Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Monday, January 18, 2010

NASCAR to Bring Back Spoiler; Other Changes Imminent

This time last year, NASCAR was adamant that it would make no changes to the current Cup car -- formerly known as the Car of Tomorrow -- despite the perception that the car was unsightly and resulted in poor racing. The sanctioning body was thus criticized -- to an extent, rightfully so -- for not listening to its shrinking fanbase.

Somewhere along the way, though, things changed. NASCAR implemented the double-file restart midway through the season, spicing up races that were usually as flavorful as a slice of old-style Domino's pizza. NASCAR even held a town hall meeting with drivers and teams, where ideas to improve competition were discussed.

Now comes word that, at some point this season, NASCAR will replace the rear wing on the current Cup car and replace it with a spoiler -- similar to what was on the last generation car model. Timetables aren't definite right now -- some approximations have the spoiler making its return in Martinsville at the end of March, others at Bristol.

NASCAR will test the spoiler March 23-24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

For reference, here is the current Cup car with the rear wing:

And the old model, with spoiler:

Sprint Cup Series director Jon Darby informed teams of the change on Friday in an internal memo, saying the spoiler will replicate the downforce and balance that is being produced on the current car. Some speculate the spoiler would do a better job of keeping cars on the ground than the rear wing -- which is blamed to a degree for the horrific crash involving Carl Edwards last April at Talladega.

You know, this one:

To be honest, I'm not sure how the spoiler will affect things; if I'm NASCAR, I also take a hard look at the bump stops and the front splitter. There are logistics to consider with the re-introduction of the spoiler -- which is why the change isn't being made in time for the Daytona 500. Chances are, any changes resulting from this change won't be immediate, but I think it is a good first step in the right direction.

Not just because the on-track product might be better -- NASCAR is also considering relaxing bump-drafting rules at Daytona and Talladega, as well as a thorough examination of the yellow-line rule -- but because the sanctioning body is listening the competitors and the fans. In the span of a year, NASCAR has gone from tone-deaf to willing to tweak things here and there in an effort to spice up races.

Maybe it was the low TV ratings, maybe it was the dip in attendance. Maybe it was the fact that Jimmie Johnson has turned the Chase into a mockery with his dominance to the tune of four straight series titles. Whatever the reason, NASCAR is listening, and I think the sport will be better off for it, in 2010 and beyond.

I can't wait for Daytona.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Year in Review

Kyle Busch cruised to his first NASCAR national touring series championship in 2009, winning the Nationwide Series title by 210 points over 2007 series champion Carl Edwards. Busch won a series-high nine races to go along with 25 top-5s and 30 top-10s -- an average finish of 6.4.

Busch finished second 11 times on the season -- which might've annoyed him, but certainly helped propel the Las Vegas native to the championship in a year that saw his Sprint Cup operation stumble and miss the Chase.

Busch took the points lead after the first Phoenix race, where he finished 10th. He finished outside the Top 10 just four times after taking the points lead, logging seven of his nine wins and 10 of his second-place finishes in that span. Try as he might, Edwards -- who won five races to go along with 23 top-5s and 30 top-10s -- simply couldn't catch up.

Busch won his first race of the season at Fontana in February, and when he took the checkered flag at Nashville in June, it kicked off a streak in which Busch finished first or second in 10 straight races.

Full-time Cup Series drivers won 30 of the 35 races on the schedule last season; Nationwide Series regulars who weren't also full-time Cup drivers didn't reach Victory Lane until Mike Bliss won a rain-shortened race at Charlotte back in May. Brad Keselowski, driving for Hendrick Motorsports-affiliated JR Motorsports, won the other four races en route to logging 22 Top-5s and 28 Top-10s, finishing third in the season standings for the second straight year.

Keselowski might've been more of a factor in the title race had it not been for early-season disappointments. He opened the season with finishes of 22nd, 27th, 27th and 12th, falling victim to incidents not of his doing before finally logging his first top-5 -- a third-place finish at Texas. Keselowski then went through a stretch where his worst finish was 11th (Darlington) and he picked up his first win of the season at Dover.

After finishing 18th at Chicago, Keselowski finished in the top 10 the rest of the way -- until he finished 12th in the season finale at Homestead-Miami. Along the way, Keselowski also won the inaugural race at Iowa, before taking checkered flags at Michigan and Memphis.

Bliss went on to finish fifth in the point standings, despite losing his full-time ride with James Finch during the season. Bliss put together a patchwork of rides to finish the season -- ending the year with four top-10s in the last five races. Bliss had seven top-5s and 15 top-10s on the season.

2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Winners
Daytona -- Tony Stewart
Fontana -- Kyle Busch
Las Vegas -- Greg Biffle
Bristol -- Kevin Harvick
Texas -- Kyle Busch
Nashville -- Joey Logano
Phoenix -- Greg Biffle
Talladega -- David Ragan
Richmond -- Kyle Busch
Darlington -- Matt Kenseth
Charlotte -- Mike Bliss
Dover -- Brad Keselowski
Nashville -- Kyle Busch
Kentucky -- Joey Logano
Milwaukee -- Carl Edwards
Loudon -- Kyle Busch
Daytona -- Clint Bowyer
Chicago -- Joey Logano
Gateway -- Kyle Busch
ORP -- Carl Edwards
Iowa -- Brad Keselowski
Watkins Glen -- Marcos Ambrose
Michigan -- Brad Keselowski
Bristol -- David Ragan
Montreal -- Carl Edwards
Atlanta -- Kevin Harvick
Richmond -- Carl Edwards
Dover -- Clint Bowyer
Kansas -- Joey Logano
Fontana -- Joey Logano
Charlotte -- Kyle Busch
Memphis -- Brad Keselowski
Texas -- Kyle Busch
Phoenix -- Carl Edwards
Homestead -- Kyle Busch

Coming Next Week: 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Year in Review

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Year in Review

Ron Hornaday was the story of the year for the Camping World Truck Series in 2009, and it wasn't even close -- even as a series champion lost his ride and the economy turned a very competitive series on its ear.

Why Hornaday, you ask? He won his fourth series championship, becoming the first driver to ever to win four Truck Series titles. At 51 years old, Hornaday became the oldest driver to ever win a NASCAR national touring series title. Hornaday also cruised to his title after a summer stretch that saw him win five straight races.

Hornaday won six races in 2009 -- just as he did in 2008. He also had 15 top-5s and 20 top-10s ... in 25 races. With an average start of 4.0 and an average finish of 6.4, Hornaday had the consistency to go along with his dominance in cruising to the title.

Matt Crafton finished second in the standings, 187 points behind Hornaday, despite not winning a race all season. Crafton recorded 11 top-5s and 21 top-10s, finishing second five times. Crafton's season-worst finish was 16th, which he did twice. Were it not for Hornaday's summer dominance, Crafton might've made the championship battle more of a fight, even if he never saw the checkered flag.

Kyle Busch won a season-high seven races, going back-to-back three times (Fontana-Atlanta, Bristol-Chicagoland and Talladega-Texas); had Busch run the full schedule -- he only made 15 starts -- he would've given Hornaday a run for his money.

Four drivers picked up their first career Camping World Truck Series wins in 2009; Brian Scott stretched his tires to pick up his first checkered flag at Dover, while Colin Braun edged Busch to win his first race at Michigan. Johnny Sauter won at Las Vegas, and Timothy Peters picked up his first checkered flag at Martinsville in October.

Sauter earned Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors, finishing sixth in the points with one win, seven top-5s and 13 top-10s, to go along with two poles.

Johnny Benson, who won the 2008 series title -- when it was still known as the Craftsman Truck Series -- lost his ride in June, a victim of the struggling economy. Benson was then injured in a wreck during a modified race the following week, thus ending his hopes of defending the title he won narrowly over Hornaday in 2008.

While the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was light on financially-stable teams and competition atop the point standings, there was plenty of history to make up for it. Hornaday solidified himself as one of the series' all-time greats -- if not the all-time great -- and there's no reason to think he won't be a factor in 2010, even without crew chief Rick Ren.

2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Winners
Daytona -- Todd Bodine
Fontana -- Kyle Busch
Atlanta -- Kyle Busch
Martinsville -- Kevin Harvick
Kansas -- Mike Skinner
Charlotte -- Ron Hornaday
Dover -- Brian Scott
Texas -- Todd Bodine
Michigan -- Colin Braun
Milwaukee -- Ron Hornaday
Memphis -- Ron Hornaday
Kentucky -- Ron Hornaday
ORP -- Ron Hornaday
Nashville -- Ron Hornaday
Bristol -- Kyle Busch
Chicagoland -- Kyle Busch
Iowa -- Mike Skinner
Gateway -- Mike Skinner
Loudon -- Kyle Busch
Las Vegas -- Johnny Sauter
Martinsville -- Timothy Peters
Talladega -- Kyle Busch
Texas -- Kyle Busch
Phoenix -- Kevin Harvick
Homestead -- Kevin Harvick

Coming Next Week: 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Year in Review