Racin’ with Russ - Last week’s NASCAR’s top three finales saw a number of winners and losers emerge from the 2012 racing season. Here are a few observations from all three starting with the Sprint Cup series.
Yes, Tony Stewart certainly rose to the occasion to win his third overall title, especially when you consider the team hadn’t won a single event heading into the final 10 weeks. Five wins in the final 10 races has never been done before and it will probably be a long time before it ever happens again.
And to think back in September during a post-race interview, Stewart told reporters the way they were running they may make the Chase, but would probably take up the space of a team that could win the whole thing.
Wow…talk about irony!
And Carl Edwards was the picture of consistency despite only winning one race all season! No one had a better average finishing position than his 4.9, yet the personable Roush-Fenway driver came up just one little point shy of his first Cup title.
They say you have to lose a title before you can win one. Well, he’s now lost two over the past four years, so by all rights, he should be on a tear for next year and beyond.
Kevin Harvick won four races during the year, but would once again have to settle for third overall, something not sitting well with owner Richard Childress as he prepares to rearrange crew chiefs on the No. 29 and No. 31 cars for next season.
Jeff Gordon won a few races and for a while appeared to be on track to take that fifth title, but the wheels came off that train early in the Chase as did Jimmie Johnson’s attempt at a sixth title.
As for the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, they would end up last among the top 12 and will be left out of the Las Vegas proceedings. Perhaps, they can get together and compare notes on how they ticked off their respective big dollar sponsors and were each fined by NASCAR $50,000 for their childish actions both on and off the track.
It’s a shame for those two as they both can drive the wheels off anything, but their volatile personalities and anger issues are beyond reproach.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. recovered nicely from nearly being tossed out of racing from Jack Roush when his finishes and wrecked cars were becoming just a bit much. Roush decided to sit him down a week, while someone else drove his car.
That tough love by Roush was probably the best thing he could have ever done to ground the young man and set his mind straight to getting on the winning track. Two victories, three poles, 26 top 10’s and a championship would come later.
What a difference a year makes. The 24-year-old driver will return to action this year with a balancing act between Nationwide and Cup action. Had Elliott Sadler not been wrecked during the penultimate round, Stenhouse may have had a much tougher finale in Homestead.
The Virginia driver settled for second, yet the win column was conspicuously empty, something he’ll have to turn around to land that first title.
A very young Austin Dillon took this series by storm after only one year of full-time trucking experience. Along the lines of the Nationwide situation, had four-time champion Ron Hornaday not been taken out the previous week by Kyle Busch, the finale at Homestead would have seen a three-way battle between Dillon, Johnny Sauter and Hornaday right down to the wire.
As it was, Sauter was strong and lucky (after early rain) to win the race with Dillon surviving to 10th, six points to the good to earn that first title. Next year, the older Dillon brother will move up to the Nationwide ranks while 19-year-old brother Ty will pilot the No. 3 truck after winning the 2011 ARCA title with multiple wins to his credit.
Across the Pond
The Formula One finale saw Mark Webber finally win a race, his first of the season while in the shadows of his two-time champion teammate Sebastien Vettel.
The Brazilian Grand Prix saw Vettel take off at first only to be slowed by a faulty transmission, still notching second at the stripe. Jenson Button capped the top three.
The biggest news here is that three full-time cupsters of 2011 have nothing on their driving agenda for 2012 as of this date. Those drivers include David Ragan, David Reutimann and Brian Vickers.
Each driver is quite capable of doing the job, yet each has some issues with one part or another of the overall job. Ragan needs consistency, Reutimann needs a personality (yet won the only two races while with MWR) and Vickers needs a referee on and off the race track to settle squabbles.
That’s it for this week. Next week, RWR will review the NASCAR banquets for the top three divisions in Florida and Las Vegas along with more racing news from around the globe. Check out all three banquets on Friday night. We’ll compare notes next week.