The NASCAR season starts in February on the beaches of Daytona and ends on the beaches of South Florida in November. It’s a long, grueling season for every team. At the end of the season, only one team can be called the champion.
On Sunday, NASCAR Sprint Cup series crowned their champion under the lights.
Check out a special edition of the final winners and losers of the 2009 season.
It is incredible what Jimmie Johnson has done in NASCAR top touring series in the last four years. He has dominated when it counted and won when it mattered.
Jimmie Johnson and his team have done exactly what every team wants do, that is win races and you win championships.
Johnson will be a threat to win for years to come, the history he made on Sunday with his fourth championship in a row, many will never see again. So NASCAR fans need to embrace Johnson and what he has done.
It’s hard to root for a guy who dominates like he has, but you have to appreciate what he has done. What we witness is pure domination and a team that has no plans to slow down.
Congratulations Johnson on your fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
No, Michael Waltrip has not won a championship and he does not win every week. What Waltrip has done for this sport cannot be overlooked. He is an ambassador for this sport, and his relationship with the fans is a testament to that.
On Sunday, Waltrip will take the checkered flag for the final time as a full-time driver. His career spans three decades of NASCAR racing.
Waltrip has been a very important voice in leading car manufacturer Toyota into a sport where the cars are American made.
Now Toyota has been widely accepted by NASCAR fans and is winning championships and NASCAR should thank Waltrip.
Waltrip numbers are not flashy and he would never have the win totals of a Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr., or Jeff Gordon or even his brother, Darrell Waltrip. He will, though, have the respect of his fans and his peers.
2010 will be the first season of not having a Waltrip running full time, it is the end of an era in NASCAR.
What a year it has been for Mark Martin. After coming out of semi-retirement, Martin signed on to drive the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports, his intentions were not to win a championship. He wanted to win races and see where you stack up.
Martin has exceeded his own expectations but to his fans and his peers, nobody ever counted Martin out of the championship.
Martin has shown age is just a number, winning five times and bringing life back into his career. You cannot be anything but a Martin fan. He is honest and accepts that he might never win a championship. but he loves what he does.
He might not have won the championship in 2009, but Martin heads into the off season one happy driver.
There were so many expectations on Joey Logano coming into 2009, many expected to him right away; others did not buy the hype.
Logano had a slow start to the season. As they have returned to different tracks, Logano has slowly gotten better.
Logano became the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win a race when he pulled strategy in a rain-shortened race at Loudon in June.
Logano gained some confidence with these cars, and you saw that with how he ran on the race track.
Logano will win Rookie of the Year honors in 2009, the youngest to do so. The honor is well earned and well deserved. He might not have won multiple races but he certainly worked hard to live up to the expectations that were laid on him.
It has not been easy for Casey Mears, to find an organization where he can really settle in. He has driven for the best in this business, but yet Mears is heading into the offseason with a lot of uncertainty in his racing career.
He joined Richard Childress Racing in the offseason piloting the fourth car and carrying the Jack Daniels colors for sponsorship. Once again though Mears struggles with the new car and at times bad luck marred the first half of the season.
Then came the announcement that sponsor Jack Daniels would be pulling its support from NASCAR, leaving RCR and Mears searching for a sponsor for 2010. We have yet to hear of Mears plans or if RCR will continue to run the car in 2010.
A struggling economy though does not bode well for Mears and now once again he is auditioning for a ride not only for 2010, but for his career.
He has many opportunities but has been unable to capitalize, now he is hoping his late season surge will once again lead to an off season signing.
Robby Gordon is one the few in a sport dominated by large organizations, with big names and big money behind them. Gordon has been doing it on his own and for a while he was able to hold his own, until the economy sank and sponsors pulled out of NASCAR.
Gordon acknowledged that he only has sponsorship for only eight races in 2010, after sponsor Jim Beam pulled its support. Now Gordon is hoping that another sponsor is willing to sign on; otherwise, he will be able to only run a limited schedule in 2009.
Gordon has always done it his way and never really conformed to what NASCAR has become but now if a sponsor does not sign Gordon will have to find another way to race on Sundays.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It has been a rough year for Dale Earnhardt Jr.; his fans do not need to be told that. It was not easy from the start of the season, pit road mistakes and bad luck. While his teammates were running up front, Earnhardt was struggling to stay competitive.
The frustration boiled over after Coca-Cola 600 and owner Rick Hendrick made the crew chief change. The move seemed to help Earnhardt, and while his finishes did not show the results, this team began to run better.
Earnhardt will not lose sponsors, his ride, or his fans with his disappointing season. Even so 2010 is an important year for Earnhardt.
He needs to be a contender each week and that means running up front and avoiding both mental mistakes but physical mistakes.
He has the talent to do so and I think we saw late this season he has the equipment. That might be the only positives fans can take in what has been a long season.
Juan Pablo Montoya
If there was one driver who was the biggest surprise to make the Chase, it was not a surprise to Montoya and his team.
One of their goals was to make the Chase and win races. They were unable to win a race, but they made the Chase.
Montoya had great cars in the second half of the season. Montoya was aggressive was willing to lay it all on the line for wins. Sometimes that aggression has cost him chances at wins and cost them good finishes.
Montoya though has a lot to be proud of for what he has accomplished in 2009. He has proven he will be a contender for the championship in 2010.
Well the final race of the season has come and went and now the changes will start on Monday. For some they will not return to the track at Daytona for other drivers they will have new teams.
It has been a good season for NASCAR. They have shown they are listening to the fans and the drivers. The implementing of the double file restarts at Pocono made the racing exciting. NASCAR and its tracks are lowering prices for tickets.
They are trying to help the struggling race fan, and you have to give NASCAR credit for that.
It has been a fun season watching first time winners and great finishes. We have seen teams falter when it counted and teams rise to the occasion. We watched the end of an era with Waltrip and the beginning of a new one with Logano.
We watched two former champions in Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon rebound from disappointing 2008 seasons. There have been ups and downs. We watched a sport adapt to a changing media and struggling economy.
Now fans have to wait until Speed weeks to see if any team can dethrone Johnson. It’s a long 84 days till the green flag of the 52nd annual Daytona 500.
Thanks for reading my weekly series. I am looking forward to bringing you all the winners and losers in 2010.