NASCAR: The Top 20 Photos of 2011

David DeNennoContributor IIIDecember 19, 2011

NASCAR: The Top 20 Photos of 2011

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    Matt Kenseth's portrait here is not included in the list of best NASCAR pictures of 2011. He does, though, seem to carry the wonder and admiration of a lover of astute photography.

    He seems to be gawking, much as the average fan does, at the small whims and intricacies of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

    Perhaps he is just impressed by whatever aircraft was carrying out the flyover at a particular race.

    This was, purposefully, one of the worst-published NASCAR pictures that could be found.

    Anyway, here are some of the best shots of NASCAR in 2011.

Eye of Tennessee

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    If you subtract the pylons holding up the overhang, Bristol Motor Speedway transforms from a racetrack to a giant gray eyeball with a mixed-color cornea.

    At night, Bristol may be one of the most photogenic shots in all of NASCAR.

Biffed

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    Greg Biffle did not have a stellar year in 2011 and it got off to an inauspicious start as he wreaked havoc upon the inner grass at Daytona International Speedway.

    Biffle hopes that he can repeat this photo in 2012, but hopes it will be him performing a grass burnout after a Daytona 500 victory than merely tearing up the grass.

Winter Wonderland?

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    Traditionally, the weather is very warm when NASCAR visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the annual Brickyard 400.

    The photographic effect makes the surrounding shrubbery in the foreground look as though it was just ensconced with a winter deluge.

Kyle Busch Will Race Anywhere, Even on Saturn!

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    This picture looks as though the competitors, with Kyle Busch leading the pack in the No. 18, are using the famous rings of Saturn as a racetrack, with the planet's surface as an atmospheric background.

    At current speed, it would take at least a week to turn one lap on Saturn's ring.

    No thanks.

How Can You Not Like This Picture?

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    This picture is just plain cool.

    Martin Truex Jr.'s No. 56 Napa Auto Parts Toyota has never looked so good.

    That is the true spirit of "Napa Know-How."

Afterburner

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    It looks like Mark Martin's No. 5 has morphed into a reverse metal dragon and is spitting flames at David Reutimann (00) and Martin Truex Jr. (56).

    Something bad is going to happen at Daytona.

    The beauty of this picture is that it creates tension and anticipation. A big wreck is going to occur, for sure.

    But who will come out of it unscathed? Brian Vickers (83) does not appear to be one of the lucky ones.

Where Is Carl Edwards Going?

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    Although this picture was taken on the roller coaster concrete of the "Monster Mile" in Dover, Delaware, Carl Edwards appears to be very near an endless abyss should he veer slightly left.

    Is this a bridge or a sooty wasteland where only the strong survive?

    Luckily, "Concrete" Carl made it through unscathed.

No. 3 (Not a Reference to Dale Earnhardt, Sr.)

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    The sky is gray and the crowd is sparse, as this race was actually conducted on a Tuesday!

    Fans that were able to wait out the rainy conditions in Atlanta, Georgia were treated to a true piece of NASCAR history.

    With this checkered flag, Jeff Gordon became the sole owner of third on the all-time wins list, just behind David Pearson and Richard Petty.

    He has a long way to go to eclipse the second spot.

    Congratulations, Jeff!

NASCAR from Behind a Closed Door

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    It is mere coincidence that the subject of this photo is also Jeff Gordon.

    It appears as though the photographer snapped the photo through an old-style keyhole from behind a rickety door at a slight angle.

    Surveillance photography in Watkins Glen at its finest!

Futuristic Richmond

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    Sometimes they call five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson "Superman."

    This picture seems to depict what life was like for Johnson on his home planet before he decided to defect to planet Earth, join Hendrick Motorsports and redefine the meaning of a NASCAR champion.

Where There's Smoke There's Shame

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    October 30, 2011 was not a great day for Brian Vickers in Martinsville, Virginia.

    He was wrecked. He wrecked other cars. By the end of the race, his car appeared as though it had travelled through a war zone without concern for life or property.

    In a sense, it appears that his car has created its own cave of smoke to which Vickers can recede (in the wrong direction) from such a shameful on-track performance.

Numbers Game

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    Kurt Busch's No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Penske Dodge Charger seems to be erupting from a conflagration of fours, fives, sixes and sevens.

    Perhaps it is a mere coincidence, but seven minus five equals two; the same is true for six minus four.

    Kurt Busch's No. 22 car is the first subtraction problem to travel in excess of 100 miles per hour on a racetrack.

Bad Intentions

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    This is not necessarily one of the most aesthetically pleasing pictures of the group, but it was one of the more iconic and talked-about moments of the 2011 season.

    This intentional destruction, waged by Kyle "Rowdy" Busch, will not soon be forgotten.

    He would be wise to paint this image in his head as exactly how not to conduct oneself on the racetrack.

Simply Daytona

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    Ahhh, Daytona! It is hard to snap of a bad picture of this racetrack under the lights.

    Go ahead . . . try!

    This picture had the best ratio of dark to luminescence and really brings the majesty and myth of Daytona International Speedway to life during the night.

The Ghosts of Lowe's Motor Speedway

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    Did Tony Stewart have otherworldly help during his quest to capture his third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship?

    I am not completely sure, but the two figures in fire suits on the far left and far right of the car appear to be mortal human beings.

    I cannot attest as to the status of the apparitions that seem to be running directly in front of the car.

You Decide

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    What is the better part of this picture?

    Is it actually having pictographic evidence of Jeff Gordon breakdancing or is it the sheer and utter amusement on the faces of Jimmie Johnson (far left) and Kevin Harvick (second from right)?

    Who knows? Maybe this is an utterly horrible picture.

    It should win the award, at least, for "Most Amusing NASCAR Photo" of 2011.

Racing at Sunset

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    What a great moment in time this photo captures! It was taken, specifically, April 29, 2011.

    The Bubba Burger 250 has been run at Richmond International Raceway in the Nationwide Series annually since 1990, though it was expanded from 200 laps to 250 laps in 1994.

    Because Bubba Burger is now the official sponsor of Richmond International Raceway, it is more than likely possible that the photographer was able to enjoy great beef at low prices while soaking in the Virginia skyline.

    What could be better on a Saturday night in spring?

Celebration or Defeat

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    From the context, it is easy to assume that Austin Dillon is celebrating a victory during the course of his championship 2011 Camping World Truck Series campaign.

    On the other hand, without any context, he could also appear to be stuck in the tangled web of a giant grass spider.

    However, the smile on his face tells us that he is not slowly awaiting the painful death of an arachnid sucking the blood out of his helpless body.

Bookend Number One

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    Trevor Bayne, then just a day over 20 years old, kicked off the 2011 season with an utterly shocking victory at the Daytona 500.

    This image captures his triumph just as he is about to be covered in confetti from the left side at the Great American Race.

    Somewhere, Cinderella marveled for many years as to how her story could be played out in real life. She found her answer at Daytona in 2011

Bookend Number Two

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    What can be said about this moment that has not already been said or, plainly, written?

    Tony Stewart just pulled off the most excellent Sprint Cup Chase season in NASCAR history, battling back from 40th place to win a race that he had to win to take the title.

    This picture is the true essence of a man basking in the glory of a monumental achievement.