It's Thanksgiving in NASCAR Nation

Danica Patrick

“There’s going to be a lot of food and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of wine. That’s good, because we have a cellar of it.” (Photos: Getty Images)

The shops and NASCAR tracks have fallen silent on this Thursday. Even though there are uncertainties to be faced in the coming days, Thanksgiving allows NASCAR Nation to take a moment to reflect and be thankful for all the good and special things like families and friends. Like the rest of us, some of NASCAR’s top drivers are relishing the time to take a breather, and bask in food and fellowship with special people.

Newly crowned Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart’s schedule remains very busy leading up to his coronation next week in Las Vegas and beyond. Still, Stewart is excited about one of the most simple of trips. He’s going home to Indiana for Thanksgiving – where a multitude of well wishers are waiting.

Tony Stewart“I haven't had a chance to talk to anybody,” Stewart said earlier this week. “As we sit here now, I have over 300 text messages that I haven't been able to answer yet. I've got a lot of replies to send back, but I'm excited about coming home in the next couple of days.

“There is something about coming home, and the childhood friends of mine that I'm still friends with and people that I know in town, I'm excited to be able to come back and celebrate a championship with them. That's something that's really high on my priority list right now is getting the chance to come home.”

Elliott Sadler came up short in his drive to become this year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series champion. Yet, that disappointment is far from his mind on this Thanksgiving Day. Sadler believes he has much to be thankful for.

Elliott Sadler“I’m thankful for my family,” Sadler explains, “and for my baby daughter we just had. That has all gone great so far. Everybody’s healthy, both her and my wife. There’s also the health of my son (who was hospitalized for a time after his birth) after all he’s gone through the past 20 months since being born so I’m very thankful for that. Just my family - my mom and dad are still around to share a lot of enjoyment with me. That’s probably the biggest thing I’m thankful for, the health of my family.”

Jamie McMurray’s season didn’t go as well as he might have liked, but it doesn’t make him lose sight of some things he believes to be important.

“I guess I’m most thankful just for my family and the fact that I’ve raced another year in NASCAR,” McMurray says, “and I’ve been safe and taken care of. This year, Thanksgiving will be our son’s first birthday. I don’t even think about racing when I think about things I’m thankful for. I would guess just my health and my family.”

Thanksgiving is a time for renewed traditions, even the relatively new tradition shared by Martin Truex Jr., his family and friends.

“We’ve actually started a Thanksgiving tradition of our own,” Truex says. “The last few years after Homestead we take our motorhome down to the (Florida) Keys. We hang out there for a few days, wind down and go fishing and things like that. We actually have Thanksgiving there. We’ll have some family there with us and that’s kind of our new tradition. It’s been a lot of fun for us. It’s nice to stay in the warm weather, wind down and get ready for the off-season.”

Ron HornadayAnd if anybody understands winding down, it’s Ron Hornaday, Jr. For the intense former Camping World Truck Series Champion, it’s all about keeping the off-season simple.

“It was my daughter’s birthday last week,” Hornaday says. “We missed it being in Homestead and Phoenix. We’re going to take her out this weekend (for a late birthday celebration) and do a little Thanksgiving with the kids. We’re going to do a quiet Christmas with my two kids and five grandkids, my grandma and grandpa. We’re going to head up to the mountains and have a nice old Christmas tree cut down; put popcorn on the thing – no lights, no nothing, and lots of Coors Light.

But for some, any slowdown will be short lived. Just ask AJ Allmendinger:

“For me, I’m going to keep my off-season pretty busy,” Allmendinger says. “We’ll have Thanksgiving then we’re going to go do some road-course testing for all the Cup stuff and for Ford itself. We’ll get everybody together, (wife) Lynne and my parents, eat a lot of food and then get back to business.”AJ Allmendinger

There are many factors that make Thanksgiving special, including our memories of what this holiday was like when we were growing up. He’s not exactly a character from a Norman Rockwell painting, but Kurt Busch remembers what was special growing up on Thanksgiving at the Busch family’s Las Vegas home.

“It’s family getting together,” Busch remembers. “My uncle always brought the turkey over. Grandma always made the pies. Mom slaved over the stove all day with the vegetables and the stuffing. It’s an amazing day for what everybody can do to help make it go easier. I guess my job as a kid was to just stay out of the way and my dad’s job was to hold down the couch to make sure he watched his football.”

This is Danica Patrick’s first Thanksgiving as a member of the NASCAR family. She’s been busy making plans, and Patrick’s home near Phoenix might be the stage for one of the more interesting holiday tables.

“We’ve got 22 people coming over for Thanksgiving this year and only one family is a relative,” Patrick says. “There are a lot of people coming over so I was doing a full-on list of everybody coming and what they’re bringing. They don’t have to bring anything but when they ask, I tell them to bring what makes them feel like Thanksgiving and what makes them feel like they’re home - something they’re familiar with that they ate at Thanksgiving.

“Someone’s bringing green bean casserole. Someone’s bringing corn casserole. There’s someone bringing turkey and their stuffing. There’s another person bringing their pumpkin pie. Someone’s even bringing a raw veggie salad. I don’t know how far that will go (just kidding). I always like to make things a little bit interesting, so I think we’ll do potatoes two ways – do it regular, then do one with truffle oil or something like that, maybe some bacon. That sounds good, doesn’t it? Maybe some chives. I might make some wild rice and add some orange and cranberry and make it kind of fall like.

“There’s going to be a lot of food and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of wine. That’s good, because we have a cellar of it.”

Wherever you may be today, and whatever your plans might entail, the Motor Racing Network family sends its wish that your family will enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving, and the start of what will be a special holiday season.

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