Trying to decide on my list of the top-10 NASCAR stories of the year seemed to be a little tougher this year than in seasons past.
The competitive nature of the sport was as high as it has been in many seasons and that help to produce not only great finishes at just about every stop on the schedule, but it was a Chase for the Championship that we could only have dreamed.
There is no scientific basis for this list; just one fan’s opinion on the stories and events that brought the fans back to the track and in front of their TV sets.
I know there are probably a few I have overlooked, but these are the ones that had me counting the hours till the next green flag waved!
10. Kurt Busch’s parting of the ways with Penske Racing after an incident during an attempted interview with Dr. Jerry Punch at Homestead helped to land the former champion on this list. It also helped that he had feuds with several drivers as well as more than one blowup with his crew over his in-car radio.
9. Racing at Daytona and Talladega took on another twist this season with the two-car drafts that all but guaranteed a great finish. NASCAR tried hard to break them up with several rule changes, but it still continued to be “buddy” racing. The sanctioning body has already announced more changes to try and break up the tandems when the green flag waves at Daytona in February.
8. Not to be outdone by his older brother, Kyle Busch also showed he still had some growing up to do when he imploded at the Craftsman Truck Series race at Texas. His on-track actions led NASCAR to suspend him for the Cup race that very weekend, and in the process put his owner Joe Gibbs in a tough position trying to keep all of the sponsors on board.
7. Regan Smith proved that there still might be hope for a one-car team in the sport when he and his Furniture Row Racing team shocked the series at Darlington by winning the Showtime Southern 500. It was one of those moments that the sport needs so often, and for longtime fans it was a flashback of the way things used to be.
6. Jeff Gordon didn’t win his fifth title, but he did notch his 85th win at Atlanta that moved him into third place on the all-time win list. He posted three wins on the season while continuing a streak of winning at least one pole since he came into the sport in 1993.
5. Jimmie Johnson is good enough to make this list simply because he didn’t win another title. He posted only two wins on the year but was on top of the standings late in the year that showed even in what he would consider an off year, he was more than good enough to compete for the championship.
4. Before the season started, NASCAR announced a new point system for the series, and few people could have ever envisioned the excitement it would bring to the sport. It put more emphasis on winning, while continuing to reward consistency. Because of this change we were treated to a point chase that wasn’t over until the last lap of the last race.
3. Carl Edwards lands this high on the list because he didn’t, as some people would say, “give away” the title. He entered the last race with the lead and did everything possible short of winning the race in trying to clinch his first-ever title.
2. Trevor Bayne’s winning of the Daytona 500 set the tone for the year as the win came in only his second Cup race, one day after his 20th birthday. It definitely was the feel-good story of the season, and it also let the light shine on the Wood Brothers for one more day.
1. Tony Stewart’s improbable run to his third Cup title came out of nowhere as he limped into the Chase. By his own admission, Stewart probably didn’t even belong in the elite group, but once there he quickly showed he deserved to be there. His title run will forever be remembered by how he handled the pressure of having to win the final race to clinch the title.