NASCAR’s Record Setting Season

Coors Light Pole winner Carl Edwards leads the field to the green flag in the Ford 400 season finale for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 20.

As if the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Homestead – Miami Speedway didn’t provide enough excitement down to the last lap, final 2011 statistics tell us that the season was also a record-setter in many ways.

• Eighteen different drivers drove to Victory Lane in 2011; the most since 2002.
• Five drivers scored their first Sprint Cup win: Trevor Bayne (Daytona 500); Regan Smith (Darlington); David Ragan (Daytona Summer race); Paul Menard (Indy Brickyard); Marcos Ambrose (Watkins Glen).
• Races featured 27.1 lead changes among 12.8 leaders/ race. The last figure was the most since the series began in 1949.
• The margin of victory averaged 1.321 sec. /event, with 23 races showing a MOV of less than 1 sec.
• And in the final event in Miami, Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart made 118 green flag passes, coming from the rear of the field twice on his way to his third series’ crown.

Numbers are one way of determining an exciting season, but the personal duel for the championship between Stewart and Carl Edwards, between Chevrolet and Ford, between two drivers with opposite personalities, saw even the general public choose sides. There also seemed to be more national media attention focused on the final race than in several years. TV ratings for the non-rain portion of the telecast were reportedly up 12% over last year’s finale.

Many commentators compared Stewart’s owner/driver win with Alan Kulwicki’s in 1992, but anyone who was around 19 years-ago knows that Kulwicki accomplished more with far less than Stewart did.

Stewart, who can be a bit surly and hard to love at times, did a very classy thing by bringing the iconic AJ Foyt into the post-race discussion. Foyt, who was one of Stewart’s open-wheel idols when he ran those OW cars regularly, used # 14 whenever he could. So when Stewart left Joe Gibbs and joined Gene Haas to form a new team in 2009, he sought AJ’s blessing to use #14 on his Cup car. Foyt called Stewart after Sunday’s race and gave him another blessing, calling Stewart’s win the best race he’s ever run. According to Stewart, that comment brought tears to his eyes. “My life is complete,” the three-time Sprint Cup champ said. “If I get hit on a golf cart now, I’m good to go because AJ said I did everything perfect.”

And now, after an off-season to enjoy his championship, he will pull into Daytona in February knowing that on a part-time basis, Danica Patrick will be his new teammate.

THAT should be interesting to watch.

• As hoped for, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards announced that it would return to Madison International Speedway, for a Saturday/Sunday event on August 25-26, 2012. “The state of Wisconsin is renowned for the quality of its racing. And there is a true advantage to racing within Menard’s footprint,” the series noted. “As Menards continues to be our highest-profile marketing partner, racing in these Central and Midwestern states takes on added significance.”
• While your turkey settles and you awaken after your nap on Thanksgiving, midget racing will be running its final 2011 event, the 71st Turkey Night Grand Prix at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California. Bryan Clauson and Brad Kuhn will be battling not only for the USAC race win, but also for the National Midget Driver of the Year honors.
• NASCAR announced a 22-race schedule for their Camping World Truck Series in 2012. Missing from next year’s schedule will be events at Darlington, Nashville, New Hampshire and Lucas Oil Raceway (Indianapolis), making the schedule the smallest since 2002. Race dates were added at Rockingham and a second event at Iowa Speedway. Despite the smaller schedule, NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell seems optimistic that more tracks will be added in the future. “We’re going to expand the schedule in 2013 and beyond. We probably could have had a few more races on the 2012 schedule, but for us it wouldn’t have been a good long-term position to be in. We want to be at places for a long time. There’s a ton of interest out there, which is great, so I think we’ll be in a position of having to select race tracks. So the future looks bright, be it on road courses or short tracks.” Please note the reference to “road courses” and read Road America.

Share Button