'Tis the season to take some time off from racing

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - 'Twas the quiet time for NASCAR when all throughout the country not a race was running at the track, not even a single car taking a practice lap.

All stock cars are being fine-tuned in the teams' shops for next year, in hopes that Speedweeks at Daytona will soon be here.

Crews and team officials take time this week to spend with family and friends, while visions of championship possibilities for next year dance in their heads.

And drivers, crew chiefs and team owners should do one thing on this cool-down lap, take some time off during this very little winter's nap.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., like many in the racing world, is taking
some time with family and friends during the holidays.
Yes, it's the holidays, the time of NASCAR's short off-season. Though stock car racing's inactive period will seem longer since the circuit banned testing at its sanctioned tracks in 2009, drivers, crew chiefs, owners and team members generally take time off in December to spend with family and friends or take an extended vacation.

After completing his first year with Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. attended Champion's Week in New York City, where he was awarded the Chex Cereals Most Popular Driver Award for the sixth straight year. After the event, Earnhardt, Jr. went on a trip with his family and then enjoyed the outdoors with some of his relatives.

"I'm going hunting with my uncles right up until Christmas," Earnhardt, Jr. said.

NASCAR's most popular driver has made tentative plans to ring in the new year.

"For New Year's, I'm either going to stay at home with my family, or I might go to Rockingham to see Andy Hillenburg," he said.

Hillenburg, a former stock car driver, purchased the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, NC in October 2007. Hillenburg's track will host the Polar Bear 150 street stock series event on January 1.

Earnhardt, Jr.'s teammate and three-time consecutive Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson had special off-season plans. Johnson and his wife, Chandra, were scheduled to travel abroad, but after protestors shut down the airport in Bangkok, Thailand and left the country in turmoil, the two changed their minds.

"We had this great trip planned to go to Indonesia and Thailand, but with the unrest that's taking place over there, we had to bag it," Johnson said. "That was going to be our Christmas and New Year's deal. We wanted to travel far and wide this year, and it looks like we're not going to do that."

Johnson will be at Daytona International Speedway January 3-5, in preparation for the Rolex 24, which runs at the 2.5-mile track later in the month. He will return to GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and team up with drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vassar. They finished second overall in last year's event.

Carl Edwards and his fiance, Dr. Kate Downey, did not change their plans to visit Thailand. Edwards competed in the Race of Champions in London earlier this month and then went to Thailand with Downey for vacation until Christmas.

"Christmas is usually with family, and this year it will be with my family and Kate's family, so that will be a lot of fun," Edwards said.

Edwards has very special plans during January as pre-season testing will be absent from his schedule.

"I'm going to marry Kate on January 3," he said. "After that, January is wide open. It should be a fun month whatever we do."

For most drivers and teams, having no testing in Daytona and Las Vegas during the first month of the year comes as a relief.

"It won't be strange," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "It's going to be great. I'll be in Nashville for 'Sound and Speed' and then in Daytona for NASCAR 'Preseason Thunder Fan Fest' and get all of that stuff done."

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.
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