Blog Entry

2011 Winners and Losers

Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:37 am
Edited on: December 30, 2011 9:52 am
 
By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(NASCAR enjoyed an overall solid season in 2011 with competitive racing, better attendance and higher TV ratings)


We're days away from turning the calendar to 2012 and putting the old year in the rear view mirror.

Some will be celebrating accomplishments this New Year's weekend while others try to forget what took place in the previous twelve months.

  Here are the 2011 winners and losers:
 
  WINNERS

NASCAR

After a series of down seasons the sport as a whole came back with a vengeance in 2011. The epic Sprint Cup Series championship battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards was just the icing on the cake. The year saw eighteen different winners and five first time victors as the competition level soared. Off the track NASCAR enjoyed a resurgence at the box office. Although still not generating weekly sellouts, attendance was better than the previous campaign thanks in no small part to several tracks offering attractive ticket packages. Television ratings were also up particularly during the Chase as the NASCAR playoff schedule generated a much larger audience than the 2010 disappointment. Overall big league stock car racing enjoyed a stellar season.
 
  TONY STEWART

  He wrote himself off as a championship contender once before the Chase began and a second time even after winning the first two races of the playoffs. But Stewart roared back in impressive fashion to win five races on the Chase schedule including a performance for the ages in the Homestead season finale to win the race and in turn take the title from Edwards by virtue of a tiebreaker. He became the first owner-driver since Alan Kulwicki in 1992 to win the crown and although his circumstances are different from how the independent driver operated his business, Stewart's accomplishments in 2011 were still remarkable.

  "DECLARE A CHAMPIONSHIP" POLICY

  NASCAR decided to do something about Sprint Cup drivers dominating the Nationwide and truck series by employing a new rule mandating drivers pick which championship to compete for in 2011. While Cup drivers still won their share of races in the second and third tier divisions, they were left out of the title picture allowing the spotlight to shine on younger talent in each series. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. edged veteran Elliott Sadler for the Nationwide crown while Austin Dillon brought a championship to grandfather Richard Childress. Victory lane saw its share of Cup visitors but it was refreshing to tell the championship stories with some new names and talent.

  DALE EARNHARDT JR.

  The sport's most popular driver is still winless since 2008 but there was a definite on track improvement for Earnhardt in 2011. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity for Junior Nation, their favorite son was competitive again. Earnhardt was in the hunt for victories on a much more regular basis than his previous three years at Hendrick Motorsports and the addition of new crew chief Steve Letarte to the No. 88 camp produced impressive results. Earnhardt made the Chase and no doubt helped the sport gain additional attention and exposure as his impact on NASCAR is still powerful.  Many believe when Junior gets the spotlight so does NASCAR and 2011 proved that adage again.

  BRAD KESELOWSKI

  It wasn't too long ago that Keselowski was considered an overly-aggressive driver and someone who wouldn't make it at NASCAR's top level. But in 2011, the Michigan native came into his own and blossomed into a major force by winning three races and earning his way into the Chase as a wild car entry. Keselowski broke his ankle in an August testing crash at Road Atlanta, only to roar back the following Sunday with a win at Pocono to ignite his charge into the playoffs. Along the way Keselowski also became one of the sport's most colorful, articulate and at times outspoken personalities.


  LOSERS

  DAVID RAGAN, DAVID REUTIMANN AND BRIAN VICKERS

  The trio of drivers found themselves without Sprint Cup rides for 2012, all casualties of the sport's volatile nature these days. Ragan was forced out of Roush Fenway Racing when sponsor UPS pulled its full-time status and although was rumored to be in line for the Penske Racing No. 22 and the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 has yet to find employment. Reutimann was knocked out of Michael Waltrip Racing in favor of veteran Mark Martin's availability, no doubt driven by sponsor Aaron's wanting more bang for the buck. Vickers saw Red Bull Racing go out of business and after a series of late season incidents saw his stock drop on the open market. More than anything the economy and financial pressures of finding sponsorship dictated the fates of this trio of drivers.

  KURT BUSCH

  His You Tube video depicting Busch's tirade against ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch in the Homestead garage area was the final straw in a season full of behavioral issues and emotional outbursts by the tempestuous driver. He and team owner Roger Penske agreed to "mutually part ways" at season's end and Busch vowed to get a handle on his emotions while finding a way to "put the fun" back in his racing career. Less than a month after his Penske departure, Busch landed at the upstart Phoenix Racing team for 2012, but most believe it will be a holding pen until a better offer comes along. The question remains whether a major organization and more importantly a sponsor will give Busch another chance.

  KYLE BUSCH

  The younger Busch brother had a controversial season of his own that included being only the third driver in more than a decade parked for a Sprint Cup race by NASCAR. In the aftermath of his payback crash of Ron Hornaday under caution during a November truck race at Texas, the sanctioning body sat Busch out of the remaining weekend's races including the Nationwide and Cup events. The ramifications of his actions reportedly have cost Busch the opportunity to run any truck races for his own team in 2012 at the request of team owner Joe Gibbs as well as JGR's sponsors. Despite leading the regular season with four wins and entering the Chase as the number one seed, last season will be remembered for Busch bringing his career to a crossroads because of his behavior.
 
  KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY

  The Bluegrass State track finally landed a coveted Sprint Cup race after parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. harvested a date from Atlanta Motor Speedway. But it turned out to be a debacle. The race itself was underwhelming but the traffic and parking problems that took place during the day and night were a nightmare. Thousands of fans were stuck in traffic backups for hours while others who arrived on the property, simply had nowhere to park their cars. To add insult to injury, bombastic track owner Bruton Smith defiantly refused to take any blame for the situation or to issue refunds for fans who simply weren't able to use their tickets because of the issues getting to the track. It was a major black eye for the sport and the speedway on a weekend that should have been a crowning moment.

  PASTOR JOE NELMS

  Speaking of black eyes, NASCAR suffered a big one during a Nationwide stand alone race at Nashville Superspeedway in July. The pre-race invocation by local Pastor Joe Nelms went from colorful to embarrassing with cringe inducing references to the movie "Talladega Nights" and the pastor's "smoking hot wife." In one fell swoop NASCAR got tossed back into the pit of redneck jokes and hillbilly comparisons and the sport was a laughing stock to most of the general media. In fact ESPN's "Sports Nation" program included the incident as one of its 101 "Jeers of the Year."


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Category: Auto Racing
Tags: NASCAR
 
Comments

Since: Mar 2, 2007
Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:59 pm
 

2011 Winners and Losers

"hey pete.....wake up....jr.  is a bum...week in and week out.....he is a joke.....busch boys are winners....they race every week like they stole there car...they dont move up on 2 tire changes or hope to win on fuel...they would beat jr.  in a golfcart.........................yo



u and all you idot jr. fans should give it up.....the dude cant win period....................when nascar is helping you win and you cant i think it is time to hang it up....." RAMSBLOW

You Just showed how much of idiot you are with this blog. Those idiot Busch boys showed their ass this year and you call them winners.....DA.....get a grip loser.....They need some serious help with their attitudes and behaviors. They are reckless and dangerous on and off the track and do not have the common sense given a monkey. You seem to fit that mold as well. Oh, and by the way, Rams do blow.

The Jr nation knows the real story about and know they have a winner in Jr. His drought will end as soon as Hendrick starts giving him preferred parts for his car rather than second or third pick on parts. The problem in my opinion is multi-car teams. They should be banned from the sport. NASCAR needs a facelift because they don't know how to run this business. Without JR, NASCAR would be insignificant and dying. If want to see NASCAR die into oblivion, then keep rooting for idiots like the Busch brothers. The only reason TV ratings and attendance improved this year is because Jr did well, (DAAAAA, make the chase) despite the "RAMSBLOW" claim as Jr being a loser. The real losers here are idiots like ramsblow that write assinine blogs of what they absolutly nothing about and are jealous of what real winners are really made of. 





Since: Jan 13, 2007
Posted on: December 30, 2011 1:32 pm
 

2011 Winners and Losers

Pete.....cmon Man.....my co workers,friends and myself enjoy sports and racing and not one of us will tell you they think this was a great season for NASCAR,most all will tell you thay are losing interest in the sport,....I don't think we're alone by the looks of the stands at these races.Quit making excuses for NASCAR and be honest with yourself and admit NASCAR is fading fast as seen with the crowds at the races and with sponsorship dwindling.



Since: Aug 11, 2008
Posted on: December 29, 2011 9:58 pm
 

2011 Winners and Losers

hey pete.....wake up....jr.  is a bum...week in and week out.....he is a joke.....busch boys are winners....they race every week like they stole there car...they dont move up on 2 tire changes or hope to win on fuel...they would beat jr.  in a golfcart.........................yo

u and all you idot jr. fans should give it up.....the dude cant win period....................when nascar is helping you win and you cant i think it is time to hang it up.....




Since: Aug 11, 2008
Posted on: December 29, 2011 9:58 pm
 

2011 Winners and Losers

hey pete.....wake up....jr.  is a bum...week in and week out.....he is a joke.....busch boys are winners....they race every week like they stole there car...they dont move up on 2 tire changes or hope to win on fuel...they would beat jr.  in a golfcart.........................yo

u and all you idot jr. fans should give it up.....the dude cant win period....................when nascar is helping you win and you cant i think it is time to hang it up.....




Since: Feb 1, 2008
Posted on: December 29, 2011 5:23 pm
 

2011 Winners and Losers

Putting Vickers in the loser catagory goes without saying. Next you'll be telling me the sun rises in the east.



Since: Nov 29, 2006
Posted on: December 29, 2011 2:06 pm
 

2011 Winners and Losers

NASCAR a laughing stock of the "general media"? The first question is what type of people comprise the "general" media? The next question is who cares what the "general" media thinks? The viewer ratings say that WNBA and NBA are laughing stocks with respect to fan interest. Go hug a tree Pistone.



Since: Dec 2, 2008
Posted on: December 29, 2011 2:03 pm
 

2011 Winners and Losers

PASTOR JOE NELMS
A Loser? What? What are you smokin' buddy?

That was the HIGHLITE of the Nationwide series. Funniest thing I saw all year.



Since: Feb 20, 2008
Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:13 pm
 

2011 Winners and Losers

Pastor Joe a "Loser" you need to lighten up Pete. First of all, it was laugh out loud funny, second the mainstream media included it in the "jeers" not for the content but because IT WAS A PRAYER at a sporting event. See they were making fun of NASCAR Nation for having a prayer and apparently the ridcule went right over your head.  Moral of the story, as a NASCAR writer never, never, never use the mainstream media as the measuring stick of whats right and wrong with the great sport of NASCAR. Common sense prevails.



Since: Apr 11, 2007
Posted on: December 29, 2011 7:34 am
 

2011 Winners and Losers

I also don't think Kentucky is Bruton's fault. He can't wave a magic wand to order state gov't to build freeway x or divided highway y.


No, he cant wave a magic wand.  He can, however, open up that multi billion dollar wallet of his and make the improvements that way.  Dont defend that scumbag- how many more cookie cutter, 1 1/2 mile d-shaped ovals do you really want to see on the top circuit?  I would love to see some of those tracks go away- this guy keeps adding another one to the schedule every couple of years or so.  



Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: December 29, 2011 6:44 am
 

2011 Winners and Losers

Junior's a winner?  Hell, NASCAR couldn't even GIVE him a win at Charlotte without him running out of gas.  I guess those drivers like Carl Edwards who tied Tony in championship points just don't measure up to Dale Junior because Junior made the top 10.  Good thing he didn't finish in the top 5 or Pete would have crowned him the Champion of all drivers.

This pandering has to stop.  Dale Junior had a good year, not taking anything away from that, but a winner he wasn't and isn't not in 2011.  Let him earn another win, a win NASCAR doesn't have to give him or bend the rules for him to win and then you can call him a winner, otherwise he is like all the other drivers sport who didn't win.  Good year, but no go.  Heck I'd call Marco's Ambrose a winner before Junior.  At least Ambrose won a race in a car far more underfunded than Junior's car is. 

And if you want to look at the big winner, how about a car that has been a start and park for the last few years and struck gold with Regan Smith at "The track too tough to tame" Darlington.  Talk about being winners.  sure they finished the year out of the top 25 but that win speaks volumes of what this sport is about.  That even the little guy, the underfunded, can win still win a race every now and then. 

Pete,  Why don't you just go ahead and start each article with "I'm A Dale Earnhardt Junior fan and my views are slanted in his direction"  At least then you won't be chastised as hard for being up front, instead of acting like your a neutral party to the sport. 


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com