Tag:Carl Edwards
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:42 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 2:50 pm
 

Idle Thoughts: 10 things to watch in 2012

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Can Tony Stewart repeat his dramatic 2011 Sprint Chup championship with a fourth career title this year?)


The first taste of the 2012 NASCAR season hits the track this week with Daytona’s Preseason Thunder test session. But it won’t be too long before the real campaign begins and the reality of the new year sets in.

After an off-season like none before full of personnel moves, team changes and sponsorship issues the NASCAR landscape has a much different look to it than it did at last November’s Homestead finale.

Taking into consideration the myriad of alterations here are the top ten stories that I’ll be most interested to watch develop this year when Speedweeks at Daytona rolls around in a little over a month:

The Impact of NASCAR’s Rule Changes on the Two-Car Draft

The majority of fans have spoken and the tandem drafting phenomenon as Daytona and Talladega has gotten a huge thumbs down. So to keep the customers satisfied, NASCAR is doing whatever it can to bust up the Noah’s Ark racing and return to the “traditional” restrictor plate racing pack style of competition. Adjustments to the rear spoiler, rear springs, size of the restrictor plate and most importantly the cooling systems will get a work out during this week’s Daytona test in hopes they will at the very least limit the two-car draft. The jury is still out whether anything but the wear of the track’s new pavement over time will have any affect on racing at Daytona or Talladega for years to come.

The Introduction of Fuel Injection to the Sprint Cup Series

Teams have tested NASCAR’s new EFI system that will replace the traditional carbureted engines for nearly a year. But until it is used in actual racing conditions the change remains a major variable for crew chiefs to figure out. Some believe it will have no impact others think fuel mileage and engine reliability will be majorly compromised. Still others don’t have any earthly idea of what to expect which adds an intriguing element in trying to handicap the field.

Tony Stewart’s Quest for a Second Straight Championship

Career Sprint Cup title number three came in dramatic fashion for Stewart last season when he edged Carl Edwards in a tiebreaker. After winning five races in the Chase and putting on a furious charge down the stretch to win the crown in such dramatic fashion the question becomes what can Stewart do for an encore? He’ll enter the year with a new crew chief in Steve Addington and old friend Greg Zipadelli in the Director of Competition role at Stewart-Haas Racing. The resources are there for Stewart to again challenge for the championship and add another Cup trophy to his collection. 

The Carl Edwards Hangover Effect

When Denny Hamlin went down to the wire and lost the 2010 championship to Jimmie Johnson he never recovered from the experience. Now it’s Edwards turn to see if he can comeback from being so tantalizingly close to the top of the mountain. Edwards vowed to be back in title contention this season after losing last year’s prize by a whisker. His team is intact from a resource perspective but whether last season’s disappointment will drain Edwards and company mentally as it did Hamlin remains to be seen.

Will Jimmie Johnson Return to Championship Form?

The odds makers have already installed Johnson as the championship favorite despite his uncharacteristic performance last season when the five straight title run ended. Johnson appears motivated by the challenge to bounce back and start another consecutive championship streak. That might be bad news for his competitors who haven’t had to face a determined Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus for some time. The duo is very focused on proving they are still a formidable team.

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(Danica Patrick will make her move to NASCAR in 2012 with a complete Nationwide schedule and ten Cup races)

Danica Patrick’s Full-Time Move to NASCAR

After dipping her toe into stock car racing the last two seasons Patrick begins the next phase of her career with a full Nationwide and partial Sprint Cup Series season in 2012. She’ll return to the JR Motorsports No. 7 entry and compete for the Nationwide title again under the tutelage of crew chief Tony Eury Jr., Patrick made some progress last year but will have to up her game big time to be considered a contender for the crown. However winning a race is not out of the question particularly at Daytona and Talladega where Patrick has been impressive in her short NASCAR career. The ten Cup starts for Tony Stewart’s team will be nothing more than on the job training for her full assault at NASCAR’s top series in 2013. Patrick will as always bring attention to herself and in turn the sport, but she will need to perform at a higher level or quickly feel the wrath of critics tired of the NASCAR version of “Tebow-Mania” that surrounds her.

 

Kurt Busch Joining Phoenix Racing

Busch gets the chance to “put the fun back in his career” with a program at Phoenix Racing that will include the full Sprint Cup Series schedule as well as a handful of Nationwide Series starts for the team. Team owner James Finch will give Busch decent equipment and support from his relationship with Hendrick Motorsports. But whether the former Sprint Cup champ’s considerable talent behind the wheel is enough to elevate the team up to another level will be tested. Of course there’s also the challenge for Busch to maintain his composure and emotion through the inevitable tough times that always face a small independent operation like this one. Some believe Busch will win races and contend for a Chase spot while others don’t see him lasting the full year with the 51 car. Either way it will be fascinating to watch unfold.

 

Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. Finally Win?

Love him or hate him – and there are thousands of fans on both side of that equation – NASCAR’s popularity rides a lot on Junior’s exploits. He enters the new season winless since 2008 and determined to end that drought. Earnhardt’s performance was greatly improved last season when his first year paired with new crew chief Steve Letarte ended up in a Chase berth, his first playoff appearance in three seasons. Was it a flash in the pan or something Earnhardt can build on for this year? Earnhardt contending for wins, a spot in the Chase and a championship is good for NASCAR both inside the sport and with mainstream sports fans.

 

The On-Track Product and Overall Competition

I’ve gone on record calling last season the best in NASCAR’s sixty-plus year history. A championship decided by a tiebreaker was the icing on a cake that saw close competition, entertaining storylines, lots of drama and an overall exciting season in 2012. There were a few stinkers along the way but a year that saw eighteen winners and five first time trips to victory lane has set the bar pretty high.  All of the off season personnel maneuvering along with the plate racing rule changes and introduction of fuel injection have infused an unknown element into the coming year.  Will it live up to last season’s banner campaign?

 

The Impact of the Business of NASCAR

Sponsor issues and the lack of corporate funding have significantly impacted all three of NASCAR’s top divisions. The contraction in the garage area more than likely will continue until the economy turns around and more companies are capable of spending money in the sport. But other business issues such as television ratings and their ramifications to a new broadcast deal being negotiated in two years to the sanctioning body reclaiming its digital rights to widen the sport’s exposure online and through digital devices will all have a major bearing on where NASCAR is headed in the immediate and long term future.


For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed 

 
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Posted on: January 10, 2012 4:47 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 5:03 pm
 

Odds favor Jimmie Johnson as Sprint Cup champ

By Pete Pistone

Jimmie Johnson's championship drought will last only one season according to the oddsmakers.

The folks at Bovadalv have installed Johnson as the favorite to win the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at 9-2.

Last year's runnerup Carl Edwards is at 6-1 while defending champ Tony Stewart enters the new year as 8-1 to repeat:

Odds to win the 2012 Sprint Cup Championship   

Jimmie Johnson 
(9/2)

Carl Edwards
(6/1)

Kyle Busch
(8/1)

Kevin Harvick
(8/1)

Tony Stewart
(8/1)

Denny Hamlin
(8/1)

Jeff Gordon
(10/1)

Kasey Kahne
(12/1)

Matt Kenseth
(12/1)

Clint Bowyer
(12/1))

Brad Keselowski
(12/1)

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
(20/1)

Greg Biffle
(25/1)

Kurt Busch
(30/1)

Ryan Newman
(40/1)

Jeff Burton
(50/1)

Juan Pablo Montoya
(50/1)

 
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Posted on: January 3, 2012 11:12 am
Edited on: January 3, 2012 3:54 pm
 

Carl Edwards to co-host "LIVE! with Kelly"

Posted by Pete Pistone

Carl Edwards will take a turn co-hosting the syndicated morning program “LIVE! with Kelly” on Tuesday, January 10, during a special themed week of sports co-hosts with Kelly Ripa.

Edwards was selected along with Reggie Bush, Boomer Esiason, Jesse Palmer and Apolo Anton Ohno. Actress Kate Beckinsale will be a guest on the show when Edwards co-hosts with Ripa.

Edwards was a guest on the popular show last June after his win in the Sprint All-Star race, and has appeared in the past with the NASCAR Chase contenders. This will be his first stint as co-host.

 

 
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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:15 am
 

Kellogg sponsorship back with Carl Edwards

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

Roush Fenway Racing and Kellogg Company have announced the multi-year extension of their NASCAR partnership. Kellogg will serve as a primary sponsor of the No. 99 Ford for four Sprint Cup races in 2012, teaming its famed Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal and Cheez-It crackers with perennial championship contender and fan favorite Carl Edwards.

Kellogg has been involved with NASCAR for many years, including serving as a primary sponsor of the No. 99 Ford with Roush Fenway for the past two seasons. Edwards finished as runner up in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup and has accumulated 19 wins during his stellar Cup career. He also has 89 top-five finishes, 144 top-10 finishes and 10 pole awards in just over 250 starts.

Edwards secured a position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup NASCAR “playoff” six times in seven attempts, and finished second in 2008 and 2011. In addition, he won the 2007 Nationwide Series Championship. This season, Edwards and the No. 99 team led the Sprint Cup point standings for 23 of the 36 weeks.

“It’s an honor to be involved with Kellogg,” said Edwards. “They have tremendous commitment to quality in everything they do and racing fans love their products. They are a fun partner to go racing with and I’m excited about continuing the relationship.”

“Our involvement with racing gives us a great opportunity to interact with our consumers in a fun, exciting environment,” said Brad Davidson, president, Kellogg North America. “We are thrilled to extend our relationship with Carl and Roush Fenway Racing, and we look forward to seeing Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Cheez-it crackers on the No. 99 car next season.”

 
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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Kyle Busch leads TV exposure in 2011

Posted by Pete Pistone

Kyle Busch's Sprint Cup Series campaign led to $68 million of television exposure for his sponsors, a figure higher than any other driver managed to generate this past season, and nearly $1.7 million more than Series Champion Tony Stewart.

Those were the findings after research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc. — which has monitored every NASCAR race telecast over the last 27 seasons and calculated exposure generated for hundreds of sponsors and companies.

Busch's sponsors as a group appeared for 27 hours, 23 minutes, 10 seconds (27:23:10) during live and replayed telecasts of the season's 36 points races. When also factoring in verbal mentions (292) of Busch's sponsors, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver amassed more than $68.3 million of in-broadcast exposure value for his backing brands.

Joyce Julius calculates television exposure value by comparing the in-broadcast visual and verbal exposure to the estimated cost of a national commercial during the telecast and applying Joyce Julius Recognition Grading — which takes into account such factors as size and placement of the image on screen, as well as brand clutter and integration of the brand into the activity.

While Busch hung on to lead the driver exposure battle wire-to-wire, Stewart's stellar run during this year's Chase may be more impressive, as the newly crowned champion moved up from 9th to 2nd in cumulative sponsor brand exposure, improving from $30 million at the start of the final 10 races to $66.7 million by season's end.

Stewart's dominance during the Chase race broadcasts is further evidenced by the attention paid to him by the TV announcers. Stewart began the Chase 6th in individual driver mentions, but ended the season on top, collecting 57% of his driver mentions for the entire season during the final 10 races. Stewart also amassed the most interview time of any driver, appearing on camera for more than one hour, 20 minutes throughout 2011.

Series points runner-up Carl Edwards managed to accrue the most mentions for his sponsors (610), while he was also interviewed most frequently (75 times) of any other driver.

Not surprisingly, Stewart was the top exposure-gathering Chevrolet driver, collecting $6.3 for the auto brand. Edwards led the Ford drivers, delivering $8.1 million of in-broadcast exposure, while the attention Busch drew during 2011 race broadcasts led to $11.9 million for Toyota.

 
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Posted on: December 1, 2011 5:46 pm
 

Carl Edwards' pit crew named best in 2011

By Pete Pistone

Carl Edwards may have come up short in his bid for the Sprint Cup Series championship this season but his pit crew prevailed as the best in 2011.

The Roush Fenway Racing No. 99 crew was awarded the Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award for 2011 and a $100,000 bonus during Thursday's NASCAR Champion's Week ceremonies in Las Vegas.

The Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award, which is determined by a vote of each team’s crew chief, is given quarterly to the top-performing pit crew in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The four quarterly winners are eligible for the year-end Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award presented during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas – and the $100,000 grand prize.

The No. 99 AFLAC pit crew was selected for its fast pit stops, flawless performance and incredible effort over the 38-race season. The team also won the Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award for the fourth quarter. 

Members of the No. 99 pit crew include. 

·         Gas man - Joe Karasinski, Spotswood, N.J.

·         Rear tire carrier - Jody Fortson, China Grove, N.C.

·         Rear tire changer -  Dwayne Ogles, Hoover, Ala.

·         Jack man - Dennis Killian, Wentzville, Mo.

·         Front tire carrier - Alan Troutman, China Grove, N.C.

·         Front tire changer - Kale Uphoff, McFarland, Wis.

·         Pit crew coach - Andy Ward, Kannapolis, N.C.

·         Trainer -- Les Ebert
 

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 12:53 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2011 5:33 pm
 

Edwards leads list of next first time champions

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Edwards will be doing flips over a Sprint Cup Series championship before too long)

Tony Stewart
is enjoying his third Sprint Cup Series championship after prevailing in the most dramatic title race the sport has ever seen. 

Stewart’s thrilling drive to this year’s crown derailed Carl Edwards’ shot at taking his first Cup title and sent the Roush Fenway Racing driver into a bittersweet offseason. 

But Edwards can take solace in that he’s a member of a club that includes some pretty impressive names all still searching for Sprint Cup championship No. 1.

Edwards leads the list of top ten current drivers never to have won the title at NASCAR’s highest level and appears to have the best chance to erase his name from that roster: 

No. 1

Carl Edwards 

If the old adage of having to lose one before winning a championship applies then Edwards is a shoo-in for a Cup crown. The experience of being involved in the closest title race in NASCAR history will help Edwards cope with the pressure when he contends again, which should come as soon as next season. Edwards is the lead dog at Roush Fenway Racing and with a brand new contract, hefty sponsor support and all of the organization’s resources at his disposal, "Cousin Carl" will be on the preseason favorite list for several seasons to come. 


No. 2

Denny Hamlin 

Like Edwards, Hamlin knows the disappointment of coming so close to NASCAR's Holy Grail only to fall bitterly short. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver followed up his championship run of 2010 with a disappointing season chock full of mechanical issues and engine problems. JGR’s commitment to eradicate those power plant gremlins is key to Hamlin returning to championship form in 2012. 


No. 3

Kevin Harvick 

Despite scoring multiple victories and making solid runs at the championship the last two years, Harvick reportedly pushed for a change at crew chief and sent veteran Gil Martin packing as season's end. Shane Wilson gets moved over from inside the Richard Childress Racing stable to call the shots for the No. 29 team next season but the question of whether or not Harvick can make a serious run for the title still lies behind the wheel. Harvick's fiery personality and emotions need to be held in check to some degree for a title shot to come to fruition. 


No. 4

Greg Biffle 

"The Biff" is still trying to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win titles in the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series. He has the talent to do contend and the Roush organization’s resources behind him. But Biffle will have to find a way to be much more consistent that the wild roller-coaster seasons he has had in recent years. 


No. 5

Kyle Busch 

This was to be the year Busch finally became a legitimate Sprint Cup title contender and put to rest the doubts that have plagued him since he first moved to the top level of the sport. Despite coming into the Chase as the number one seed on the strength of his four regular season victories, Busch once again faded in the playoffs and saw the wheels completely come off with his emotional meltdown in the celebrated truck series incident with Ron Hornaday at Texas. Unless Busch can finally harness those emotions he will never be able to win a Cup title pure and simple. 


No. 6

Kasey Kahne 

Easily one of the hottest drivers down the stretch of the 2011 season, Kahne's move to Hendrick Motorsports next year provides the best opportunity to challenge for a Sprint Cup crown. It may not come in 2012, but Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis have the look of a tandem that can work their way to the top of the mountain sooner rather than later. 


No. 7

Brad Keselowski 

His breakout season of 2011 was not a mirage. Keselowski matured tremendously this past season and the chemistry he shares with crew chief Paul Wolfe is among the best in the Sprint Cup garage. The nurturing hand of team owner Roger Penske will help guide Keselowski’s ascension to championship contender in years to come. 


No. 8

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

The clock is ticking on Earnhardt's quest for a Sprint Cup championship. He made vast improvement in 2011 and struck a nearly perfect chord with crew chief Steve Letarte. Just making the Chase was a stellar achievement for a team that ended last year floundering. However more gains need to be made in a hurry for Earnhardt to join the ranks as title contender.


No. 9

Ryan Newman

At times Newman demonstrated a perfect balance of wins and consistency this past season, showing he was capable of both. But it was short-lived and a string of disappointing performances ended any chance to contending for the crown early on in the Chase. He's a member of a championship-winning organization at Stewart-Haas Racing but at this point is light years behind his boss and teammate Tony Stewart on the title radar. 


No. 10

Clint Bowyer 

Had Bowyer remained at Richard Childress Racing, his championship caliber stock would have remained higher than it is now with the move to Michael Waltrip Racing. Although MWR has made adjustments in hopes of bringing the organization to the next level including the hiring of form RCR cog Scott Miller as Director of Competition, Bowyer will have his hands full trying to compete for wins and a title early on as the team tries to sort things out.

 
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Posted on: November 23, 2011 2:05 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 4:55 pm
 

NASCAR 2011 season best in sport's history

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Stewart's amazing run to win the championship capped off NASCAR's greatest season in history)


When the 2011 NASCAR season began I had my doubts about what was ahead.

An off season of transition that led the sanctioning body to make more tweaks to the Chase format and overhaul the entire points distribution system that had been in place for decades had me skeptical at best that NASCAR was in for a steller season.

The change to a more simplified scoring system and format that distributed points on a 43-1 basis per position struck me as gimmicky rather than a move to benefit competition.

Adding in two wild cards to the Chase field based on the number of victories compiled in the regular season seemed more like a gimmick to try and breath life yet again into the controversial championship format than a bona fide idea to generate more interest.

Boy did I turn out to be wrong.

From the minute Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in historic fashion, NASCAR charted a course for a year that would include more drama, excitement and competition than any before.

The 2011 campaign wasn't just one of NASCAR's finest - it was the best of all time.

In terms of story lines there was no shortage of amazing tales to come out of the just completed season, starting rich tout of the gate with Bayne's stirring triumph in the biggest race of the year. Not only did the unheralded driver become the youngest in history to take the checkered flag in "The Great American Race," he did so with a team in the Wood Brothers that has been a part of the sport's literally since its beginning. The perfect melding of old school NASCAR with today kicked off a year that only went into overdrive from there.

Bayne led off a string of first time winners that before was all said and done grew to five - the most since 2002 - and included Regan Smith in the Southern 500 at Darlington, David Ragan taking the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Paul Menard's Brickyard 400 triumph at Indianapolis and Marcos Ambrose prevailing at Watkins Glen.

That was just a tip of the iceberg.

The overall Sprint Cup Series competition level was off the charts with 18 different drivers rolling into victory lane, also the most since 2002 and only one short of an all-time record.

Organizations across the garage area celebrated wins in 2011 including Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Furniture Row Racing, Wood Brothers Racing, Team Red Bull and Richard Childress Racing.

The spread of success impressed many long-time participants and owners in the sport who marveled at how intense the competition had become.

"We're working on such a razor's edge today," said Richard Childress, who saw one of his drivers in Kevin Harvick finish third in the final championship race. "I've never seen things as close today as it is with really something like twenty to twenty drivers capable of winning on any given week. There are so many strong teams and organizations out there that when you do beat them and succeed, you know you've really accomplished something."

More numbers back up the Childress assessment. There was a series record average of 27.1 lead changes per race in 2011 and an average of 12.8 leaders per race also the most in NASCAR history.

But it wasn't until NASCAR's edition of the playoffs rolled around, when the Chase for the Sprint Cup began in September, that the real specialness of the season become apparent.

The ten race Chase created drama that was at times off the charts and a compelling on track product from start to finish.

The motorized heavyweight title fight between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards that was finally decided in the electric season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was what all premier sports events should be like.

Some doubted whether the build-up and at times over the top hype leading up to the finale would live up to the lofty expectations, but in fact the race in many ways exceeded all of it.

Stewart and Edwards tying for the points lead at the checkered flag only to have the championship decided by the number of wins in a tiebreaker is a script that could not have been written any better.

Which is why the 2011 Sprint Cup season will go down as the best in NASCAR history.

One of the beauties of sports is comparing history and events to one another and NASCAR is no different. So where does the 2011 pinnacle season stack up against others over NASCAR's sixty-plus year history? 

Here's my view of the Top 10 years in NASCAR racing including competition, championship implications and historic significance since the first green flag was thrown in 1949:

No. 10

1949 - The year it all started and Red Byron won the very first championship. Byron won two of the season's eight races and beat Lee Petty for the title to send NASCAR hurdling forward on its path toward becoming stock car racing's premiere series.

No. 9 

2001 - A season that was marred by the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500 was ironically also a watershed year for the sport and one many believe was the launching pad for NASCAR to join the level of other major league sports. The landmark network television deal with FOX and NBC brought NASCAR to millions of new fans with Jeff Gordon winning his fourth Sprint Cup Series championship.

No. 8 

1967 - Richard Petty won a remarkable 27 races including ten straight to dominate the year and establish his place among the sport's world elite. "The King" and his amazing performance brought attention to NASCAR from outside its somewhat insulated fan base and helped cement the Petty legend.

No. 7 

1972 - The start of the "Modern Era" also welcomed in R.J. Reynolds as series sponsor and the birth of the WInston Cup put NASCAR squarely on the map of big time sports. Suddenly NASCAR was known beyond its Southeastern roots and Bobby Allison won the championship on the strength of his ten victories, beating Petty in the championship race by 123 points.

No. 6 

1981 - Darrell Waltrip burst onto the NASCAR scene in a flash of controversy and brilliance behind the wheel. Waltrip was the first of the new breed of driver to come into the NASCAR world, a combination of talent behind the wheel and personality in front of a camera or microphone. Waltrip edged Allison bu 72 points to take the title.

No. 5 

1998 - Jeff Gordon rewrote the record books in an astonishing season that saw the "Golden Boy" take 13 victories and simply obliterate the competition. Gordon has a four-race winning streak in the summer stretch as well as a pair of back to back victory runs that helped pave the way for what will most certainly be an induction into the Hall of Fame.

No. 4 

2009 - Jimmie Johnson won his fourth straight Sprint Cup title but it didn't come easy by any means. Johnson had to out battle his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin for the crown by 41 points. But the year was the first with double file restarts which completely changed the complexion of many races and also was the first season of NASCAR's testing ban that helped level the playing field on track.

No. 3 

2004 - The first year of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup format saw Kurt Busch win the title in dramatic fashion, hanging on to a slim lead in the season finale at Homestead and dodging a variety of challenges including losing a wheel coming to pit road for a late stop. Busch edged Johnson by a mere eight points for the championship and NASCAR's radical new playoff system got off to a thrilling start.

No. 2 

1992 - Until last week's finale at Homestead, the season ending race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992 was at the top of the list. Alan Kulwicki prevailed as the unlikeliest of NASCAR champions, somehow willing his underfunded and independent race team to the top of the heap. Kulwicki led the lost laps and finished second to Bill Elliott in the Atlanta Hooters 500 to cap the title run and prevail in the three man race that also included Davey Allison. The thrilling championship scenario was the finishing touch on a competitive campaign that saw twelve different winners.

No. 1 

2011 - It's hard to imagine how a year can be better than the one that just finished. The number of different winners, first time winners and dramatic race for the championship is for now the gold standard of NASCAR seasons.

The 2012 campaign is only a little more than two months away. It will be interesting indeed to see what NASCAR can do for an encore after this year's effort.

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