By Steve Mickey
It wasn’t until the last lap of the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series could determine who its champion would be. That kind of competition which featured a total of twelve different winners produced many story lines for us to follow throughout the season so let’s revisit a few of them. Here are ten and I will even attempt to put them in an order but remember this is a very bias list that was compiled by a committee of one.
10. Roush-Fenway Racing – This once proud organization that now fields only three teams never had a driver to threaten for a win. It is no longer the premier Ford operation as the mantle has been passed to Penske Racing’s Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
9. MWR Closing – When investor Rob Kauffman announced midway through the season that he would be no longer be putting his money into MWR, it led to the announced closing of the operation at season’s end. It was a sad ending to Waltrip’s operation that led Toyota’s entry into the Sprint Cup Series.
8. Race Team Alliance – Rob Kauffman did not want to leave NASCAR after he departed with MWR but he did feel the need to organize the team owners. He is now one of the leaders of the Race Team Alliance that is working with NASCAR to ensure that owners would be assured of an increase value in their investment. It would work like franchising in other sports with 36 spots being guaranteed to owners at every race.
7. Darlington Race – The Bojangles Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend was a throwback party that grew beyond what track officials dreamed possible. Throwback paint schemes, driver suits and crew uniforms became the norm as did the return of some of the biggest names in the sport.
6. Restarts – The leader of the race has the responsibility of leading the field to the start/finish line but that became a huge gray area as the season went along. NASCAR eventually widened the restart zone to give the leader more of an option when to start. When the leader decided to go became the focal point of TV coverage as drivers complained of jumped restarts and NASCAR’s reluctance to enforce the restart rules.
5. Martin Truex Jr. – Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team was the only one car team to make it into the Chase. Once he made it in, he advanced all the way to the Championship Four with a chance to run for the title.
4. NBC – The was the first year back for NBC broadcasting races and their coverage gave race fans more than what they were used to. While some of the races were kicked to its sister network NBCSN, the total hours of coverage was great as there was a lengthy post-race show as well as racing news shows during the week.
3. Kenseth’s Hit on Logano – Frustration led Kenseth to intentionally running into race leader Joey Logano at Martinsville. He was nine laps down when the hit took place and it took away Logano’s opportunity to win the race and advance in the Chase. He was suspended two races for his actions.
2. Kyle Busch’s Year – After missing the first eleven races of the season because of an injury, he put together a year that resulted in his first series title. He sat on one pole, won five races, posted 12 top-5 finishes and 16 top-10’s on his way to a one-point win over Kevin Harvick at season’s end.
1. Gordon’s Retirement – Jeff announced his retirement before the season started that led to an emotional farewell tour that ended with him in the Chase. His Martinsville win was by far the most popular victory of the year and one that propelled him into the Championship Four. It was the storybook ending to the storybook career of the four-time Sprint Cup Champion.