For better or for worse, NASCAR’s 2012 was an eventful year. As a new year dawns, let us pause and look back on the season that was 2012 in no particular order…
Montoya’s season starts with a bang. The only malady the 2012 Daytona 500 lacked was a plague of locusts. Rain delays,wrecks and Juan Pablo Montoya’s collision with a jet dryer highlighted the season’s opener. Unfortunately for Montoya, it would be about the only notoriety he earned in 2012.
A Smokin’ Start. Famous for his slow starts, Tony Stewart tantalized his fans with early season victories at Las Vegas and Fontana. A repeat run for the Cup title was not to be, as Stewart would not see victory lane again after his Daytona in July.
Everybody’s Talking (But The Parties Involved). If you believe the heavily-stoked rumor mill, Kevin Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of 2013 to race for his buddy Tony Stewart. Thing is, the parties involved are playing it close to the vest, though Happy has said he is preparing for departure. It could get real interesting if 2013 starts poorly- it’s a long run for a lame duck.
Kenseth Departs Roush For Gibbs. The number 20 Home Depot ride will have a new occupant, Matt Kenseth. After 13 full seasons racing for Jack Roush, Kenseth now joins forces with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. While Kenseth gets ribbed for being robotic,Joe Gibbs will welcome him as a refreshing, calming presence.
Allmendinger Suspended. The move of Kenseth to JGR meant the departure of Joey Logano, who lands in the 22 at Penske Racing, a ride that opened up after the suspension of A.J. Allmendinger after testing positive for a banned substance. Allmendinger quickly submitted with the “Road To Recovery” program and was back in car in short order. The bad news is the affair will likely dash any hopes he has for a top ride.
Rise To Relevance. For years Michael Waltrip has willingly played the NASCAR fool. 2012 marked the emergence of Waltrip as a serious owner as new hire Clint Bowyer made a spirited bid for a championship. Teammates Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin and Brian Vickers (often subbing for Martin) also had their moments of brilliance as well.
Bowyer- Gordon Feud. Bowyer’s run at a title effectively ended when he was taken out by Jeff Gordon at Phoenix. Gordon said he’d had enough of Bowyer and he retaliated. The image of Bowyer running out of his wadded up car to find Gordon is a 2012 video highlight. Gordon later apologized, but Bowyer is reportedly still sour state of mind.
The End Of A Long Dry Spell. Just about four years to the day after his last Cup victory, Dale Earnhardt Jr. captured the flag at Michigan. His loyal, patient fans can only hope they don’t have to wait that long for the next one.
The New Old Bristol. After a lightly-attended spring race at Bristol- one of NASCAR’s signature tracks- owner Bruton Smith tore up the track to old specs, in hopes of creating that old bump ‘n’ grind style that made it such a beloved track.
Great Racing at The Glen. It’s like watching an artist at work, the way Marcos Ambrose works a road course. That said, the sunny Tasmanian had to get physical, old-school NASCAR style to move past Brad Keselowski in what may have been the best race of 2012.
New Car Gets Good Reviews. The NASCAR brass are hopeful the debut of the next generation Cup car, designed to more closely resemble the street models will mollify fans who roundly panned the “CoT.” After testing the new car, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave the car a thumbs up, saying it handled like the “old” car.
A New Champion Is Crowned. Instead of getting a face cut from the mold of Madison Avenue, NASCAR gets a throwback for a champion: a brash, blue collar kid who just wants to win. Brad Keselowski may have elicited a guffaw or two with his beer besotted post-victory appearance on Sports Center, but be sure more than one fan grinned with warmth at the unchiseled exuberance of NASCAR’s newest champion.
Jim McCoy is a radio and television sports reporter and producer in Southern Oregon, where he makes his home with his wife and three children. Jim is also a radio play-by-play announcer for high school football, baseball and basketball. He was recently named Oregon Association of Broadcasters 2012 Sports Announcer of The Year- Non-commercial Division.
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