2008 Year In Review: From The Driver's Perspective

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer INovember 12, 2008

With the 2008 season ending in four days, it isn't too early to begin looking forward to next season.

With Jimmie Johnson's name already on the Sprint Cup Championship, and let's point out that he's not making or chasing history, he's only tying it, it's time to decide other battles such as Rookie of the Year and who will take home the final trophy of 2008.

But before the countdown for the 2009 Daytona 500 can begin, we need to review and we're going to do so from the drivers perspective.


Daytona 500: "Without Kurt, I never would have gotten here. I got the push from heaven." - Ryan Newman.

Newman had just delivered Roger Penske his first Daytona 500 and did so in dramatic fashion by passing Tony Stewart on the last lap.

California: "I hit a wet spot and I'm not going to be the last one." - Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin had wrecked out of the Auto Club 500 and was making reference to the track conditions. He proved right when six laps after his accident Casey Mears and Sam Hornish Jr. wrecked and collected Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The race was red flagged and resumed on Monday.

Las Vegas: "I think it insults my intelligence as a race car driver when you try to tell me that you accidentally left the oil tank lid off...Heck yeah it's an advantage."  - Elliott Sadler

After winning in Las Vegas, Carl Edwards winning car failed inspection due to an oil lid that was completely missing. The 99 team stuck to their story that someone forgot to put it on. Without the lid the car gets more down force and travels faster.

Atlanta: "...Goodyear can't build a tire that is worth a crap." - Tony Stewart

Ever outspoken Tony Stewart, along with Dale Earnhardt Jr., ripped into Goodyear after the Atlanta race saying that the tire chose Goodyear brought, which was a harder compound, made it hard to race.

Bristol: "I didn't see where he hit me or when he hit me. But I'm sure, somehow, its my fault." - Tony Stewart.

Stewart was on the receiving end of contact with Kevin Harvick that resulted in a fourteenth place finish and opened the door for Jeff Burton to go from fourth to first and score the victory.

Martinsville: "You got a clock, baby, you got a clock." - Crew Chief Mike Ford.

As Denny Hamlin crossed the start finish line and finally won in his home state, his crew chief Mike Fords shouted that over the radio. Referring to the unique winners trophy for winning at Martinsville.

Texas: "Green-white-checkers, man...They're just terrible. You tear up more freakin' cars in that stupid crap than is needed. It's asinine." - Mike Ford

One week after victory, Ford was not screaming in victory. He was frustrated with the green-white-checkered finishes in which his driver, Denny Hamlin, doesn't seem to have much luck and always ends up on a wrecker.

Phoenix: "My car's so tight it wouldn't turn at Talladega." - Kurt Busch

Busch had just finished twenty-third in the Subway Fit Fresh 500 and was none to happy with the car he had to battle all night long.

Talladega: "It was gonna get exciting—because I had the 42 jacked up there." - Denny Hamlin

Hamlin was running third behind teammate Kyle Busch, who would win the race, and Juan Pablo Montoya. He said for a while he was anxious a wreck might break out because they were all packed so tightly together.

Richmond: "If I had wanted to do it deliberately, I would have waited till the last lap, when I probably still could have won the race."--Kyle Busch

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was two laps from snapping his two year winless streak when he backed it into the fence in turn three. Thanks to a little assistance from Busch who became the most hated man in NASCAR.

Darlington: "Luckily, the team gave me a really strong car tonight, because I like to knock the wall down." - Kyle Busch

Busch was back in victory lane the following week at Darlington, even though he made repeated contact with the wall. Even Jeff Gordon said he was shocked at how hard and how much Busch hit the wall. Saying Busch was almost trying to give away the race.

Lowe's: "I know the price of gas is high-but I would have paid, I don't know, fifty or a hundred grand for another gallon of gas." - Carl Edwards

The Coca-Cola 600 was won on fuel mileage. Edwards thought he was in the lead, not realizing that Kasey Kahne, eventual winner, had pitted for tires and fuel and had already driven away from the field.

Dover: "There are a lot of egos in this sport. A lot of times those egos are bigger than their brains." - Clint Bowyer

Bowyer could have been referring to many things-Kyle Busch feeding to the crowd or the craziness that was happening all over the track-but it seems he was referring to the Nationwide scuffle between the crews of Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin.

Pocono: "That goofy front splitter. You can't spin out and then not have it get knocked off." - Kurt Busch

Busch had taken a spin through the infield grass which resulted in damage to his front splitter. He went on to say that it's so sensitive that everytime you spin out you're going to damage it.

Michigan: "My fans are happy and I'm happy for them. The other half are going to tear this apart on how we won this race, but I get the trophy and I got the points and I got to see my team and my family tonight happy as they have been in a long time." - Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr. had finally snapped his two-year winless streak and was responding to questions that he should have been penalized. During the race he had passed the pace car under caution and the drivers behind him said that he should not have been allowed to maintain his position.

Infineon: "I'm really impressed with Kyle. I was around him and I watched him, and I don't think he's a very good road racer. I'm kind of shocked, actually."--Jeff Gordon

After Kyle Busch won, again, Gordon said he couldn't believe that he actually kept the car on the track.

New Hampshire: "I guarantee you there's a crew chief down there that they're hiding sharp objects from right now." - Tony Stewart.

Stewart had the dominant car all day long and looked to be on his way to victory. However, Mother Nature interfered. Stewart made his final pit stop and came back on track in nineteenth position since nineteen others cars didn't pit.

When the rain came shortly thereafter, Kurt Busch was declared the winner and Tony and Greg Zippadeli couldn't believe their luck.

Daytona: "I told [wife] Arlene when we talked about this, I'm pretty sure that the last breath I took on my death bed would be, 'I should have drove Rick's car when I had the chance.'" - Mark Martin

Mark Martin and Hendrick Motorsports announced at Daytona that Martin would be driving the 5 car full time in 2009. He wanted one last chance to chase the championship that has eluded him thus far.

Chicagoland: "You don't have a hair on your ass if you don't go to the outside and pass this guy." - Spotter Jeff Dickerson.

Kyle Busch had conceited defeat when Jimmie Johnson passed him in the final few laps, saying that Johnson doesn't give away races. That prompted his spotter to tell him to never give up.

Indianapolis: "It was bad. It was embarrassing, it was really was. I apologize to the fans." - Matt Kenseth

The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was horrifying to watch. For both the drivers and the fans. Due to the tire compound shredding and resulting in many torn up race cars, the longest green flag run was about twelve laps as the caution was thrown almost every ten.

Pocono: "Bob and I were really arguing. I was really nervous that we made the wrong call...I'm really proud of him for the strategy." - Carl Edwards

With the race nearing the half-way point Carl Edwards was called to pit road for his final stop. Then the race was red flagged with Edwards back in the pack. Not to worry though, the race resumed and Edwards made it to the line first on fuel.

Watkins Glen: "I'm sorry, what slump? They can keep trying to play these mind games. We'll just keep winning." - Kyle Busch

After a couple bad weeks, the competition was quick to write off Kyle Busch. He came back the following week and won for the eighth time. He would be his last win to date.

Michigan: "My psyche and mentality is pretty much fixed on I'm the greatest racecar driver to ever live." - Carl Edwards

After his Michigan win, Edwards told reporters that if you don't believe that you can win that you shouldn't be in a race car and that every other driver believes the same thing.

Bristol: "It's one of those deals where I couldn't get by him, I couldn't get by him, and I just had to ask myself, 'would he do that to me?' and he has before, so that's the way it goes." - Carl Edwards

With just fifteen laps remaining, Carl Edwards was once again chasing Kyle Busch who had dominated. Edwards then made a decision to lay the bump-and-run to Busch to get the win.

California: "We were a 15th-place car and we finished 15th. That's the bottom line. That's all we had." - Jeff Gordon

Once again Gordon struggled with his race car and told of his frustrations to the reporters who were quick to point out his less than stellar 2008 season.

Richmond: "He's the orange car, and I'm in the Lowe's car. I was waiting for the bump, but fortunately, I got away from him the last few laps, and he couldn't get to me." - Jimmie Johnson

Johnson won the rain delayed Chevy Rock & Roll 400 after battling with sponsor rival Tony Stewart.

New Hampshire: "We need a security guard over watching those [expletive] tires. I can't figure out why we keeping [messing] up in the middle of all these race. Every [expletive] time." - Dale Earnhardt Jr.

After once again starting off the race so strong and then fading, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was looking for answers. And blaming a bad set of tires for taking him out of contention for the win.

Dover: "I'll tell you what, I wouldn't have wanted to be in his position I'd have crapped my pants watching those three cars running into each other. We were going at it." - Greg Biffle

After winning the first two races of the Chase, Biffle was talking about what it must have been like for car owner Jack Roush watching Biffle battle his two teammates, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, who finished second and third.

Kansas: "I'm sure for a second Jimmie thought, oh, my God, he's going to win this thing. Then he went nope, physics win again." - Carl Edwards

Edwards desperately wanted to win at Kansas and dive bombed it into turn three and four. He cleared leader Jimmie Johnson before hitting the wall and allowing Johnson to re-take the lead and the win.

Talladega: "I was always told that the rule is if you get forced down there, then you are the winner of the race and on the last lap anything goes."--Regan Smith

On the final lap of the Amp Energy 500, Regan Smith gave it one last shot at leader Tony Stewart. In doing so he went below the yellow line to pass Stewart and beat him to the line. NASCAR ruled the pass illegal and gave Stewart the win and credited Smith with an eighteenth place finish.

Lowe's: "If I could have gotten out front, I would have won the race. Anybody who got out front was going win the race. It's ridiculous." - Jeff Gordon

Gordon was none to happy with the way the cars handled in dirty air. And said as much in his post race interview.

Martinsville: "That's what you call points racing—getting them all." - Chad Knaus

Jimmie Johnson dominated Martinsville, leading 339 of 500 laps on his way to victory and all but secured his third straight championship.

Atlanta: "Are you kidding me?" - Carl Edwards

Edwards did all he could to rope in Johnson and gain as many points as he could. At one point Johnson was even a lap down, but rallied to finish second.

Texas: "It's like getting kicked in the balls over and over again. That sucked." - Jimmie Johnson

Carl Edwards once again won the race and this time Jimmie Johnson ran out of tricks. Johnson struggled all race long and finished one lap down in fifteenth position.

Phoenix: "But as long as something doesn't go crazy for us in Homestead, we're going to tie Cale—and I can't wait to start celebrating." - Jimmie Johnson

Cry one week and win the next.

Johnson dominated the Checker O'Riley Auto Parts 500 and put his name on the championship trophy. The only thing that was abnormal was why no other driver decided to pit and take a shot at Johnson for the win. So now it's almost ok to finish second.

The strategy should have been, if Johnson pits everyone else stays out, if Johnson stays out then everyone should have pitted. Instead it seems everyone just wanted to go home and hand him the trophy.

Homestead-Miami: "The 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion-Jimmie Johnson."

Carl Edwards should be watching the Movie Miracle all week because that's exactly what it's going to take for him to overcome a 141 point deficit and win the title.

Let the countdown till Daytona begin....