Thursday, December 23, 2004
Updated: December 27, 1:07 PM ET
High-horsepowered Night Before Christmas
By Mike Massaro
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
not a race team was stirring, especially not Roush.
Their stockcars were built with incredible care,
after 15 years without a Cup Championship, Jack suddenly has a pair.
Nestled snuggly in bed laid all Roush engineers,
fabricators and crew members cherishing titles in back-to-back years.
Kurt Busch had taken this year's victory lap,
now it was time for his team to take a short winter's nap.
Throughout NASCAR the competition was resting,
knowing in just a few weeks they'll head to Daytona for testing.
Outside it was cold and the windows were frosted,
and after covering 36 races I, too, was exhausted.
I climbed into bed and pulled up the sheets,
as my head hit the pillow I heard noise in the streets.
It was familiar; I knew that sound,
it was the roar of an 800-horsepower engine pounding the ground.
I peeked through the window and for the second straight year,
I saw that souped-up sleigh with the most magnificent high gear.
With a screech and a skid it kicked up a shower of sparks,
The driver stopped in my driveway, perfectly hitting his marks.
Dropping the window net out climbed that man,
all dressed in red like a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan.
Quickly to the roof he did climb,
down through the chimney he came in pole-winning time.
It was Santa Claus himself,
I knew because last year I'd interviewed the Jolly old elf.
It was a strange sense of deja' vu,
but still, something seemed askew.
He had a new sleigh,
this year a Ford, not a Chevrolet.
"Why, Santa?" I cried.
"Why the blue oval, not the bow tie?"
Santa responded, "Last year it was Kenseth, this year it was Busch,
for the second straight year their Taurus' kicked the Chevy guys' tush.
I need to be careful even though the television guys are sleeping,
You know, they're all dreaming up new words to start bleeping."
As he stood by the fireplace's stone facing,
he put down his bags and decided to talk racing.
With a smile he said, "It's time for reflection.
What about Junior? How does his resrictor plate car even pass inspection?"
"Another Talladega victory and win at Daytona,
but most impressive was his win in Arizona.
I think 'Little E' might have been this year's champ,
If at Atlanta he didn't try to squeeze his car into a space that was cramped."
"With five wins Jeff Gordon climbed the chart.
He now has 69, just seven behind Earnhardt.
While his fourth Brickyard 400 was an impressive win,
under the old point system he'd be the champion," Santa said with a grin.
"Jimmie Johnson, you can call him the 'sweeper,'
with eight wins he's clearly no championship sleeper.
He won twice in Charlotte, Pocono and at 'the track too tough to tame,'
ending the season just eight points short of the title seemed a shame."
"With 10 angels on his hood,
Johnson's Atlanta win did the most good.
While his victory helped heal the soul,
there are still those who deserve a bag of coal."
"Tony Stewart reached into Brian Vickers' cockpit,
and Junior said a word that sounded something like spit.
Both actions were more naughty than nice,
these drivers each paid a 25 point price."
"Rookie Kasey Kane emerged as the newest sensation,
but when his crew attacked Stewart's it captivated NASCAR Nation.
Tommy Baldwin shook Zippy, and Evernham made threats,
After the Chicago melee no one had any regrets."
"Then there's the fans' reaction following the first Talladega race,
throwing garbage onto the track was an absolute disgrace.
Find the guy who threw the cooler and everyone who threw a can,
pull their tickets forever and from every NASCAR event they should be banned."
"Not all is bad though, actually the season was quite good,
especially for Busch who may be the series' most misunderstood.
Vilified a year ago, I think he got a raw deal,
he won this year's championship despite a runaway wheel."
Then, there was a pause.
Clearly it was time to run for mister Claus.
Quickly he snatched up his sacks,
and headed to the kitchen where I'd left him some snacks.
There was a sports beverage and homemade chicken cacciatore,
He gobbled the food but the Powerade was a different story.
Old Kris Kringle just looked at the bottle and kicked,
as a Gatorade guy he seemed a bit ticked.
He had one last message before he drove off through the frost,
"never forget those who we've lost."
'Remember, wear those blue wrist bands proud and tight,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
Mike Massaro covers NASCAR for ESPN and ESPN.com.