Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top 10 Best and worst surprises of the 2011 NASCAR season including Boy’s Have at it over the top, Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski and more.

Merry Christmas readers, as 2012 is just over a week away and even Daytona testing a few weeks away, today I want to take a final look back at the 2011 NASCAR season including the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series in the form of surprises of 2011.

In 2011, there were several things that caught my attention, some were good, while others where bad or even just plain wrong. Well I have outlined the top 10 best and worst surprises of the 2011 NASCAR season and I bet at least one of them left you saying OMG!

1. Best - Tony Stewart narrowly wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship on a wins tiebreaker over Carl Edwards. Need I say more, there’s nothing like a championship battle that goes down to the final lap in the final race of the season with a winner take all deal.

2. Worst - Kyle Busch finally gets NASCAR’s attention after taking NASCAR’s saying of “Boy’s Have at it” way over the top with a violent incident under caution between him and Ron Hornaday Jr. during the Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR parked Kyle Busch of the rest of the Texas weekend (rest of Truck race, entire Nationwide race and Cup Series race). Of course Kyle Busch is still going to be feeling the effects of this one throughout the 2012 season.

Personally, this incident was the latest black-eye NASCAR has received after letting drivers self-police themselves on-track and off-track. While Boy’s Have at it has gotten drivers to get up on the wheel and drive, it has also proven that NASCAR has lost control of its drivers and now needs to take a stand, make real rules and take back their sport before it’s too late. Of course to some, it already was too late.

3. Best - Trevor Bayne wins his first Cup Series race by winning the Daytona 500 in the famous #21 Ford with the Wood Brothers. You can’t get any better way to start the 2011 than Bayne and the Wood Brothers winning the Daytona 500.

4. Best - NASCAR’s New Points System. This is one area that NASCAR got it right when they changed the old points system to a simpler 1 point per position point system with 3 points for winning and a driver can get a max of 48 points. Plus 2 wild card spots that putting winning races to a premium level. This new point system gave NASCAR fans one hell of a tight points fight right down to the final lap of the season at Homestead with Smoke taking the Cup Title over Edwards on a tie breaker. You can’t get no closer than that.

5. Worst - Two-car tandem restrictor plate racing at Talladega and Daytona: Here was one topic that NASCAR fans exploded on talking about and voicing their displeasure on. Following the Daytona 500, NASCAR drivers and teams took advantage of a new type of drafting at the superspeedway races, two-car tandem racing or tag team racing and it was terrible. It took a lot of the fun out of these races (if there was any) and took half the field out of winning the race. Any driver that was pushing, basically had a 10% chance of winning the race over the driver that was being pushed.

Take the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July, Matt Kenseth took himself out of possible winning the race by pushing David Ragan in the closing laps. Ragan won the race and Kenseth finished second. Or Jimmie Johnson wins at Talladega while Dale Jr. finishes 2nd. Only Clint Boywer has been able to overcome the stupid type racing and win by a last lap pass over teammate Jeff Burton at Talladega.

6. Best - Brad Keselowski: The Cup Series breakout star of 2011 has to be Brad Keselowski with not only his win at Kansas, he was outside the top 20 with several races to go in 2011, but even after a hard hit at Road Atlanta, Keselowski went on a streak raking up two more wins at Pocono and Bristol to make the chase with a wild card spot. In the chase, Keselowski stood tall and came away with his best point’s finish of his career in 5th spot. 3 wins, making the chase and finishing 5th in the final standings, that’s a damn good way to end the season.

7. Worst - Paul Menard’s blatant spinning out at Richmond to bring out a caution flag to help teammate. I’m surprise no other team did this or got caught in this case. At the fall Richmond race, Paul Menard was a few laps down and throughout the race was getting updates on where teammate Kevin Harvick was on-track and if he needed a caution flag. I truly believe that this was Paul Menard, his crew chief and Mike Dillions idea to help teammate Kevin Harvick has a shot at winning the race for the extra points heading into the chase over in this case Jeff Gordon. But I don’t believe that Richard Childress knew anything about it. NASCAR should have busted them, but unless they confessed, it wasn’t going to happen…Boy’s Have at it.

8. Best - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 2011 was Ricky Stenhouse Jr’s year in the Nationwide Series. With the welcome addition of the Nationwide Series only drivers’ championship, Stenhouse Jr. showed all season long that he could run with front runners and on his way to his first Nationwide Series Drivers championship in 2011, Stenhouse Jr. collected two victories in the season, both coming at Iowa Speedway including him blowing a motor coming out of turn 4, to only get hit from behind by teammate Carl Edwards (who wanted that win badly) and winning the race. Damn what a race and a championship.

9. Best - Austin Dillion: The 2011 Truck Series breakout star and Truck Series Championship. In 2011, Austin Dillion driving the #3 that his grandfather Richard Childress drove in his driving career, became a front runner and contending for top 5’s and wins on a weekly basis. Dillion would end up winning two races (Nashville and Chicago) on his way to capturing his first Camping World Truck Series Championship.

Personally I was impress with Austin Dillion and while the win total doesn’t show it, Dillion was one of a few Truck Series regulars that could keep pace with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick all season long. Now he is off to the Nationwide Series and his brother Ty Dillion takes over the #3 Bass Pro Shop Chevy in 2012.

10. Worst – Payback, Payback, Payback as “Boy’s Have at it” goes too far and NASCAR can’t and doesn’t want to get it under control, they call it racing for now.

Bottom line, 2011 was somewhat a lot like 2010 when it came to “Boy’s Have at it”, but at least 2011 has several good moments including Tony Stewart winning the Cup Title, Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500, Dale Jr. making the chase to some amazing races including Martinsville, California Speedway and of course the season finale in Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Now I have to wonder what 2012 will bring and more importantly, what changes NASCAR will make before the 2012 season. Hopefully NASCAR will wake up and get rid of Boy’s Have at it and create real rules, but not likely, I give it a 10 percent chance.

As for me, 2011 makes the end of another season and another year, but I really don’t know what 2012 will bring for me as a blogger, a person, an unemployed guy, but I can hope and work on making my dreams come true in the new year. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and/or Happy Holidays everyone.