A nice thing about racing is you never quite know what is going to happen in a race, or even for a whole season. The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was no different.
Each week presented a new set of challenges and storylines that kept everyone watching in wonder what might happen next.
It started in February with the Daytona 500, when 20-year old, by a day, Trevor Bayne won the Great American race. Bayne is the youngest driver to ever win the 500, while driving for one of the oldest teams in NASCAR which is Wood Brothers Racing.
It was the first time, in the 52-year history of the event, that a rookie won the 500. It was also the first time in over a decade that a driver that was driving only part-time in the Cup Series won a race.
Bayne’s victory became one of many first time winners in the 2011 season for the NSCS. Regan Smith, at Darlington; David Ragan, at the July Daytona race; Paul Menard at Indianapolis; Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen all added their names to victors in the top division of NASCAR this year, for the first time.
The last time that so many first time winners emerged from the same season was back in 2001 when five first time winners captured the checkered flag.
Speaking of the 2001 NSCS series (then known as the NASCAR Winston Cup) there are other similarities between the two seasons that were spaced a decade apart. That year, featured the most number of winners in a given season with 19 different drivers getting at least one win that year.
This year, featured the second most number of winners in one year with 18 different winners finishing the season with at least one win. Tying the 2002 and 2003 season for second-most all time number of different winners in a season.
Also for the first time since the 2001 season, one driver did not sweep the two NSCS victories at one racetrack.
For the last ten years, at least one of the drivers who won at the track during the spring race (the first race there of the year) would be able to back that up with another win in the fall (second race).
That is where the similarities between the 2001 and 2011 season end.
Compared to last year, the NSCS of 2011 kept the fans and drivers in suspense of who was going to win the race. In 2010, 14 of the 36 races were won by drivers who lead the most laps. This year however, there were only nine races where the leader of the most laps won the race.
According to NASCAR press release, this year was also the most competitive in the 62 year history of the NSCS with a record number of lead changes/leaders per race.
The winners of the 2011 season were not necessarily pole winners. Only two of the 36 races were won from the pole, Kentucky with Kyle Bush and the spring Loudon race with Ryan Newman.
Even the point’s race proved to be unpredictable, up until the final lap of the final race.
Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart had a historic three week battle going into Homestead-Miami the only way either could assure themselves the championship would be to win the race. The two drivers wound up next to each other in the closing laps with Stewart winning and Edwards finishing right behind him.
The win provided Stewart the championship. For the first time, ever, in NASCAR history the championship points were tied after the last race of the season. Stewart won based off tie breaker because of wins.
A historic year in NASCAR ended the way it started, with a surprise, Stewart had to come from the back of the field, twice, to win at Homestead while Edwards stayed up front the entire race.
For the rest of 2011, the roar of NASCAR racecar engines will be silent. It was a very competitive and very interesting year and one that will probably live on in memories for a lifetime. While the car engines are silent there is good news, there are only 95 days until the 2012 Daytona 500.