Year in Review: The 2009 NASCAR Season from Inside the Drivers Helmets

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer INovember 23, 2009


After the conclusion of the 2008 Sprint Cup season I wrote an article that consisted of 36 quotes, one from each race from last year that was memorable.

It was a year in review straight from the drivers themselves.

Things that had been said that stuck out for whatever reason and that someone might look back on for that race and remember the season. This year I’ve done the same thing for every race we watched, talked or argued about, and may have forgotten about.

Now it’s time relive them and see what stands out from the 2009 NASCAR season.  

Daytona 500: “It’s going to be really wet out here because I’m crying like a baby.” Matt Kenseth

After going winless for the first time in his career in 2008, Kenseth and his No. 17 team started the 2009 season by winning the biggest race of them all: The Daytona 500 after it was called short because of rain.


California: “They should fire me. You just can’t make mistakes like that.” Greg Biffle

Biffle thought he and his team had a shot at the victory heading into their final pit stop. When he came down pit road he ran over his air house and had to back up, losing value time and allowing the leaders to leave him in the dust.

He was never able to hunt them down and finished fourth.


Las Vegas: “Say goodnight Gracie.” Jeff Dickerson

The spotter for Kyle Busch guided the driver of the M&M’s Toyota to a victory at his home track and as he did so made that comment over the radio as Busch passed Clint Bowyer for the lead late in the race.


Atlanta: “Good things come to those who wait.” Kurt Busch

Big brother Kurt backed his brother’s win up by dominating the Kobalt Tools 500 for his first win of the year. Busch had a miserable year in 2008, only being able to win a rain-shortened race in New Hampshire, and finished 18th in points. This year started much better for the Miller Lite team who showed they could contend again.


Bristol: “Look at that, Earnhardt’s the Lucky Dog. Ha, ha, ha!” Kyle Busch

Since the two joined new teams, Busch blames Earnhardt Jr. for his release from Hendrick Motorsports, and since then the two have traded not only paint, but also words.

As Busch dominated Bristol, Earnhardt Jr. struggled and the young driver seemed to enjoy that over his team radio.


Martinsville: “If the roles were reversed, I’d do the same thing --- and believe me, I will if it ever comes back around.” Denny Hamlin

Hamlin was leading late in the race at Martinsville over Jimmie Johnson, but Johnson had a trick up his sleeve. Heading into turn three Johnson drove in hard and knocked Hamlin up the track as he went passed.

Johnson went on to win, as Hamlin had to settle for second at his home track.


Texas: “You got me a win in Texas --- I love you!” Jeff Gordon

Four-time champion Jeff Gordon was another driver that experienced his first winless season in the Sprint Cup Series last year. Going into Texas no one expected him to pull off a victory at a track that he’s never won at and has struggled on so much in the past.

But he did so and thanked his team accordingly who had gotten him off pit road first on their final stop.


Phoenix: “Tony [Stewart] would race me clean, but he would race me crazy, too, to get a win.” Mark Martin

For the first time in nearly four years Martin returned to victory lane on a Saturday night in Phoenix after dueling with Stewart. Martin beat him for his first win with Hendrick Motorsports as Stewart was trying to win for the first time with his own team of Stewart-Haas Racing.


Talladega: “They put us in this box, and we’ll race like this until we kill somebody, and then they’ll change it.” Carl Edwards

After being just yards from winning at the Superspeedway, Edwards found himself upside down and in the fence off the front bumper of Brad Keselowski, who went on to win. Edwards wasn’t happy with NASCAR’s rules or restrictor plate racing since the contact from Keselowski came as a result of not being able to pass below the yellow line.


Richmond: “It’s great to be able to do this on my birthday week, it means a lot.” Kyle Busch

On the night that Busch turned 24 years old, he was able to celebrate in victory lane after winning the Crown Royal 400, sweeping the weekend. He was also in victory lane the night before after winning the Nationwide Series race.


Darlington: “He’s superman … I thought he was trying to snooker me, lollygag back there and all of a sudden mash the gas, and I’d be off-guard.” Mark Martin

After celebrating in Phoenix, Martin decided he wanted to feel victory again and took the checkered flag in Darlington over teammate Jimmie Johnson.


Lowe’s: “It’s fun, but I felt like I was down on pit road for a month [waiting for NASCAR to call the race].” David Reutimann

For the second time in 2009, one of the biggest races of the year was called for rain and this time the benefactor was David Reutimann that stayed on the track and inherited the lead and the win after the leaders all pitted.


Dover: “He’s always had a chip on his shoulder for me so I expect any time he gets an opportunity to throw a jab in there he’s going to do it. That’s just his personality.” Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Round 819,8764...of the Dale Earnhardt Jr./Kyle Busch rivalry took place the Friday before Dover when Busch made comments about Earnhardt Jr. receiving a new crew chief. Earnhardt Jr. responded to those comments in his press conference.


Pocono: “He’s doing a damn burnout!” Steve LeTarte

When Tony Stewart took his first checkered flag as an owner/driver no one could believe that he made it around the triangle with enough fuel. Including Jeff Gordon’s crew chief that was shocked that not only did Stewart win, he was able to celebrate as well.


Michigan: “Old man, you snookered us again.” Jeff Gordon

When Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson raced each other too hard in Michigan and ran out of fuel, it was Mark Martin that snuck by and won the race. Teammate Jeff Gordon congratulated the senior driver in victory lane.


Infineon: “Awesome --- not bad for a dirty tracker from Washington!” Kenny Francis

Kasey Kahne captured his first road course win at Infineon in late June and even more impressive was that Kahne held off road course king Tony Stewart on four late restarts.

His crew chief approved of his driver’s efforts.


New Hampshire: “That’s the second week in a row that stupidity has cost us a race … I guess everybody just learns to expect Kyle to do something stupid. Stupid is forever.” Brian Vickers

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun the tires on a restart, Kyle Busch made it three wide going into turn one. The result was a big wreck that left many drivers angry with the driver of the M&M’s Camry, including Brian Vickers.


Daytona: “If the second-place driver bumps the leader, then black flag his ass. He doesn’t get the win.” Kyle Busch

A week later it was Busch that was mad after being wrecked by Tony Stewart. Busch was leading coming off turn four to the checkered flag when he swung up to block Stewart, the two made contact, sending Busch on a wild ride.


Chicagoland: “I’m starting to lose faith in his ability to be a three-time champion on the track.” Kurt Busch

At the Infineon race Busch was riding in fourth with just a handful of laps remaining before Jimmie Johnson sent him spinning off course. Then at New Hampshire the two rubbed fenders again. Finally after Johnson “body-slammed” Busch at Chicagoland, he let everyone know that he wasn’t impressed with the champion’s actions.


Indianapolis: “I swear on my children and my wife, I was not speeding.” Juan Pablo Montoya

Fierce Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was fired up when he was caught speeding on pit road late in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Montoya dominated the day but pushed just a little too hard on his final pit stop that cost him the win.


Pocono: “I’m not happy. I’m aggravated, I’m mad as heck.” David Reutimann

The Michael Waltrip Racing driver would have had a good shot at making the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup had Denny Hamlin not wrecked him at Pocono. Hamlin was charging through the field and instead of using patience, went charging through Reutimann.

The wreck dropped the No. 00 through the points standings and he was never able to recover or make the Chase.


Watkins Glen: “This is my house right here.” Tony Stewart

After finishing second at Infineon Stewart went out and dominated at Watkins Glen, where he’s always run better of the two road courses. He also sent a message to the rest of the field when it comes to racing at The Glen.


Michigan: “He’s out of rope. I’m just done.” Brian Vickers

During a Nationwide race Vickers and Kyle Busch were racing for the lead when Brad Keselowski shot by for the win. Busch said that Vickers shouldn’t have raced him like he did and that it gave the win away.

Vickers shot back that he didn’t know he was supposed to move over for Busch. Then he said, as far as Kyle Busch is concerned, he’s done with him.


Bristol: “He’ll never be far enough away that I can’t find him and bring him back.” Rick Hendrick

Word began to spread when the Nationwide and Sprint Cup teams arrived at Bristol that Brad Keselowski, currently driving for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series, had signed a deal to drive for Penske Racing in the Cup Series next year.

Keselowski was presumed to be the heir to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 car that is occupied by Mark Martin, but Martin is returning next year and Keselowski wanted a cup ride and got one. But Rick Hendrick doesn’t seem too concerned about that.


Atlanta: “Even though I am not going to miss work, my Aflac policy has me covered.” Carl Edwards

Edwards arrived in Atlanta with a broken foot the result of playing Frisbee with his friends. Fans, foes and media alike had fun with the situation all weekend and even Edwards was able to get his sponsor a plug while talking about his injury.


Richmond: “Typical here at Richmond.” Kevin Harvick

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick were racing side-by-side for the lead when they made contact. Harvick was able to save his car that got sideways while Hamlin had to pit to repair fender damage.

Neither one would win the race.


New Hampshire: “My car is tore up and he ain’t got enough talent to run in the top five, I guess … I mean, we’re all running real hard but you’ve got to know how much race car you’ve got and you’ve got to know how much talent you’ve got before you go down in the corner. He never knows. It’s disappointing.” Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It wasn’t Kyle Busch that Earnhardt Jr. was none to pleased with at NH, but rather David Reutimann. Reutimann sent Earnhardt Jr. into the wall late in the race on a day that Earnhardt Jr. was having one of his best runs of the season. He was running fourth at the time, but was left with a destroyed car.


Dover: “It ends up being terrible, I think its just crap.” Denny Hamlin

Hamlin arrived in Dover frustrated just to be racing at the Monster Mile, a place he’s not good at, and then unleashed his anger at Goodyear for what he believed the tire of choice was for the race.


Kansas:  "It just seems weird that two cars from Hendrick Motorsports were questionable. If it had been me, I would have been suspended for six weeks." Anonymous Crew Chief

Upon winning at Dover Jimmie Johnson and second place Mark Martin’s cars were brought back to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in North Carolina for further inspection.

NASCAR told the teams they were “too close” to the tolerance level that was allowed but no penalties were handed out. Upon hearing the news one crew chief questioned that decision, considering that Martin and Johnson were first and second in points at the time.


California : “NASCAR threw a debris caution for no debris. We had a bad race to get a caution to put on a show for the fans.” Kasey Kahne

Many have questioned the cautions that break out during what can be said as a boring race. Those cautions even became known as “phantom debris cautions” to tighten up the field. But when that happened at California and Kahne was involved in a wreck from the ensuing restart, he wasn’t very happy.


Lowe’s : “I got wrecked by a washed-up Sprint Cup driver, I guess.” Steve Wallace

During the Nationwide race Wallace was running solidly in the top 10 before being spun by David Gilliland after Gilliland made it four wide going into turn one.


Martinsville : “We’d have a Chase if everyone would stop pulling over for the 48, like it’s the cops behind them.” Jeff Dickerson

High above the paper clip Dickerson told driver Kyle Busch what he saw after Busch said he couldn’t believe that Johnson was moving forward through the field so quickly.


Talladega : "I'm just disappointed. I told Billy before the race started that I wanted it to be a 1-2 finish, but I wanted to be '1' some kind of bad." Aric Almirola

Billy Ballew Motorsports finished first and second in the Truck race with Kyle Busch picking up the win and teammate Almirola pushing him there. But Almirola has never won a Truck race and was disappointed he couldn’t be the one that scored the win.


Texas : “Brad [Keselowski] is the worst driver at restarts that I’ve ever seen. “ Tony Eury Sr.

Saturday’s Nationwide race wasn’t a particularly good one for the driver of the No.88 Chevrolet as every restart he would spin the tires and stack the field up. When interviewed on ESPN his crew chief let everyone know what he thought about that.

Phoenix : “He’s a no talent son of a son-of-a-[expletive].” Tony Stewart

Stewart was none too happy about being caught up in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s accident when he spun on lap 169 in turn four.


Homestead-Miami : “You find that f*&#$ing 42 spotter and ask him for some respect!” Jimmie Johnson

As Johnson tried to sow up his fourth consecutive championship on a Sunday night in Homestead to make NASCAR history, he was none to happy with how drivers were racing him. During the race he expressed frustration with Clint Bowyer, Sam Hornish Jr., teammate/owner Jeff Gordon, and then Juan Pablo Montoya.


And there you have it, the 2009 NASCAR season from how the drivers viewed it from behind he wheel. What will you remember about this season? 


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