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Spreading NASCAR’s cheer



NASCAR does a great job rewarding teams that are successful in the series each year but just like in season’s past there are a few teams, individuals and events that were newsworthy that went unrecognized. So before they fade from our memory as we prepare for the 2010 season, let’s take a quick look back at some of the best moments during the Sprint Cup season that went unrewarded.

NASCAR’s best decision — The sanctioning body’s move to double file restarts upped the excitement level at every stop on the schedule. Late race cautions now gave every driver hope of being able to pass the leader and grab a win while using a car (COT) that made passing very difficult at most tracks.

NASCAR’s uncrowned champ — Tony Stewart did what most thought was unthinkable when he became owner of his own team and ended up sitting on top of the points after the first 26 races of the season leading up to the Chase. Regardless if you are a first-year team or a well-seasoned operation, leading after 26 races deserves some type of recognition before wiping the slate clean to begin the Chase.

Bristol’s two sellouts — Every track should send its staff to Bristol Motor Speedway during the offseason to hear a lecture by track President Jeff Byrd and his staff on how to sell seats to a Cup race. Bristol felt the nation’s economy woes as much as any other track, but Byrd and his staff went to work with a grass roots approach to filling its seats. They not only hit the big markets in their approach, they were in the small towns of Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky meeting the fans and listening to their concerns and for their efforts when race day/night came there were no empty seats in the house.

Best move by an owner — Michael Waltrip made what many felt was a long overdue decision when he announced he would not be driving full time in 2010. The two-time Daytona 500 winner can now focus more time on being a winning car owner after David Reutimann gave the organization its first-ever win last season at Charlotte. Putting Martin Truex Jr. in his old seat was a good business decision and one that should move his team forward.

NASCAR’s best-kept secret — OK, it’s not a secret but the Camping World Truck Series produces the kind of racing that Sprint Cup fans can only dream about. Veterans like Hornaday Jr., Skinner and Crawford along with an occasional visit by Kyle Busch head a group of drivers that give very little on the track during a race. This is definitely a series built on hard, close racing that seems to always produce an amazing finish.

Best race — Hard to believe, but it has to be the road course race at Infineon Raceway. If there were ever any doubts about the double file restart rule, they were gone after Kasey Kahne finally took the checkered flag in June. An added bonus to Kahne’s win was that we were once again treated to the sight of a jubilant Richard Petty celebrating in victory lane.

Best win — Brad Keselowski’s win in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega was one for every driver that doesn’t drive for an owner with the last name of Hendrick, Roush or Gibbs. Keselowski’s owner James Finch was finally rewarded for showing up at the track with little resources but yet determined to not only make it in the show but also to be competitive when the green flag waves.

Most class by a crew chief — Kurt Busch’s crew chief Pat Tryson announced before the season was over that he would not be coming back in 2009. He helped get Busch into the Chase only to find himself on the outside looking in during the week as he wasn’t allowed in the shop. He showed up on the weekend and still directed Busch’s efforts that ended in a fourth-place finish in the points without ever bashing in the press either Busch or his owner Roger Penske for the situation.

Best interview — Sure, Mark Martin has had more practice at doing interviews than anybody in the sport, but he still knows how to get it right. He gives all the credit to his team and comes across so genuine when he tells us how lucky he is to be in the sport.

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