Handing out Christmas gifts to NASCAR's top 25 drivers
NASCAR's offseason is more of an extended pit stop. Between the post-season awards ceremony and test sessions and sponsorship commitments and fan appearances, drivers have about two or three weeks of true off time before it's back to the shop to begin working on the next season.
Fortunately for all involved, one of those weeks is Christmas week. So while players and coaches in the NFL and NBA (and the NHL, whenever they actually play) toil away through the holidays, NASCAR teams are able to relax and actually enjoy their presents. And thanks to a well-placed source within Santa's workshop (that Donner is such a blabbermouth), we have a list of gifts for the drivers who finished in the top 25 of this year's Sprint Cup point standings:
Brad Keselowski: A case of O'Doul's non-alcoholic beer. Keselowski might be sponsored by Miller Lite, but anybody who witnessed his buzzy post-race interviews at Homestead after winning the championship knows that this is a guy who can't handle his alcohol.
Clint Bowyer: A contract extension with his sponsor, 5-hour Energy. Bowyer's sprint along pit-road and into the hauler area during his altercation with Jeff Gordon at Phoenix in November was ideal publicity for the energy-drink company.
Jimmie Johnson: Absolutely nothing. Johnson already has five Sprint Cup championships, a beautiful wife, an adorable 2-year-old daughter, the best crew chief in the business and a bulging bank account. What more does this guy need?
Kasey Kahne: A book of quips and one-liners. Kahne is a terrific talent and will likely be a regular championship contender for the next decade now that he has landed at Hendrick Motorsports. The only other thing he needs is a bit more personality to help with his quotes, which can be dreadfully dull.
Greg Biffle: A spotlight that he can direct at himself. Biffle needs something to help people notice that he is actually one of the better drivers in the sport, because 18 victories and five appearances in the Chase certainly haven't done it.
Denny Hamlin: A decent NBA team to support. Hamlin is an ardent fan of the Charlotte Bobcats, and for several years they have been one of the worst teams in the NBA. How bad? Hamlin had more victories in the 2010 Sprint Cup season (8) than the Bobcats had in the 2011-12 NBA season (7).
Matt Kenseth: A copy of the Serenity Prayer. The laid-back Kenseth might need it whenever his new teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch, goes knucklehead (as he inevitably will).
Kevin Harvick: A pair of crutches. He'll need something for support as he goes through an entire lame-duck season with Richard Childress Racing in 2013 before making the move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
Tony Stewart: A razor. Has anybody ever seen Stewart truly clean-shaven? It seems like he gets 5-o'clock shadow around 9:30 in the morning. Even Hugh Jackman is envious of Stewart's stubble.
Jeff Gordon: A fifth Sprint Cup championship. Rarely has anybody as successful as Gordon has been throughout his career wanted something so badly for so long without getting it. In 2002, a fifth title seemed almost automatic. Now it seems extremely unlikely to ever happen.
Martin Truex Jr: A portable laugh track. With Michael Waltrip as his car owner and Clint Bowyer for a teammate, Truex is surrounded by two of the sport's more outgoing comedians. This way he wouldn't have to wear himself out pretending to laugh at their goofy jokes.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: A Sprint Cup victory someplace other than Michigan. Granted, the folks in Junior Nation are so starved for success from their favorite driver that they don't care where he wins races. Still, it has been seven years since Earnhardt pulled into Victory Lane someplace other than Michigan International Speedway. His multitude of fans in the rest of the country would like to witness a win as well.
Kyle Busch: A four-leaf clover, a rabbit's foot and a horseshoe. Busch led 1,436 laps last season. Only one of them was the final lap of the race. Bad luck plagued Busch all year, as he led more than 50 laps in 10 races yet managed only one victory, his lowest total in five years.
Ryan Newman: Some thick skin. With the colorful Stewart and the mega-popular Danica Patrick as his teammates, Newman had better get used to being ignored.
Carl Edwards: A series of gymnastic practice sessions in order to work on his back flip. As long as Edwards has gone without a victory (69 races and counting), if he does win in 2013 he'll have a tough time sticking the landing on his celebratory back-flip without some practice.
Paul Menard: A Menard's gift card. Again.
Joey Logano: Some of Stewart's excess facial hair. Logano is in desperate need of something that makes him look older than 15.
Marcos Ambrose: A map of the world. So he can prove to people that Tasmania, his home country, is a real place and not just a character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
Jeff Burton: He doesn't need anything. The simple fact that he still has a Sprint Cup ride is enough of a gift.
Aric Almirola: A nametag that says, "Hello, my name is Aric Almirola."
Jamie McMurray: The continued recovery of his hometown of Joplin, Mo., which was devastated by a tornado in 2011.
Juan Pablo Montoya: A time machine. So Montoya can return to those heady days of 2009, when he made the Chase and appeared to be one of the rising stars in the sport. Montoya has failed to crack the top-15 of the final point standings since then, and this past season he managed only two top-10 finishes.
Bobby Labonte: A rocking chair and a nice pair of slippers. So he'll retire, already.
Regan Smith: A quick return to the Sprint Cup Series. Smith is a talented driver who handled his dismissal from Furniture Row Racing late last season with class. He will spend 2013 competing in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports, with an eye toward getting back into Cup racing as soon as possible.
Kurt Busch: A lump of coal. Again.