With the singing of Auld Lang Syne and the celebrating of the dropping of the ball on New Year's eve, more than a few folks will be experiencing hangovers of the alcohol-induced type. But the term hangover is actually a 19th century expression describing unfinished business that "hangs over" into the New Year.
Regardless of the definition, NASCAR has a few "hangovers" in store for the New Year, including the following top 10 NASCAR hangovers:
Hangover No. 10 - Jeremy Mayfield vs. NASCAR
There is no doubt that NASCAR would like to bid adieu to the whole Jeremy Mayfield substance abuse scandal. This Cup driver was the first ever to be suspended due to violation of the sanctioning body's substance abuse Zero-Tolerance Drug Testing® policy.
As the saga unraveled in 2009, Mayfield and NASCAR engaged in a battle in the courts, as well as in the media. Mayfield accused NASCAR of everything from misreading the results to actually rigging the drug test against him. NASCAR, on the other hand, accused Mayfield of methamphetamine abuse, not just as an isolated incident, but also as a pattern of misuse.
Mayfield filed appeal after appeal to have his suspension lifted, however, NASCAR continued the court battle, eventually winning the fight. But the case is far from over and NASCAR's leadership faces depositions and further questioning in the New Year. The Mayfield saga is destined to be one of NASCAR's hangovers into 2010.
Hangover No. 9 - Death of the Diecast
One of the hangovers facing NASCAR is the failure and near bankruptcy of one of its biggest merchandisers, Motorsports Authentics. MA, owned by International Speedway Corporation and Speedway Motorsports, Inc., has run at a deficit in the three of its four years in business.
The company that markets team and driver merchandise at the track, as well as die cast merchandise, owes significant amounts of money to each of the three major teams, including Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Dale Earnhardt Inc. MA has restructured several times, but the company remains in turmoil and debt, without any specific plan for recovery in the New Year.
NASCAR, its teams, and MA leadership have been meeting at year's end to look at ways to save the company. However, this may well be one of the sport's bigger hangovers.
Hangover No. 8 - Misery for the Manufacturers
The misery of the auto manufacturers, particularly General Motors and their Chevy brand, has definitely impacted NASCAR and will continue to hang over the sport in the New Year.
In fact, two teams including Dale Earnhardt Inc. and JR Motorsports, as well as three race tracks, have just announced they are suing GM based on contractual and sponsorship disputes.
Dodge, another significant auto maker in trouble, has also reduced its presence in the sport, with its lone representation with Penske Racing in the New Year.
Hangover No. 7 - Health of the Sport's Superstars
This past year saw some of the sport's most notable drivers experience health problems. David Reutimann had a wicked case of the flu, as did several other drivers and team members.
Carl Edwards broke his foot playing Frisbee and drove in a cast for most of the season. And there was much discussion and speculation about the health of Jeff Gordon's back after the driver endured several wicked wrecks, including hard hits at Las Vegas and Watkins Glen.
Although all drivers appear in good health starting the New Year, the health of the drivers may be one of the sport's hangovers in 2010.
Hangover No. 6 - Rivalry Ruin
Many have criticized NASCAR for discouraging the beating and banging for which NASCAR racing has been historically known, especially this past year. It has seemed to many fans that as soon as there is any contact on the track or controversy between drivers off the track, NASCAR has stepped in, calling the participants quickly to the NASCAR hauler.
NASCAR has been roundly criticized for ruining any rival development, especially this season. This hangover may be on its way out, however, as several rivalries that developed late in the season may just continue, particularly the rivalry between Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.
Only time will tell in the New Year if this rivalry, or others such as between Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart, will survive and thrive into the 2010 season.
Hangover No. 5 - Heartbreak and Loss
It seems that NASCAR has suffered a great deal of loss, particularly this past year. From NASCAR media member David Poole to the recent losses of D. J. Richardson, Sharon Hutchens, and Earl Sadler, special folks in the NASCAR family have passed on, leaving the sport in mourning.
While all involved in NASCAR can only hope that the losses will not be a continuing hangover in the New Year, there is already some concerning news. It has recently been revealed that Red Farmer, one of the sport's historic figures and a member of the original Alabama gang, has been hospitalized with double pneumonia.
The NASCAR family will no doubt pause to remember all they lost this past year, as well as to pray for no further losses in the upcoming year.
Hangover No. 4 - Struggles of NASCAR's Favorite Son
One of the major hangovers troubling the world of NASCAR and especially facing Junior Nation, is the poor performance of NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Junior's struggles led to a crew chief change this past year, from cousin Tony Eury, Jr. to Lance McGrew. But even with that change, Junior continued to struggle, unable to make the Chase and finishing the season 25th in the points standings.
There will be hangovers of the alcohol-induced type if the hangover of Junior's struggles continue on the track in 2010.
Hangover No. 3 - Danica Mania
The "would she or wouldn't she" come to NASCAR question has finally been answered and Danicamania has officially begun in the world of stock car racing.
The recent ARCA test, in which Danica Patrick as well as nine other females participated, was a media circus in anticipation of her first time behind the wheel of a stock car on the big Daytona oval.
Patrick's NASCAR debut, currently slated for the Nationwide Race at Fontana, will be one of the hangovers from 2009 that will certainly endure well into the 2010 season.
The other type of hangover involving adult beverages may well ensue, depending on Danica's performance behind the wheel.
Hangover No. 2 - Jimmie Johnson's Dynasty
One of the major hangovers, particularly for non-Jimmie Johnson fans, is that driver's continuing domination of the sport.
This past year, Johnson accomplished what no other NASCAR driver has done before in winning four consecutive championships in a row and for that, he not only took home all of NASCAR's biggest honors, but he was also named the Associated Press' Athlete of the Year.
In direct competition with his teammate and mentor Jeff Gordon, Johnson himself will now be driving for an unprecedented fifth championship in a row in 2010.
While fans of the No. 48 team continue to celebrate, the rest of NASCAR nation may well be battling the Johnson dynasty hangover in the New Year to come.
Hangover No. 1 - NASCAR vs. the Economy
The top hangover facing NASCAR is that of the sputtering economy. While this has affected the entire country, the economy has taken a definite toll on NASCAR.
The downturn has led to major restructuring among teams, with many merging like Richard Petty Motorsports, as well as some simply ceasing to exist.
Many drivers, including notable names like Kenny Wallace and past champions like Johnny Benson, are struggling for sponsorship dollars to race their cars and trucks respectively.
Even Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had such sponsorship woes that he had to restructure the team that bears his name, JR Motorsports, in order to have enough funding to race in the New Year.
Race tracks have also been affected, most recently the demise of the Milwaukee Mile, as a result of the economic downturn.
The impact of the economy has been and will continue to hang over NASCAR, the participants as well as the fans, at least well into the 2010 race season.
Although there are remedies of all sorts for the alcohol-induced type of hangovers, solutions to these top 10 NASCAR hangovers, are most likely not so simple or clear cut.
In spite of these top 10 hangovers, however, there are many bright spots and much room for optimism.
So, here's to a great 2010 season of racing, sans hangovers of any sort. Happy New Year to all!
Photo Credit: The Hangover" (portrait of Suzanne Valadon, by Toulouse-Lautrec).
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