Dear race fans and family members of race fans:
Here's a friendly reminder from your friends here at the Worldwide Leader. Holiday shopping season has just taken the crossed flags, and if you haven't gotten started yet, you already are a lap down.
The good news? We already have gone testing for you and have all you could want, need or simply be stunned by when it comes to gifts for the race fan closest to your heart. And no, we're not including that snazzy new $500,000 marble statue of Michael Schumacher that was unveiled last week in Europe. (Besides, I'm betting Schuey already bought them all for display in his own house.)
So, ladies and gentlemen, start your shopping carts, and let's go buying.
Get your drink on
A tried and true gift for many a NASCAR holiday has been the trusty can Koozie with your loved one's favorite driver number slapped on the side. But honestly, in a sport based on horsepower, why not take it to the next level?
A company called Wrap-R-Ator now builds refrigerators that resemble your favorite team's pit crew war wagon, complete with aluminum drawer handles and locking caster wheels. It retails for $499.99, which at first blush might seem like a lot, but it certainly will be worth it the first time you go rolling down the street on top of it, distributing beverages to your cul-de-sac like a gas-can man.
Get your bling on
One Google search for "NASCAR jewelry" creates a deluge of possibilities that would make even your most krunked-out friends gold with envy. From necklaces to piercing adornments to earrings that look like a hotel ballroom chandelier.
Our personal favorite is the car number toe ring, which you can clamp around your phalanges in either silver or gold. But as with all precious metals, prices are dictated by the market. Sliding a 10K Kasey Kahne or Carl Edwards into your shoe will set you back $83.99, but jumping to a 14K Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jimmie Johnson costs 36 bucks more. If gas prices have fit your wallet with a restrictor plate, you can always downgrade to the $29.99 stainless steel model, which we recommend for those with extraordinarily funky feet.
Get your bird on
Bergamot makes and distributes NASCAR bird feeders, officially licensed, 18-inch, full-service aviary eateries wrapped in the colors of your favorite driver. For a mere $44.99, your birds finally will be able to declare their allegiance on race day. Then again, you could always purchase the model of your least favorite driver and watch the birds crap all over it.
Get your Earnhardt on
There are more NASCAR DVDs on the market these days than ever before, but for every truly great surround-sound experience, there are at least two or three titles that look like something one of your buddies might have edited in his basement with two VCRs and a stack of old TNN race tapes. But if you love The Intimidator, there are enough titles out there to keep your home theater painted black from now until the Daytona 500.
The cream of the crop is "Dale," which was narrated by Paul Newman and produced by the Earnhardt family, Richard Childress Racing and NASCAR Images. The six-disc collector's edition includes the entire 1998 Daytona 500 and is available only at Wal-Mart from now until Christmas. (I hear the script was written by this dashingly handsome writer from ESPN The Magazine.)
Also available are the original ESPN Classic "SportsCentury" shows on both Big and Little E, and the ESPN original movie "3" starring Barry Pepper as the Man in Black and, in a bit of irony, the woman who plays the mysterious and twisted is-she-good-or-is-she-bad doctor from "Lost" as Teresa Earnhardt. Both are available at www.espnshop.com.
Get your read on
If you prefer to learn your history the old-fashioned way, pick up a copy of "ESPN Ultimate NASCAR: 100 Defining Moments in Stock Car Racing History." It's a timeline of NASCAR's 60-year history packed with photos and more great prose from that really, really handsome writer guy from The Mag. It's available in most major bookstores or at www.espnshop.com for $30 or less.
One of those great old stories involves 1961 Daytona 500 champion Marvin Panch and his inspiring near-death experience in '63. To read the story straight from Pancho's pen, visit his Web site, www.marvinpanch.com, and pick up his new memoirs, "Racing Memories from a Racing Legend." For $40, you get two books and the autograph of one of NASCAR's true, living, breathing all-time studs.
Get your ride on
No matter how long your loved one has been a race fan and no matter how much they think they know about being behind the wheel, there's no substitute for firsthand experience. The Richard Petty Driving Experience offers a wide range of driving schools for everyone from aspiring racers to soccer moms, but for our money, there's nothing like letting the pros take the wheel and give you the feel.
Depending on the location (The King operates his schools at 24 NASCAR tracks from Daytona to Iowa), $109 to $159 will let you ride shotgun at more than 150 mph. Trust us when we say you'll never watch a race the same way again after riding along for a banzai lap in the footsteps of Jeff and Jimmie. If you are lucky like we were, The King will even stop by to shake your quivering hand as you climb out of the car.
For info and track schedules, visit www.1800bepetty.com.
Get your sponsor on
You say Uncle Walt is having a hard time getting his new ice cream taco business in the black? Well, give him the gift that will put his venture on a level playing field with Bud, DuPont and Home Depot!
BAM Racing is offering high-profile sponsorship spots on the No. 49 Dodge for an introductory price of $4,995, soon to jump to a still-reasonable $10,080 for the entire 2008 Sprint Cup season. For that price, your company is promised the same attention as any major associate sponsor, including a decal on the car, a customized promotional video, a customized Web site and a chance at being a primary hood-covering sponsor for one race.
"People think we're joking," BAM owner Beth Ann Morganthau said, "but this is very serious. We've spent a long time developing this sponsorship program, and it is truly open to anyone who is interested."
Get your ... ahem ... love on
If you and your special someone plan on spending the holidays in front of the fireplace whispering sweet scanner chatter into each other's ears, why not spice up your time together with -- and no, we're not making this up -- NASCAR-themed lingerie.
Again, this makes for some interesting (and a surprising amount of) Google finds, but our favorite outfit is offered by a company called Forplay Inc. It's a one-piece pit crew-style "uniform" that probably doesn't use enough spandex to justify the $78 price tag.
Fellas, you can complement the evening by splashing on a little Daytona 500 cologne (Elizabeth Arden, $40), and from there -- actually, you know what, we don't really want to think about it any further than that.
Just get those credit cards out and start shopping before the checkered flag falls. And don't worry -- Santa will be bringing us Daytona testing before you know it.
Ryan McGee, the editor-in-chief at NASCAR Images and a motorsports writer for ESPN The Magazine, is the author of "ESPN Ultimate NASCAR: 100 Defining Moments in Stock Car Racing History."