On this Thanksgiving, I ask you the race fans, what are you most thankful for? Here's my list...
As we all prepare to sit down to another Thanksgiving dinner, we are usually asked what we are thankful for. The answers range from family, religion, material things or just the breath that we breathe. So let's make it more specific. If you're reading this, you're likely a racing fan or you're lost. Either way, I decided to take some time to list ten events from this past year in the racing world that I am most thankful for. Feel free to give your take as well!
Jules Bianchi still has a fighting chance
The only solace we can take from the horrible tragedy in Suzuka is that Jules Bianchi still clings to life at all. I have said multiple times that the young Ferrari prodigy would have been a World Champion some day, but now I just pray he wakes up. There is hope after weeks of no updates as he was transported back to his home country of France and now breathes unaided, yet remains unconscious. Despite his comatose state, it's a miracle he even has a chance after such a violent accident, which is enough to be thankful for. Forza Jules.
Another new LMP1 team
As Le Mans neared, whispers of a new LMP1 program began to surface, involving Ferrari. Unfortunately, it was but a dream and did not amount to anything. But, a new LMP1 program did indeed arise. Endurance racing has seen increased viewership, more notable names in the field, and a larger LMP1 grid as of late. Joining Audi, Porsche, and Toyota in 2015, Nissan will unleash an assault on Le Mans and the WEC. That means eight full-time LMP1-H cars and at least 11 for the crown jewel event in June. It is a good time to be a sports car racing fan.
A breath of fresh air from Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is an interesting character. His change in demeanor over the past few years has been well documented, so I'll keep this short. He was once perceived as one of more reserved, quiet drivers of the sport, uninterested in taking charge, yet he still carried a loud last name. Following his 2014 Daytona 500 triumph, he joined Twitter and has quickly become one of the most outspoken figures in the sport. His interviews are entertaining, the amount of time he interacts with his fans on social media his admirable and when he speaks, everyone listens. And let's not forget his impressive performance on the race track, which finally matches his capabilities. The Dale Jr. we saw blossoming when he first took this sport by storm has returned and he's better than ever before.
An American F1 team is in the works
I am one of those who actually believe Gene Haas will make it in the world of Formula One, eventually becoming a Force India of sorts. Perhaps it's just the American pride in me instilling false hope, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the team scoring multiple points in their debut season, showing prowess as an organization. The building of the team is going smoothly but their choice of drivers will be a major factor in their on-track success, or lack thereof. Nonetheless, I am just happy that we will see an American-based F1 team on the grid in 2016, no matter the outcome of the endeavor.
Tony Stewart rightfully cleared in Kevin Ward Jr. death
I thought long and hard about this incident as it reached a fever pitch in August and September. I held my tongue, only offering my opinion twice. I waited almost a full week following the tragic night before saying a word, which can be read HERE. Then I went back to being silent until the Grand Jury revealed their decision, clearing the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion of all charges. My second take can be read HERE. All I plan to say now is this ... Tony Stewart is a good man with a rough exterior, masking his kind heart. August 9th was a tragic night that could have been avoided by both parties involved, but was nothing more than an accident. Now let's leave Kevin Ward to rest and peace and allow Tony Stewart to move on and heal himself.
Vettel's domination ends, giving us a heated title battle
I was pleased by pre-season testing as Red Bull struggled to keep pace. Nothing against the team, but you can't blame one for wanting a new face at the top. However, we simply traded one driver's domination for one team's. It wasn't the most spectacular year by any stretch of the imagination, but at least there was a title fight to talk about. And now the cycle continues, as we hope a new team steps up to the challenge and takes the newly acquired throne from the silver arrows. One will, they always do ... But as Red Bull reminded us, we may have to be patient as we wait for that day to come.
Worth the wait: Will Power ends his curse and a NASCAR driver attempts the double
After three potential titles slipped from his grasp, it was a relief to finally see Will Power be crowned champion. I don't have much else to say about it except well deserved and about time. Secondly, it was great to have a renewed interest in running the double from Indy's stock car cousin. NASCAR champion Kurt Busch impressed at Indianapolis and now other NASCAR racers have hinted at aspirations to attempt the same feat in the coming years.
V8 Supercars get their Tasmanian Devil back
As much as I enjoyed having Marcos Ambrose in NASCAR, he was never going to reach his full potential at RPM and when Roger Penske himself offers you a ride, you take it. It doesn't matter if he's placing you in a cardboard box and your feet are the wheels. His return to V8 Supercars is highly anticipated and I personally can't wait to see him lock horns with Jamie Whincup as they bring new life to the Holden vs. Ford rivalry. A clash of the titans, if you will.
NASCAR's Chase delivers unprecedented intensity
I am not much of a supporter of this new Chase format. They went in the right direction, but I just can't except FOUR point resets in the matter of ten races. Regardless, it was pretty epic from start to finish. We saw two brawls involving SIX Chase competitors, incredible battles for the win, and a drama-filled end at Homestead. NASCAR strived for something and they got more than they could have ever hoped for, enthralling fans and capturing the interest of many outsiders, as was the intended goal.
The formation of the FIA World Rallycross and Formula E championships
Forgive me, but I enjoy the fully electric racing series known as Formula E. There's a reason I will stay up to all hours of the night in order to watch anything with wheels. I just love racing and anything different has my interest. Formula E is very different and it's actually entertaining once you give it a chance. The peculiar street circuits combined with out of control race cars and big names wheeling them has been a great spectacle thus far. As for World RX, I tilt my hat to FIA for recognizing the action-packed Global Rallycross series and building off of that, creating a true world championship for rallycross fans. I see big things from both of these series as they continue to grow and evolve in the years to come.
That's my list, now what's yours? Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!