter that was captured by a fan and uploaded to the video sharing website YouTube. Earlier in the season, he unleashed a barrage against his crew chief when things weren't going his way in a race. While the YouTube outburst delivered a $50,000 fine from NASCAR for “actions detrimental to stock car racing,” it's doubtful the sanction will have any positive effect on one of stock car racing’s worst behaved drivers. Busch is yet to find a new home for 2012, but when he does his new public relations crew would be wise to always have a extra large tube sock on hand just in case they need it.
Carl Edwards: A Sprint Cup title
It’s difficult not to feel for the Roush driver who was the runner-up in the Sprint Cup for the second time this year. To make matters worse, he would have been champion in both the years he was bridesmaid had NASCAR not changed the points system when it created the 10-race, Chase for the Cup title shootout. While he’s had his moments, especially when battling with Brad Keselowski, Edwards kept his aggression in check for most of the 2011 season and matured into a more rounded driver. He’s also likely in the best shape in the NASCAR paddock. After putting up the best average finish in the history of the Chase and still losing in a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart, a championship in 2012 would be fitting.
Dario Franchitti: A title he can celebrate
Few noticed when IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti scored his third consecutive championship in October when the feat was overshadowed by the death of Dan Wheldon. The Indianapolis 500 winner died in a multi-car pile-up in the season finale in Las Vegas. When the accident that took Wheldon’s life caused the race in Las Vegas to be cancelled, Franchitti became 2011 champion. Winning a third consecutive title remains a huge accomplishment for Franchitti but it will be forever tainted by the loss of a friend. Perhaps a fourth in a row would bring much more happy memories.
J.R. Fitzpatrick: A real shot at NASCAR
When a Canadian businessman bought up the assets of Baker Curb Racing’s Nationwide team and announced that Fitzpatrick would be its driver, it looked like the youngest ever CASCAR champion (now the NASCAR Canadian Tires Series) finally had a solid ride to look forward to in NASCAR’s second tier series. Unfortunately, it all unravelled later in the season and Fitzpatrick is once again on the hunt for a stock car racing job South of the Border. Maybe if more Sprint Cup drivers stop racing in Nationwide, they’ll make room for guys like Fitzpatrick to get a chance to show their stuff.
Lewis Hamilton: A renewed focus
The 2008 world champion found himself chasing not only eventual title winner Sebastian Vettel in 2011 but also his teammate Jenson Button, who appeared to take over as the McLaren leader this year. Hamilton lost the handle on his aggressive style in 2011, finding himself in trouble with the stewards at just about every race. Off track drama, including his public tribulations with his on-again, off-again Pussycat Doll girlfriend only added more distraction to the mix. Having Hamilton get things back on track and perform like the world champion he is, can only be good for F1 and its fans.