2012 featured many interesting, exciting and shocking events in the NASCAR world. Some of the most extreme events were a jet dryer blowing up, a huge brawl in the garage and a champion who had a tad bit much Miller Lite in victory lane following his winning of a championship. Reflecting back on 2012, NASCAR made good and bad headlines on the news but overall, NASCAR fans should be happy with the outcome of the season. Narrowing down an incredible season into five of the most interesting events was hard but shouldn’t we be glad it was hard? That means we had a great year, which we did. Well anyway, here are my picks of the five most interesting events in the NASCAR world from 2012.
5. A.J Allmendinger Suspended
Prior to the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, NASCAR made a shocking announcement regarding driver A.J Allmendinger. Allmendinger had tested positive in a drug test and was indefinitely suspended. The havoc that ensued in the media following the announcement was shocking and that’s what made the announcement even more interesting. Allmendinger couldn’t race in the Coke Zero 400 which was only hours away and Allmendinger was kicked out of his Penske Racing ride.
The questions that arose following the announcement were never ending, what drug? Not A.J? How could this happen? Was there a mistake in the testing? What does A.J’s future hold? All of those questions were eventually answered and the truth was eventually caught. A.J Allmendinger took Adderall before the Kentucky Cup race, Allmendinger admitted he made a mistake and didn’t think he was crossing the NASCAR legal drug limit. Allmendinger ventured back into the Cup garage briefly after completing the Road to Recovery program and Allmendinger has no definite plans for 2013.
A year ago, this headline would have shocked everyone even more. Allmendinger had just come off a great 2011 and he signed with Penske Racing for 2012. A year later, Allmendinger has no full-time ride and he will forever be remembered as the driver who failed the NASCAR drug test.
4. Bristol Is Back
Did Bristol go anywhere? No, but the great racing we saw at Bristol prior to the track changes in 2006 returned after more track adjustments following a “boring” spring race. Two factors led to track changes at Bristol: Lack of attendance during the spring race weekend and a very calm mannered spring race. Fans complained, and they complained a lot. “The race was boring” “We need more action” were some popular words spoken by fans which led Bristol track owner, Bruton Smith, to dig some money out of his pockets to make changes to the track surface.
Once the cars returned to Thunder Valley in August, the track changes were successful. The two factors that led to the track adjustments were fixed, and fixed well. I got to personally see the factors fixed when I attended the race. The fans were back, attendance was up and the racing was exciting. More of the classic Bristol racing was displayed with beatin’ and bangin’ along with tempers flaring and sheet metal torn up. The best moments from the race showed true driver character come through especially when Tony Stewart tossed his helmet at Matt Kenseth after the two drivers were involved in an accident, while leading the race.
The classic Bristol racing was indeed back in the August race and fans were happy with the racing at Bristol once again. With the racing at Bristol in August, fans hope for more of the same racing to come in 2013.
3. Wild Phoenix Race
Calling the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix in November crazy, would be an understatement. That race was pure wild. From the championship leader crashing to a whole lot more crashing including punches thrown, this Phoenix race won’t soon be forgotten. The first half of the race was calm but when the Phoenix desert heat got to the drivers, the gloves came off and craziness was upon us.
A year of small incidents between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer hit its boiling point when Bowyer got into Gordon on the backstretch and Gordon tagged the wall. Gordon wasn’t happy with Bowyer and he showed his displeasure when he wrecked Bowyer in turn four. Neither driver was happy nor were the crews. A brawl broke out in the garage between the two drivers’ crews. Punches were thrown and Clint Bowyer was seen running (a rare event for Clint) back to the garage. Penalties were handed out following the incident but the only thing that came out of the incident was excitement for the fans. Not a great showing on NASCAR’s behalf.
The Bowyer/Gordon incident occurred with two laps remaining in the race and when the green white checker finish concluded, there were more wrecked cars. Coming to the checker, cars began to wreck when they slipped in oil laid down by Danica Patrick and many cars piled in. Phoenix was a very wild race and most teams left Phoenix with wrecked race cars or hot tempers or both.
2. Rain and Flames during the Daytona 500
What a way to start off the 2012 season. The 2012 Daytona 500 never seemed to end. From a rain delay that moved the race to Monday night to a jet dryer exploding, this Daytona 500 will go down in history. The funniest part of the Daytona 500 weekend was that everything was normal heading into Sunday; nothing unordinary expected just a normal Daytona 500. Once the teams packed up and headed back to North Carolina early Tuesday morning, every possible thing that could have happened during the Daytona 500 did.
The Daytona 500 was rained out and moved to Monday for the first time ever and once Monday came, more rain was coming out of the sky so the race was moved to Monday night, for a primetime Daytona 500. History had been made and the cars haven’t even raced a lap. Just when we thought the craziness of the 500 was over, we had a jet dryer explode and a two hour delay that featured in-car tweeting. When Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into the jet dryer under caution, the jet dryer started to leak jet fuel and the turn three area where the incident happened was engulfed in flames. Great. The wildness of the race had just begun. Once the red flag came out, Brad Keselowski started tweeting and the clean-up crew started working and two hours later, the Daytona 500 was back under way.
The race finished up somewhat normal and Matt Kenseth pulled into victory lane but the wildness that went down in this race was for sure history making.
1. The New Champion, Brad Keselowski
Who could be a better champion of a wild 2012 season than Brad Keselowski? Very few people could have been a better representative of the incredible 2012 season than Keselowski. Keselowski had a great season which included five wins and a championship. What makes Brad Keselowski winning the championship the most interesting story of 2012? Well, part of it has to be his championship celebration. From Brad drinking too much in victory lane to “story time” in the media center, Brad made the championship celebration extremely entertaining and interesting.
Brad was spotted with a very tall glass of Miller Lite in victory lane at Homestead when the No.2 team was celebrating their championship and the glass was pretty full. By the time Keselowski got to the media center for the post race press conference, the glass was just about empty. Since Brad had a little too much to drink, his championship celebration was quite interesting but don’t ask Brad about it since its unlikely he remembers any of it. Brad earned the championship so why not celebrate it in style? Well Brad did it in classic Brad style.
A new, young and energetic champion in Brad Keselowski definitely made the 2012 season interesting and memorable so that is why it tops the list of most interesting events from the 2012 season.
As 2012 closes out, we can reflect on all the moments that made 2012, 2012. The NASCAR world shared some great moments and those moments created lost lasting memories. The year 2012 won’t be forgotten or unremembered fifty years from now. The best things that occurred this year were unexpected which made them more enjoyable. 2013 has so much promise and if it entails the excitement 2012 did, we will be in for another interesting year.
By Jason Schultz