Brandon Butler's Best and Worst of 2011: NASCAR Season in Review

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Now that we have crowned the champions of the Camping World Trucks, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup Series, its time to look back, and reflect on the the highs, and lows of what has been one of NASCAR’s greatest seasons ever.   We’ve seen first-time winners, we’ve seen hot headed drivers go after each other either by fist, or by the use of race cars on the track, and we’ve also seen the dangers of racing.  NASCARKrissy gave her list of the best and worst of 2011, but now here is mine.

Best Moment: I would be called an idiot two warmed over if I did not choose Tony Stewart’s monstrous run towards the Sprint Cup title.  After saying at Michigan that “we don’t deserve to be in the Chase”, Stewart would go on to win 5 races, and capture the Sprint Cup Series championship over a tie-breaker against Carl Edwards.  This run towards the championship is one of the very best runs at a championship that NASCAR has ever seen.  I don’t know as if we will see this happen again for awhile, but who knows?

Worst Moment: After the death of Dan Wheldon in October, the racing world was once again reminded of the dangers of getting into a race car every day.   Dan Wheldon’s death was very tragic, but at the same time, drivers and owners alike remembered and celebrated Dan the way he wanted it.  In IndyCar, the drivers all did a 5 lap salute to Wheldon in his honor.  After that, they would go on to have an auction that would raise millions for the Dan Wheldon Trust Fund.  In NASCAR, drivers wore stickers on their helmets, and also had B Pillar stickers placed on their vechiles as a way to honor Wheldon.

Best Decision: NASCAR decided this past winter to change up the points system in all three series.  Because of that change, the battle for the chase was very competitive, and even during the chase there was alot of competition, and in the end the points system made for a great finish in all three series.  So I give props to NASCAR on making the points system easier to understand, and making things more awesome as far as how the racing goes.

Worst Decision:  This one is a no-brainer.   Kyle Busch deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday at Texas (the 2nd to last race of the 2011 season) and ruined Hornaday’s chase for a Truck Championship.

Best Family Moment: Marcos Ambrose took risks in coming over to the NASCAR circuit here in the United States.  He decided to come over and attempt to make it in NASCAR.  He was a huge racing star in Austraila.  After a couple of seasons, Ambrose would finally get his first NASCAR

Worst Family Moment:  Between Kyle and Kurt’s on-track antics, and Kurt’s ineffective use of vulgar language towards the media, both Busch Brothers have the worst family moment in my opinion.  It was just tough to even name one moment between these two that make the worst moment in the family.

Best start to the season:  The best start to the 2011 season was the Daytona 500 win by Trevor Bayne.  For a young man just looking to run well for sponsorship and money, Bayne did just that.  Bayne would then gain media publicity, and say that he won the Daytona 500.

Worst start to the season: Dale Earnhardt Jr crashing during the late stages of the Daytona 500.  That certainly didn’t help make things better for Dale Jr, although he would later have 2 opportunities to win races, run consistant during the first half of the season, and would make the chase for the 1st time since 2008.

Excitement for the fans: Dale Jr running well during the early stages of the season made things seem interesting.  With Junior fighting for the win at Charlotte, Martinsville, and Kansas, it just brought that excitement for the fans that we have not seen in quite a while.  Hopefully it continues in 2012.

Ironman of the Year: Despite suffering a broken ankle in a test at Road America, Brad Kesoloweski would go on to win 3 races this season.  He would win at Pocono (the week after breaking his ankle), Kansas, and Bristol.  Kesoloweski really had to fight through the pain in order to win races in 2011, so he is my Ironman of the Year.

Best future: Austin Dillon is one young man that really has a bright future ahead of him.  In just his 2nd season in the Trucks, he went on to win the Truck Championship.  To dominate and win a championship in very little time just brings that level of promise.  It also shows he has a bright future ahead.  With his grandfather Richard Childress producing cars for him, its only fitting to say Dillon has a bright future ahead of him.

Worst trend:  I won’t go too deep into this, but the worst trend in NASCAR this year was the two-car tandem.  It just made the racing so devious, and even strategic. It also brought us backstabbing (Jeff Gordon and Trevor Bayne during the Good Sam Club 500 at Dega).  

Gracious 2nd Place Finisher: With the kind war of words between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, I think that Carl Edwards is the most graceful 2nd place finishers ever in the history of the sport.  He spoke with confidence after losing out on the Cup, and just spoke highly of his crew.  He also just told everyone “we’ll get em next year”.  To me, he just showed what true sportsmanship is all about, and he is my gracious 2nd place finisher.

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