Five things to hope for in '05
With Christmas rushing toward us, it's an ideal time to craft a "Christmas Wish List" for fans of the NHRA POWERade series. If everyone were to jot down the things they are fervently wishing for in 2005, surely there would be some similarities and some differences. Agreement among drag racing fans isn't something you encounter regularly.
But here's hoping that most will find this list to their liking, and that despite disagreements, the 2005 season will provide plenty of tremendous drag racing and thrills.
Wish No. 1: A Safe Season for All
Of course, every year we head into the season wishing for safe racing, but after the tragic loss of Top Fuel star Darrell Russell in St. Louis this year, we'll be even more emphatic in wishing for a safe and prosperous 2005 for every team on the tour. Here's wishing the safety improvements which were enacted by the NHRA following Darrell's death will ensure a season unsullied by any serious mishaps.
Wish No. 2: A Real Nail-Biter of a Season in Pro Stock
Jeg Coughlin moves to Team Schumacher to drive a Dodge, tuned by Bob Glidden. Erica Enders makes her debut in the pro ranks. Warren Johnson embarks into his final Pro Stock campaign as a driver, hoping to erase the memories of a rough 2004. All anyone could wish for to give the Pro Stock class some icing on the cake would be a nip-and-tuck points race, rather than the landslide championship runs of Greg Anderson. Greg is a deserving champion and has set new performance standards which may stand for a long time. What we'd like now is a points race that goes down to the wire in November.
Wish No. 3: A National Event Win for David Grubnic
His victory in the Budweiser Shootout in October was a great moment for the popular Aussie, but what he has really wanted in the 10 years he has raced in Top Fuel is a national event win. He came ever so close in 2004 with five runner-up finishes but despite falling short, he remained positive and quick to praise his Connie Kalitta-owned team. Our wish -- and we're sure his wish -- for 2005 is a trip to an NHRA national event winner's circle for the first time.
Wish No. 4: A ride for Gary Densham
It is almost unheard of in professional motorsports for a driver with 40 years' experience to be more competitive than he has ever been before. That's exactly where Gary Densham stands after three great seasons as a team driver for John Force. It took him 35 years to finally win his first national event, and then with the able tuning skills of Jimmy Prock, he was consistently one of the quickest and fastest drivers in Funny Car. Now that he's going back on his own, he'll be looking for enough sponsorship to allow him to race all season. And we wish he lands a deal for 2005 and beyond.
Wish No. 5: A Strong Comeback for Ron Capps
He's a versatile, accomplished race driver and the fans love him. Capps has star power and after a dismal 2004, which ended with his departure from Snake Racing, Capps appears headed to Schumacher Racing as a new team poised to contend for the POWERade title. His passion for racing is crystal clear and nobody seems to enjoy winning as much as he does. There have been very few victories over the past several seasons and here's wishing 2005 gives Ron a much-needed shot in the arm and a genuine chance at his first championship.
Bill Stephens covers NHRA racing for ESPN.com.