autoracing 4 days ago

When you don't know what to get for that NASCAR driver on your holiday gift list ...

The Charlotte Observer — Brendan Marks The Charlotte Observer

Dec. 07--Ah, the holidays. A time for celebrating with family, remembering all the good times from the past year, and being thankful for what we have.

And, as a way of showing our appreciation for one another, giving presents.

But what do people really want? Teenagers may ask for a video game system, or young adults may ask for tickets to a concert. Because athletes, including NASCAR drivers, are people too, that means they're also in line for gifts.

So let's try to give a handful of NASCAR's best drivers and biggest names what they really want for the holidays. You'll find the perfect (somewhat fictional) gift guide below:

Dale Earnhardt Jr (A parenting book): Earnhardt, unfortunately for his legions of loyal fans, ran his last race in November at Homestead, meaning now he's retired from NASCAR's Cup Series. The next great challenge for the 15-time winner of the sport's Most Popular Driver award? Being a dad. Earnhardt and his wife, Amy, announced earlier this season they are expecting their first child next year. The best thing we could give Earnhardt at this point, who has no children, is an intro-to-parenting book. If you thought racing was tough, get ready for dirty diapers.

Kyle Larson (A working engine (or a few)): Larson, 25, was one of NASCAR's most dominant drivers all season, and he looked poised to compete for a championship through the first half of the playoffs. But then in the playoff cutdown race at Kansas, his engine inexplicably blew and eliminated him prematurely from contention. Then it happened again weeks later, and Larson ended up not finishing four races in a row. Had that not happened, Larson would have been one of the favorites at Homestead, but now he'll have to wait for 2018 to get his first crack at a title.

Chase Elliott (His first win): This one's got to come soon anyway. Elliott has finished second seven times (!!) in his young career without winning a race, coming as close as the last lap or two on several occasions. That said, he still finished the season fifth in points and almost made it to Homestead without a win. That would have been impressive. Look for Elliott to finally get a win in 2018, and potentially more than one.

Jimmie Johnson (No. 8): Not the actual number, as his No. 48 has done him very well throughout his career, but championship No. 8. Johnson won his record-tying seventh in 2016 by storming from behind, and now he's tied with Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for most all-time. But Johnson was never really a threat to win in 2017, despite three wins, and he'll look to finish 2018 on a better note. That eighth trophy would make him, statistically, the GOAT (Greatest of All Time).

Danica Patrick (A good finish in her last race): Patrick's announcement that she was retiring from being a full-time Cup Series driver in November was tough, but at least her fans will get to see her suit up for one last NASCAR race at the 2018 Daytona 500. Patrick has never won a NASCAR Cup Series race, but the Daytona 500 actually has been one of her better tracks, considering she won the pole for the 2013 iteration and came in eighth there. Patrick doesn't need to win her final Cup Series race to go out on a high note, but she'd certainly like to finish better than 28th, where she finished the 2017 season.

Martin Truex Jr. (To stop time): Maybe this is a little silly, but considering everything Truex has going for him right now, this makes the most sense. The man just won his first Cup Series title, which capped a dream season for him. His longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who has battled ovarian cancer, was healthy enough to be there to celebrate with him. And he won several awards at last week's NASCAR awards ceremony in Las Vegas. Yeah, now would be a good point to just freeze time and savor everything he has going for him.

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @brendanrmarks

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