Much to the relief of Jimmie Johnson haters and Denny Hamlin, the 2013 NASCAR season is over. Before a little winter siesta and the plotting for 2014 season gets underway, All Left Turns presents its 2013 honors.
Without ant further adieu…
Mark Martin Bridesmaid Award “Best Driver Not To Win The Big Enchilada”- Matt Kenseth– Oh what might have been were it not for one cluster of a pit stop in Phoenix. While not quite as consistent as Ol’ Horseshoe, Kenseth did win an NSCS series high seven races, far exceeding most everyone’s expectations for his first season at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Enron Falling Stock Award– Clint Bowyer– Prior to the “regular season” finale at Richmond, the Elvis lovin’ Kansan had few adversaries, save for a few rabid Jeff Gordon fans. After that sketchy spin that appeared to help get Martin Truex Jr. into the 2013 Chase, Bowyer had more than one angry fan calling for his head on a platter. Owner Michael Waltrip has always had his detractors, Ty Norris is only known by serious fans and insiders, Bowyer actually had a measure of popularity. Perception is reality, and while only Bowyer really knows what he was thinking, what happened stinks like a red herring, and NASCAR fans have memories like elephants.
Ron White Award “I had the right to remain silent. I did not have the ability.”- Kevin Harvick– Many thought it, but Harvick had the stones to say it: the prospect of being Den Mother to Richard Childress’ grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon did not excite him, so he’s leaving to race for his buddy Tony Stewart. Happy recanted. Uh sure, Kevin, we’re buying it (Not.)
Chicago Cubs Award “Wait ’til next year”- Junior Nation– The most longsuffering folks this side of Job once again endured a season of unfulfilled promise. Team 88 made strides, and at the rate he’s going, he should win a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship by 2030, nosing out grizzled veteran Kyle Larson, who was competing for his sixth championship.
Rising Phoenix Award– Kurt Busch– Look who rose from the ashes! After burning his bridges at Penske, the 2004 champion had been left for dead. Not so fast! Busch got Furniture Row Racing into their first chase, and lo and behold, Kyle’s big bro landed employment with former arch-rival Tony Stewart. Between Busch, Smoke and Happy, SHR will have one very entertaining garage in 2014.
Bad Luck Brian Award– Denny Hamlin– It’s kind of a weird thing to say of the driver who won more races than Clint Bowyer, Dale Jr., or Kurt Busch, but what a year. There was a busted back, four missed races, eight DNFs, and nine finishes of 30th or worse. It’s not the kind of season we’ve come to expect from the 2010 runner-up. There is a bright side: the winner of 23 NSCS events keeps his streak alive of at least one win per season, and what about the nine other drivers who ran more races than Denny, but finished lower in the standings?
Simon Cowell Award “Miss Me Yet?”- Tony Stewart– Please Tony, tell us your recovery is going well and you’ll be back soon. Like that famous former American Idol judge, he’s brash, he’s blunt and he’s got all the sensitivity of a Brillo pad, but doggone it, he’s right most of the time, and he’s missed.
Justin Beiber Award “Late Arrival”- Joey Logano– Better late than never, Joey Logano started showing signs of fulfilling his potential in 2013. With a victory, 11 top fives, 19 top tens and an eighth place finish at season’s end, Logano may still not exactly be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the Casey Atwood comparisons may be put away.
D.B. Cooper Award– Biggest Disappearing Act- Brad Keselowski– If he hadn’t shown during the chase, we would have had to put out an APB for him. It’s a long fall from defending champion to also ran. Trust us, he’ll be back.
Premier Portsider Award– Jimmie Johnson– All Left Turns biggest award has to go to the man who clearly earned every accolade he received in 2013. Consistent, dominant, and focused, he would not be denied. Chase or no chase, Johnson would be great. Winners find ways to win.