Tom Jensen: With 2015 NASCAR season in the books, 10 things I’m thankful for –

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is officially in the books, with Kyle Busch recovering from serious leg and foot injuries to score his dramatic ¬†first championship in the sport’s top division.

And now, it’s time to take a deep breath and spend some time with family and friends. In honor of Thanksgiving, here are 10 things I’m thankful for this holiday season.

10. Air Titans. There’s no way to put it: The rain that plagued the 2015 season sucked. But it would have been a lot worse without the incredibly efficient Air Titan track dryers.

9. Safety. Without question, NASCAR is a much, much safer sport than it used to be. While there were some harrowing accidents in 2015, the cars and tracks are so much better than they used to be.

8. Road courses. I’m not quite sure how this happened, but just in the last two or three years, road-course racing has gone from the least interesting to oh-my-gosh-did-you-see-that exciting. I’d love to see one more road course on the schedule.

7. PR people. Unless you’re the hardest of hardcore fans, you’ve probably never heard of Jon Edwards, Mike Arning, Bill Janitz, David Ferroni, Michael Ribas, Traci Hultzapple or any of the other dozens of driver public relations specialists in NASCAR. But if you work in this business, you literally couldn’t do your job without them. The same with NASCAR’s excellent PR staff. So thanks, one and all, for the work you do that allows us to do our jobs.

6. The No. 88. No, not that No. 88, though we’re all appreciative of the attention to the sport it brings. As I write this, it’s 88 days until the 2016 Daytona 500 — plenty of time for a break and some down time, but not so long that we’ll all go stir crazy waiting for it to get here. Well, maybe some of us.

5. Social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Periscope have revolutionized how we cover the sport. In some ways, social media has made the gig a lot more challenging — you don’t end the day at 5 p.m. like normal, sane people do — but it’s great fun engaging fans and being able to get instant feedback about what they think. And for the 1 percent who can’t control themselves, I’m also thankful for the “block” button.

4. Young guns. I’m not going to list them all by name, but there are more talented young drivers in all three NASCAR touring series than I’ve ever seen before. The future of the sport is indeed bright with all the young talent coming up.

3. Dedication. The folks who work in this sport work their individual and collective asses off. I don’t care if you’re a driver, a crew chief, a track worker, a NASCAR official, a crewmember, a reporter — if you are fortunate enough to make a living in this sport, you have a work ethic and a level of commitment most normal people couldn’t fathom. So thanks to all of you for making the show go on every week, without fail.

2. Jeff Gordon. The first time I interviewed Jeff Gordon he was 18 or 19 and had just won a USAC Silver Crown race at the Copper World Classic in Phoenix. In the 25 years since, Gordon developed into one of NASCAR’s greatest champions, on and off the track. There truly aren’t enough superlatives to attach to Gordon. Thanks for always being such a class act, Jeff.

1. Race fans. When my family sits down to eat on Thanksgiving, there will be a 14-pound Butterball turkey in the middle of the dining room table. You know why it will be there? Because enough fans care passionately about NASCAR that guys like me can actually make a living writing about this sport. Without fans, we’d all be out of work.

I can’t begin to express my gratitude to all of you for your interest, support and passion for the sport. Your enthusiasm keeps me fired up and your criticism and questions keep me humble and honest. Thanks for all of it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and may you all have a joyous holiday season. I’m already looking forward to a great 2016 season.


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