CRANDALL: All I need for Christmas is...

Image by Miller/LAT

CRANDALL: All I need for Christmas is...

Insights & Analysis

CRANDALL: All I need for Christmas is...


Leave it to an eight-year-old to provide some inspiration.

For the last six days, my youngest sister has been in town visiting, which has given us a chance to celebrate Christmas early. Among the outfits she packed was a glitzy sweater where, if the beads are pushed one way it reveals the word “want”; and if they are forced the other way, then “need” is visible.

The sweater ends up reading, “But Santa, I really want it!” or “But Santa, I really need it!”

When she was showing it off to me though, she panicked and quickly changed the beads to “need”. She was adamant it had to be that way. And that got me thinking: What do I need this holiday season? Not want, but really need from the jolly red fellow who resides up north?

Well, first, let’s skip the big man with the white beard and go straight to the source – in this case, NASCAR’s officials. Because what I need is something the entire sport will benefit from: a fix to the rules package for its short track races.

Never has there been a better time for such a request since the one-mile ISM Raceway will host the Cup Series’ championship weekend in 11 months. The thought of it makes me shudder after its two races in 2019 were garbage. Snooze fests. Duds.

The weather at ISM Raceway in the fall was terrific. The racing? Not so much. Image by Thacker/LAT

Larger spoilers and more downforce did not serve the short tracks well this year. Passing and entertainment were both non-starters from ISM to Martinsville to Richmond and Dover.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps at least acknowledged there was an issue in his season-ending address to the media, and claimed the sport will be looking into potential changes.

There were 1,349 green flag passes in the spring ISM race and 1,335 in the fall. Martinsville had just six passes for the lead between both its races, with just 978 green flag passes in the spring race and 1,188 in the fall. Richmond saw eight lead changes in the spring and only six in the fall.

ISM needs to get a significant portion of the attention when it comes to a rules package evaluation, because as the final race of the season, the track has to deliver from a competition standpoint.

A month ago at Homestead-Miami, some were already looking ahead to next year’s move to ISM for the finale. Kevin Harvick reiterated his belief that the championship race should rotate every year because of the exposure such an event will bring to new markets, including new fans and notoriety. However, he also boldly stated in the same breath, “To me, what happens in the race is irrelevant.”

My eyes are just as wide now rewriting those words as they were when hearing them for the first time.

It absolutely matters what happens during the 312 laps that are going to be run in the Arizona desert. Again, failure is not an option. After 18 years of crowning a champion in south Florida where the race always delivered for one reason or another, a ho-hum ending to the year would be a nightmare.

No-one wants the season’s last image to be uninspiring.

So, yes, what I need is good racing on the short tracks, particularly ISM Raceway. I need drama of some kind or intense pit strategy and entertaining, tight battles throughout the field. I need NASCAR to go back to the ’18 rules package for short tracks or look into chopping some of the spoiler off – maybe even get the cars off the ground. Someone has the answer to what will help make the racing watchable, and I need those who wear the multicolored bar logo to seek them out.

“Need” seems like such a strong word coming from an eight-year-old but so necessary when applied to racing. Like Mariah Carey once sang, “I don’t want a lot for a Christmas, there is just one thing I need …” and for me, that’s ISM Raceway to not suck.