Predictions? Not a chance. Instead, things I want to see

Chris Gill

When I was a younger lad, things were much more simple than they are today. With years to reflect, I’ve come to the conclusion simplicity was boring, if not tedious.

When the phone rang you had to leave the couch. We wasted precious breath cleaning out Nintendo cartridges for up to 20 minutes at a time just to play Metroid. Since we couldn’t torrent music, the fortunate ones had high-speed dubbing -- until tape from a cassette got tangled in the gears. Sports, particularly NASCAR, were pretty predictable.

Every February pundits predicted who would win the Winston Cup. Those who thought outside the box would always pick Rusty Wallace. Trying to pick winners of the Daytona 500 or Sprint Cup these days is akin to throwing a dart from 50 feet away at a board with names printed on it. Even when I started covering auto racing for The Leader, NASCAR was pretty easy to figure out before a new season, so every year I made predictions.

I stopped that nonsense some years ago, when the sport evolved into a giant roulette wheel.

Everyone who is not among Brad Keselowski’s family, raise your hand if you picked him to win the championship. Those with hands raised are probably lying. If you were able to guess, with more than 25 percent accuracy, the winners of each race last season, move to Las Vegas or jump back in your contraption and get the heck out of this timestream.

Even with all the statistical data and history at my disposal, I shall not even attempt to pick race winners or champions, but instead offer some things I want to see happen in 2013:

The Gen 6 car’s success

I want NASCAR’s sixth generation of “stock car” to put on amazing races at the intermediate tracks if for no other reason than to silence the critics.

It doesn’t seem to matter there are a couple dozen cars on the lead lap, or the majority of the 36-race schedule has people wondering who will win within 20 laps to go, the noobs and an impatient press corps have griped about how terrible the races are. Perhaps they’re taking a short-view on this, because that’s what modern society does with everything – things are either epic or awful in the eyes of the instant-gratification generations.

The races are far better than when I – and certainly more entertaining than when the old guard – started watching. Hopefully the Gen 6 car will help teach the A.D.D. pundits to shut up.

The Air Titan cometh

When is the last time anyone was excited about a new procedure that had nothing to do with the race? Maybe race nerds when the pit lane red light was introduced, but for the rest of us well-adjusted types, the answer is never.

NASCAR is ready to dispatch its new track drying system the next time the heavens open. Rain in Daytona during Speedweeks is almost a guarantee anymore, so maybe we’ll get to see it during tonight’s Budweiser Clash Unlimited or whatever they’re calling the race now. NASCAR chief Brian France is optimistic of cutting dry time by 80 percent – or the most efficient thing ever accomplished by NASCAR. If successful, the Air Titan could spare track owners and promoters a lot of undue stress.

If fans know a little rain won’t stop the show, they’ll be that much more apt to buy tickets despite gloomy forecasts. I can think of at least a half dozen times when the Air Titan could have spared qualifying/races at Watkins Glen International, giving fans full dollar value.

Believe it or not, the Air Titan could actually help boost attendance.

A new champ

I like Brad Keselowski, who doesn’t? But he’s only the third different champ since 2006 -- thanks, Jimmie Johnson.

During Johnson’s five-year reign, several drivers watched years of their professional life slip away. Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon all missed out because Johnson’s team was damn near unbeatable during the autumn months. This also gave fans severe Jimmie fatigue.

Now it’s time to make up for that.

Any of the aforementioned (except Martin, who runs a part-time schedule) would be worthy champs for the first time, or in Gordon’s case again. I have nothing against great drivers/teams performing at historic levels, but for everyone’s sake, let’s hope Johnson’s run is history and we can get some new faces on the Sprint Cup before the next dynasty reveals itself.

Danica + Stenhouse

I know, I know, it’s sensationalism. Like you don’t want to know what happens when the blessed event of these two wrecking each other occurs. Hypocrite.

As much as I want nothing to do with Stenica (you read it here first, copyrighting it now), the story of Patrick and Stenhouse going steady is a force of nature this season. This story line will be brought to the fore every single week until November, so try to desensitize yourself to it now -- as Daryl Van Horne put it, “Find a cure! Invent a vaccine! Build up our immune systems!”

As tired as you’ll be of hearing about it or seeing some pre-race PDA on your television, you still want to know how this plays out on the track. We all do. We’re all twisted voyeurs these days.

Just sayin’: NFL commissioner only makes $3.1 million annually as a base salary. But, wait for it, was paid $22.3 million in bonus cash for 2012. For most people, a bonus is finding a quarter on the floor of the break room. ... Is everyone excited for NBA All-Star weekend? No, me neither. ... A rock from space injured more than 1,200 people in Russia late Thursday, but all CNN aired were people filing off a cruise ship in Alabama. MSNBC replayed prime-time talking head shows. Fox News was busy listing the most cities in America with the most infidelity (Washington, D.C., won). Good God, we need to redefine what news actually is. I can’t imagine how conflicted producers would be if Kim Kardashian gives birth on the same day life is discovered on another planet.   

Chris Gill, who covers auto racing for The Leader, can be reached at cmgill@the-leader.com or follow him on Twitter @TheLeaderGill.