The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is over. It started with a bang, err fire, and progressed through a regular season of 26 races. It then moved into a ten race Chase to crown a new NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. There were many stories along the way that impacted the results of the season and many that did not. One thing is certain: Every one of them added to the drama that is NASCAR.
One of the stories that were notable is that Jeff Gordon almost didn’t make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He did, only to end up ruining it by extoling his wrath on Clint Bowyer. Another story is 2011 runner Carl Edwards missing the Chase and even failing to win a race. No one would have guessed that at the start of the year.
A big story in the middle of the regular season was the Hendrick cars having an advantage by the rear of the car moving when they entered the corners. As the other teams figured it out, this advantage went away and so did the discussion.
Finally Kyle Busch missed the chase due to equipment failures. When there were no failures he ran pretty well. I have a feeling that this story is still playing out and will continue into 2013.
Like everything in life there are always lingering thoughts. These are some of those that have probably stayed too long and need to get out so NASCAR in 2013 can begin.
Races in the Beginning of the Season were Boring
In the first half of the regular season NASCAR had the least amount of caution flag, wrecks or other on track activity that bunched up the field and forced close racing. NASCAR fans on Twitter, Talk Shows and elsewhere talked about the racing being boring. This thought still sticks with me as it is unwarranted. I happened to be listening to an old Michigan race on Sirius the other day; Terry Labonte was leading when he ran out of gas on the start of the last lap. Only five cars passed him before the finish. NASCAR racing today is more exciting than it has ever been.
Mark Martin’s wreck at Michigan International Speedway
The picture of Mark Martin’s car impaled on the pit wall at Michigan International Speedway is still stuck in my mind. It firmly illustrates two things. The first is that no matter how well NASCAR and the race teams prepare and make things safer, racing circumstances occur that no one would ever expect. Mark Martin’s wreck is just one such event. The second is race car driving is inherently a dangerous sport. As a graduate engineer I understand how the cars are built and what the protections are for the driver. NASCAR has done a great job. I am thankful that Mark Martin is still with us today. That was nasty.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s rejuvenating season
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to win the June race at Michigan International Speedway. Ironically the race win ended a four year winless streak dating back to the same race at the same speedway. The win and the season which all but matched his best season of his career until he had to sit out two races still sticks in the mind. The main thought is will he be able to pick up where he left off or will we have to wait another four years.
Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing
At the end of the Chase, NASCAR fans were stunned when it was rumored that Kevin Harvick would be leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of this upcoming season. Everyone has known that Richard Childress Racing has been struggling the past few seasons. Is Kevin leaving an extension of his friendship with Tony Stewart or is it an indication of serious problems at Richard Childress Racing? This question will probably linger well into the end of 2014.
A Driver doesn’t have to be stellar during the regular season in order to win the Chase
Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer showed us that you don’t have to set the world on fire in order to do well in the Chase. Neither driver had dominating seasons but yet finished the season fourth and second in the Chase. Brad Keselowski schooled everyone in this by winning the Chase. Greg Biffle also showed us that you can dominate the regular season only to have a few bad races and make an otherwise stellar season look like you didn’t have one. In golf they say drive for show, put for dough. In NASCAR it is drive for show in the regular season and for dough in the Chase.