ith the last race of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season coming in a few days, it’s time to look back and some of the highlights of the season.
The 2013 NASCAR season has definitely had more drama than a soap opera, and even included the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski, not making into the Chase for the Sprint Cup to defend his title. The last time this happened was in 2006 when Tony Stewart failed to make the Chase a year after his second championship.
Before the checkered flag drops on the season, let’s take a look back and some of the wild and craziness of the year that was NASCAR and preview the Ford Eco-Boost 400.
As always, the season started off with an impressive Daytona 500. This season was also the first for the Generation 6 car, the car of tomorrow’s successor, and marked the return to the qualifying procedure that was used before the 2005 season. However, at Watkins Glen and Sonoma, drivers qualified in groups instead of single laps, a qualifying method that is used in the IndyCar Series. Also NASCAR removed a ban on testing at tracks that were on the premier series’ schedule, replacing it with a testing limit.
At the fourth race of the season, Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR fans saw the first of the Denny Hamlin vs. Joey Logano rift. These two drivers are former teammates and would collide in the race. Animosity started immediately.
In the next race, the Auto Club Speedway, Denny Hamlin would get injured, and have to be kept out of action. Joey Logano pulled a bump and run on Hamlin with six laps to go, but the two wrecked each other on the final lap. Hamlin would suffer a compression fracture in his back.
When the season got to Watkins Glen, it was missing a champion. A few days prior to the race, NASCAR champion Toy Stewart was hospitalized with a broken leg following a crash at a sprint car race in Iowa. Just last month, Stewart had a third surgery on his right leg. The latest procedure was termed a “proactive measure” to examine and close a wound on his shin. Stewart is still expected to compete in the 2014 Daytona 500.
Who can forget Richmond International Raceway, and the Wild Card race? It came down to the wire. The final sports came down to Joey Logano, Brad Keslowski, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex, Jr., and Ryan Newman. Clint Bowyer spun with 8 laps to go. The spin led to controversy as to whether or not Bowyer spun himself out intentionally to allow his teammate, Truex, to win the tiebreaker with Newman. While Bowyer claimed the spin was unintentional audio from Brian Vickers, his other teammates, audio was uncovered, revealing that Ty Norris, the General Manager of Michael Waltrip Racing, had Vickers unnecessarily pit on the final restart in order to help Truex into the Chase. As it turned out, this forced Newman to the back of the cycle on pit stops, ensuring he would not finish high enough to break the tie with Truex. On September 9, 2013, NASCAR docked 50 owner/driver points from all three MWR teams. As the penalty was applied before points were reset for the Chase, this had the effect of ejecting Truex from the Chase and putting Newman in his place. Bowyer’s totals were not affected, as he was locked into the Chase at Bristol. While NASCAR determined Bowyer’s spin was not intentional, it found that MWR had manipulated the Chase standings by having Vickers pit improperly. Norris was also suspended indefinitely.
After this incident, evidence surfaced that Logano may have gotten a spot in the Chase due to help from Front Row Motorsports. Front Row’s spotter was heard asking David Gilliland to let Logano pass him on the restart following the caution triggered by Bowyer’s spin. Logano finished 22nd, enough to give him the final Chase spot. Four days after the race, NASCAR placed Penske and Front Row on probation for the remainder of the season.Brian France announced that Gordon was added to the Chase as part of an “unprecedented” step of expanding the Chase to 13 cars. According to France, NASCAR had determined that Gordon would have qualified for the Chase if not for the “unfair disadvantage” he had suffered from the actions of MWR and Penske/Front Row.
Now NASCAR takes one final turn into Homestead-Miami Speedway. Jimmie Johnson is 400 miles away from again being the Sprint Cup champion, leaving many wondering if they should even bother turning on the race to watch.
Johnson needs to finish 23rd or better and the Cup is his. It would be his sixth title in eight years. It will be considered by many to be bad for the sport in the sense that it won’t add many fans. Johnson fans will be happy. Johnson haters will not. Many will probably not come back for the 2014 Daytona 500.
Getting tired of him yet? Sounds like NCAA football fans when you start talking about the Alabama Crimson Tide. Only people in Tuscaloosa, Alabama can appreciate that team.
With the season slowly winding down, what are some of your favorite moments? What are your least favorite? Will you be watching on Sunday to see Johnson claim another title? Let us know!