Each Sprint Cup Series season brings forth memories that live in the hearts of fans for years. This year was no exception as there are certain moments that will live on in the minds of the fans moving forward. Here are some of the memorable moments of the season, with some of OnPitRoad.com’s readers thoughts in bold and italics throughout.
The season brought forth plenty of memorable moments, while marking the end of an era for some.
Certain drivers throughout the year announced that they’d be heading to new teams for the next season. The biggest was Carl Edwards announcing that he’ll drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015 after spending his entire career at Roush Fenway Racing. Certainly Edwards has had a bunch of memorable moments throughout his NASCAR career to date that fans will remember – from his first win at Atlanta to his victories this year at Sonoma and Bristol.
Though while some drivers announced end of eras with teams, others announced totally different perspectives. Marcos Ambrose will head back to Australia in 2015 to run in the V8 Supercars after having limited success in the NASCAR ranks. The reason for Ambrose’s lack of success? Some could say the team as Richard Petty Motorsports hasn’t been the strongest organization. However, others may say that it was due to not being able to adapt to ovals. Regardless, the Australian feels that he is making the right decision in heading home.
Beyond drivers announcing changes, crew chiefs have also announced changes, including the retirement for a pair of veteran crew chiefs. Steve LeTarte announced that he will retire from being a crew chief to be an NBC broadcaster to spend more time with his family. LeTarte has had a successful career, winning races with both Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his time at Hendrick Motorsports. LeTarte made the announcement at the beginning of the year, and it was set forth that Earnhardt and LeTarte would make the best of the 2014 season. The pair did in winning multiple races and having a solid season that put themselves in solid contention in the Chase for the Championship. Notably, each of them got the win that they wanted as each had a victory that they craved in their career. LeTarte wanted to be a Daytona 500 victory before he retired and was able to do so with Earnhardt, and as you know Earnhardt and Daytona are just two things that go together so well, based on history. On the flip side, Earnhardt Jr. finally captured the win at Martinsville Speedway to get the coveted clock.
However, while there were marks that will go down in driver’s careers and crew chief’s careers forever, there were also moments that will just be memorable due to the pure racing that was displayed throughout. The dramatics of the Gatorade Duels in February started the drama for 2014 in watching drivers do whatever they could to qualify for the biggest race of the year. One of the drivers who was able to do that this year was Brian Scott, as he officially qualified for his first Daytona 500. Beyond that, Scott was also able to win the pole at Talladega Superspeedway. While youth is the discussion in NASCAR right now, Scott is a journeyman driver who has been improving with each season in the Nationwide Series. Heading into 2015, Scott looks to take the next step in becoming a legitimate title contender and scoring his first win – to therefore one day officially be part of the Sprint Cup Series season.
The emotions of victory were also played out throughout the year, as who could forget Jamie McMurray’s All-Star victory and the boiled over emotion in victory lane? It showed that Chip Ganassi Racing can win races, and they continued to show that throughout the year as both McMurray and Kyle Larson were able to run upfront.
In the midst of the on-track drama, NASCAR dreamt of a championship format that would see the title come down to the final race between four drivers. At some points, no doubt the format was argued by the fans as being ridiculous and unfair in crowning a champion.
But come the end of the year, nobody could argue about the format being dramatic. All four drivers were at the front and at one point, running 2nd to 5th. With the four drivers fighting for the title, it would come down to some late race pit strategy between the four drivers. Nobody will forget the pit road mistake that ultimately cost Logano the championship, and the guts of Denny Hamlin and Darian Grubb to stay out on old tires. Ryan Newman also showed that he was going to do whatever it took in taking two tires and driving as hard as he could to stay at the front of the field en route to finishing second. However, it was the four tire change that paid off for Kevin Harvick, even though he had to restart 12th with less than 20 laps to go. His drive through the field in the closing laps of the Ford 400 to win the championship was just pure beauty in the dramatics of crowning a champion. No doubt Harvick’s late race drive, along with his team’s fight throughout the whole season to keep at it despite early year mechanical issues, and the victories, proved easily that Harvick, Rodney Childers and the No. 4 team deserve to be called champions this year.
Though perhaps the more memorable piece of Harvick’s championship – his car owner. Without a doubt, Tony Stewart went through a tough year with the incident that happened mid-place at a non-NASCAR event and the events that followed suit. Going along with breaking his leg last year, and Stewart certainly has had a rough go at it. For Stewart to win the championship as a car owner, it gave him a chance to smile and celebrate among the events that happened. The emotions that poured over post-race and having that moment to truly smile with what he has gone through personally the past two years. It shows that truly, #SmokeWillRise. As we head into next year, seeing Stewart’s rise back to racing for victories on a weekly basis and winning will be something the fans will enjoy. Of course, the beginning signs of this were shown at the October Martinsville race. Tony Stewart stayed out on old tires with a handful of laps to go and finished 4th behind Earnhardt. While Jr Nation will remember the win, Smoke fans will remember seeing Smoke smile on TV for the first time since the accident in August.
Without a doubt, these are just some of the key moments. There were also other memorable wins, fights and late race battles that show us all the reasons why we are NASCAR fans.
So with that said, there’s only one question to ask — What was your favourite moment of the 2014 season?