The 10 Best Sprint Cup Saves Since 2000
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There is just something about a driver managing to save an out-of-control race car that makes the fans go wild.
It is a moment for the driver to showcase their talent. It's swinging out on the razor's edge and bringing it home in one piece.
As Molly Hatchet sang, it's "Flirtin' with Disaster."
Over the years, we've seen thousands of saves that leave the viewer—and on occasion the driver—absolutely breathless. From Charlotte to Daytona, from Pocono to Las Vegas, here is a collection of the 10 best saves since 2000.
2012 Good Sam 500 (Matt Kenseth)
Talladega is big, mean and ugly. It is an unstable monster that chews up cars and spits them out. However, there have been instances where that monster has been tamed.
Take last year's Good Sam 500. During the race, Matt Kenseth held the lead over teammate Greg Biffle. The race was going well for No. 17, and considering his only win of 2012 so far was the Daytona 500, his team believed they had the car to beat.
Going into the first turn, Biffle was pushing Kenseth when the No. 16 went low. Kenseth came down as well, and when Biffle's right front made contact with Kenseth's left rear, Kenseth was sent down into the apron.
The apron is widely considered as No Man's Land when at speed because drivers rarely come back in one piece. Yet Kenseth maintained control of his mount and safely rejoined the pack.
He would go on to Talladega and claim his second victory of 2012 and his first at 'Dega.
2003 EA Sports 500 (Jimmie Johnson)
How Jimmie Johnson managed to avoid wadding up his Lowe's Chevrolet is beyond me.
While battling Michael Waltrip for the lead during the EA Sports 500 at Talladega in 2003, the lapped car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave Waltrip's No. 15 an awkward tap.
This sent his NAPA Chevy into Johnson's No. 48.
The resulting bump sent Johnson, who was running second, spinning wildly into the first turn. With the whole field bearing down on him, he shot up the banking nose first where every car seemed to miss him. He slid harmlessly down to the apron, where the last cars riding at the back of the pack still managed to give him a wide berth.
"Chad? I need four tires and a new pair of boxers, if you get the chance..."
The spin somehow soured the Hendrick power plant in Johnson's hot rod, and he fell out of the race due to engine failure.
Still, that's the kind of driving that makes the highlight reel every week.
2003 Winston Open Qualifying (Greg Biffle)
If nothing else is taken away from Greg Biffle's otherwise stellar career, they could at least say this: He could get out of tight spots.
In 2003, prior to the Winston Open, the eligible drivers were to qualify for their respective spots. When the time came, the Rookie of the Year contender took to the 1.5-mile oval.
Charlotte isn't exactly an easy track to conquer, and Biffle found this out entering the second turn when his Ford decided to swap ends. Biffle was doing everything he could to right his Taurus, but when he saw he was heading for the inside backstretch wall, he made a veteran decision and downshifted into reverse to keep the car off the wall.
Was he successful? Oh, by about this much.
(If you want to to fast-forward the video to the Biffle's save, it starts at the 8:30 mark)
2007 Auto Club 500 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.)
2007 could be summed up in one word for Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Horrendous.
In what was to be his final season driving for his father's namesake race team, things got off to a rough start when he totaled his Budweiser Monte Carlo in the season-opening Daytona 500. With the next stop being California, a track that wasn't exactly Junior's bread-and-butter, a turnaround didn't seem to be in the books.
But there was a turnaround, just not the kind he wanted.
Late in the race, Junior's struggling engine finally let go. The resulting explosion spilled oil all over the rear wheels of Junior's No. 8, sending his devil-red Chevrolet around.
The car swapped ends multiple times, but somehow Junior was able to keep the car off the wall. After stopping in the grass, Junior got out and took a bow to the crowd.
My guess is that he was probably just as impressed with his save as we were.
2010 Gillette Fusion Pro Glide 500 (Joey Logano)
Pocono ranks up there with Darlington as being one of the toughest tracks on the Sprint Cup tour. With that being said, Logano's save in 2010 is one that will be in the memory of many race fans for years to come.
Of course, that could also be because they're bound to associate the spin with the blowup between Logano and Kevin Harvick.
Running fifth with two laps to go, Harvick drove into Logano's Toyota, knocking it askew. The resulting slide resembled more of a drift as Logano kept his mount off of the wall, which is no easy feat at the Tricky Triangle.
When enough speed had been scrubbed off Logano spun harmlessly to the inside of the track. Incensed, he confronted Harvick on pit road following the race, earning the respect and admiration of his fans and peers alike.
2005 Sony HD 500 (Carl Edwards)
After winning his first career pole at the 2005 Sony HD 500 at California, Carl Edwards appeared to be enjoying a stout run in his No. 99 Ford Taurus. He ran up front most of the night and earned a top-10 finish when all was said and done.
However, it wasn't an easy ride. Early on while leading, he happened to lose his left rear tire. The result? His Office Depot Ford looped repeatedly in a plume of smoke.
But Edwards wasn't about to be sidelined, and he handled the spin with ease.
Kyle Busch may have gotten his first career win that night, but Carl Edwards easily stole the show with his epic save.
2012 Budweiser Shootout (Kyle Busch)
The 2012 Budweiser Shootout is well-known for Jeff Gordon's spectacular tumble. It also known for being the perfect definition for Kyle Busch's "Wild Thing" moniker.
Running at the front with two to go, Busch's Toyota was bumped by Gordon's Chevy, sending him sideways in a shower of sparks. But The No. 18 straightened out and went all the way around.
Busch somehow kept his car off the wall and away from the rest of the wreck, which took out Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch.
And who would go on to barely edge Tony Stewart at the line that night?
That's right. Kyle Busch.
2012 Hollywood Casino 400 (Tony Stewart)
Tony Stewart is synonymous with great driving.
During the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas last year, Stewart was side-by-side with fellow Chase contender Kasey Kahne. When the two exited the second turn, the air was sucked off Stewart's rear spoiler, sending his No. 14 around.
With the car aimed towards the inside wall and certain destruction, Stewart managed to keep his Chevy safe and sound with only a couple flat tires.
Good going, Smoke.
2010 Daytona 500 Final Practice (Bobby Labonte)
He may be past his prime. He may be washed up. He may drive for a lower-tier team. But you can't say that Bobby Labonte can't drive.
During final practice for the 2010 Daytona 500, Labonte's No. 71 Chevrolet was clobbered by Scott Speed's Toyota, sending him towards the inside wall.
There was no way he was going to save the car. Absolutely no way. There was too much momentum.
Somehow, Labonte defied logic and got his Taxslayer.com Chevrolet pointed in the right direction with inches to spare. He didn't even nick the pit road cone when he gently looped it at the entrance.
Labonte's star did shine bright at this moment, and he looked like the Bobby Labonte of old.
2009 Shelby 427 (Jamie McMurray)
You could call it "drifting" or "dirt-tracking," but any way you look at it, it was a wild ride for Jamie McMurray in 2009 at Las Vegas.
Since being completely overhauled in 2007, the new Vegas layout proved to be tricky during the first few years of service. With that being said, when rookie Joey Logano tapped McMurray's No. 26 a meeting with the wall was all but a certainty.
McMurray went sideways, sending up a cloud of smoke as he fought his Ford. Defying the odds, McMurray's blue-and-yellow Ford didn't go around and instead went on like nothing had happened.
It's a safe bet that McMurray took his luck to the casinos later that night.