Every year, motor racing enthusiasts are treated with enthralling seasons packed with drama, controversy and intrigue across all forms of the sport. 2013 was no different in the NASCAR world as the pre-season and post-season events left fans on the edge of their seats throughout, with numerous flashpoints and talking points emanating from the first race until the season end. From a historic champion to a race outcome which caused huge controversy, scandal and the harshest penalties in NASCAR history, it is fair to say the paying and viewing public got more than their money’s worth from a year unlike any other
Six-Time Series Champion
While many would not consider two years to be an eternity, Jimmie Johnson ended a barren run by his high standards by winning his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship – and in some style. Consecutive championship between 2006 and 2010 highlighted Johnson’s unerring ability to handle 600 horsepower on every track that came in his way, and his dominance throughout 2013 was graceful and marvellous in equal measure. A superb Chase sealed his return to the top, with two race wins and seven finishes in the top five in ten races epitomised a wonderful year for Johnson. He is one title behind the record jointly held by Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, but it may not be long before Jimmie Johnson joins them in the record books. Those who enjoy gambling in an online casino would be well advised to back Johnson in 2014 to make history.
New Car, New Records
Although it was over two years in the waiting, the Generation 6 type more than made up for lost time with fantastic results which breathed new life into the NASCAR series. The carefully designed vehicle not only made each car more brand identifiable on the track, but also produced qualifying and race times that exceeded all expectations. Eleven different drivers set nineteen new track qualifying records, with the average margin of victory (1.267 seconds) being the lowest recorded in eight years. The deciding time between first and second was less than a second in twenty races – the statistics don’t lie, the Generation 6 has transformed NASCAR racing. Expect the Gen-6 cars to continue breaking races and resulting in high quality races.
Return of the Number 3
With seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships to his name, Dale Earnhardt will long remain a true legend of the sport. His qualities as a racing car driver and a person endeared Earnhardt to many, with legions of fans coming from far and wide to see him race. His tragic death at the Daytona 500 in 2001 resulted in the number 3, which he drove to an amazing 67 of his 76 career victories, being retired as a mark of respect. The announcement by Richard Childress Racing to bring back the number 3 for the 2014 NASCAR Series has been met by anger and support. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has given his approval towards the decision as a good move for the sport as a new generation breaks through, with Austin Dillon taking on the historic number 3.
Making her Mark
It can often be difficult for a woman to make an impact in a man’s sport, but Danica Patrick’s rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series showed potential towards a bright future. Although results throughout the season may not have met her own expectations, Patrick’s performance at the season-opening Daytona 500 more than made up for any disappointment. She made history in becoming the first woman to qualify in pole position for the prestigious race, showing blistering pace in her number 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet to take the field by storm. Patrick backed up a superb qualifying position by finishing eight.
Controversy in Richmond
Although the regular-season finale in Richmond is often greeted with huge anticipation and excitement as racers competed to be involved in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, nobody expected the scandal and controversy that was to unfold in the aftermath of the 2013 race. In the final moments of the race, a spin from Cliff Bowyer resulted in every driver heading to the pits which altered the initial play-off field for the Chase. The spin resulted in Brian Vickers, a team-mate of Bowyer at Michael Waltrip Racing, pitting as the green flag dropped, with pre-spin race leader Ryan Newman ending the night out of the Chase with Martin Truex Jr. – another MWR driver – taking his place. A NASCAR investigation was launched amidst the ensuing scandal, with Bowyer being accused of spinning intentionally to alter the result of the race and questionable radio dialogue between MWR and Vickers creating conspiracy theories amongst fans and pundits alike.
The verdict was not only ruthless, but also contributed towards the strongest punishment handed out in NASCAR history. Bowyer, Vickers and Truex were docked 50 points from their season total, which meant Ryan Newman ousted Truex from the Chase. MWR were also found guilty of manipulating the outcome of the race, and subsequently fined $300,000. The fallout had serious repercussions for the MWR organisation as their profile was not only tarnished, but a major sponsor pulled out; this resulted in Truex having to leave the organisation and find a new team. Bowyer was also affected by the controversy as he was a shadow of the driver who finished the regular season with considerable momentum, and endured a torrid off-season.