Sometimes it was good, at other times it was bad, and at others- it was just downright ugly; the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season had its share of memorable moments. As the season that was rides off into the sunset, let us bid the campaign a fond farewell with the 2014 “Lefty” Awards……
The Ron White Award “I Had The Right To Remain Silent. I Did Not Have The Ability”- Jeff Gordon– How times have changed. Remember when Brad Keselowski made fans at Bristol a few seasons back when he said that Kyle Busch was the north end of southbound mule? Just last month at Texas Motor Speedway, one of the more restrained drivers in the series turned the tables on Bad Brad by essentially calling him a stupid pile of crap (how do you describe a “dip#$%@”?) Gee Jeff, we didn’t know you had it in you (though those who have listened in on your radio during races may have heard other similar colorful rants.)
The D.B. Cooper Award (Biggest Disappearing Act)- Greg Biffle– Did the Biff take the year off? What, the 16 car really was out there? To say that the driver who is at least somewhere in the mix of things had a forgettable season was an understatement. It was that kind of year at Roush Fenway- a very tough year by Biffle standards. You sure he was there?
The Rising Phoenix Award (Up From The Ashes)- A.J. Allmendinger– After his suspension for taking an unapproved substance a couple of seasons ago, many wondered if we had seen the end of former open wheeler. He got another chance, and after winning a couple of Nationwide races on road courses, Allmendinger’s comeback came full circle in 2014 with an exciting win at Watkins Glen over famed road course warrior Marcos Ambrose. All this while racing for one of NASCAR’s “little guys,” JTG Daugherty Racing.
The Yakov Smirnoff Award (What A Country)- Ryan Newman- Only in Brian France’s nation can a guy with no wins and just five top fives find himself just a couple of seconds away from nabbing a championship. Hey- don’t blame Newman; he was just racing his guts out and pulled off enough decent finishes at the right time to earn a higher ranking at season’s end than drivers with multiple wins: Gordon, Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Jimmie Freakin’ Johnson. Lucy would have had some ‘splainin’ to do if Newman had taken the championship trophy. “Win and you’re in?” Uh…..not really.
The Chicago Cubs Award (Wait ‘Til Next Year)- Jeff Gordon– The “Drive For Five” was legit in 2014 with a season unlike any other for Gordon since perhaps 2007. Do not remind the four-time champion’s fans of what might have been had the series been operating under older sets of rules. Give the man credit: with head held high, after that fateful night in Texas, Gordon finished his season with a runner-up finish in Phoenix and a solid 10th place run at Homestead. Over the hill? Heck no; there appears to be plenty of fuel in Big Daddy’s tank for a 2015 run with the big dogs.
The Shorty Rollins Award (Red Hot Rookie)- Kyle Larson– So named for the 1958 Rookie of the Year that won a NASCAR convertible race at Daytona in 1959 two days before the first “500,” Larson enjoyed the best season a Sprint Cup rookie has had since Denny Hamlin’s freshman campaign in 2006 by earning eight top fives and 17 top tens. The youngster rewarded the confidence own Chip Ganassi had in him with three second place finishes and ample proof the Californian was more than ready to run with the big dogs.
The Premier Portsider (Drive Of The Year)- Kevin Harvick– It was a tough call. Jeff Gordon had a steady brilliance. Brad Keselowski had the most wins. Joey Logano, and Dale Jr. had spectacular seasons in their own right, but you got to give it to the closer. The thing about champions is they win when it matters. Harvick raced on the ragged edge throughout the Chase and didn’t falter with a second place finish at Texas, and wins at Phoenix and Homestead to close out the year. Make no mistake, Happy was clutch when it counted.