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Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012: In With A Bang, Out With A Kes

NASCAR's 2012 Sprint Cup season is over and gone, but before we begin to speculate about what may be for 2013, lets take one last look at the wild ride that was the 2012 season.

The 2012 season story began with several before/after stories.  To begin, Kyle Busch, a perennial threat with the ability to win every week, won the Budweiser Shootout.  Many people would have thought the 18 bunch could have put together a strong run this year, but shortly into the season their wheels would fall off.  He did manage a points win at Richmond, but that would be all for him in 2012, his lowest win total since 2007.

The next before and after story would have to be the before and after photos of Daytona International Speedway after Juan Pablo Montoya played demolition derby with a jet dryer.  Fortunately nobody was hurt, but the ensuing fire and inspection of the track caused the Daytona 500 to end well into the night.

Another early season story we saw was Matt Kenseth's dominance.  He won the Daytona 500 and ended up the points leader by mid season, but his contract talks with Roush Fenway Racing fell apart.  Probably the largest blunder RFR has made, Kenseth ended up signing to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013, effectively ending the teams ability to race for the 2012 championship.

Returning to challenge for the Sprint Cup points lead this year was driver 88, Dale Earnhardt Jr.  After beginning the year with a large stretch of top 10 runs, he finally returned to victory lane at Michigan with a dominating performance.  Although he did reach the points lead briefly during the summer, his season slowed after an initial concussion at a Kansas tire test in August, then totally stopped with a second concussion and ensuing 2 week break at Talladega. 

One of the most entertaining stories of the season was the tension and on-track altercation between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer.  After consistent contact between the 15 and 24 for a couple races, Gordon finally had all he could handle and wrecked Bowyer during the final laps of the Phoenix Chase race, effectively ending Bowyer's chances at winning the championship.  The ensuing melee in the garage area brought about probations and fines a plenty and added to the drama when the two drivers finished first and second in the season ending race at Homestead.  I doubt the two will be drafting partners at Daytona come February.

The final story of the season came down to Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson.  Many people wondered whether the young driver could handle the pressure and hold back the five time champion for the 2012 Sprint cup, but as the end of the Chase grew closer, it was Johnson, Knaus, and the 48 crew that did not stand up to the pressure.  Keselowski obtained the points lead after a misstep by the Lowe's team at Phoenix and did not let it go.

The stories of the 2012 season were plenty and were fun to follow.  There were great races, a good Chase, and even some altercations in the garage.  Here's hoping the 2013 season will rise to the occasion.



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