The NASCAR season is over as far as on-track action. But the Cup season will be put to bed for good Thursday with the awards banquet in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
But we have our own set of awards and superlatives to give out before saying goodbye to NASCAR’s 70th season of competition.
The “I’ve Got Something in My Eye” Moment of the Year
Before this year it had been a long time since Clint Bowyer won a Cup race. So long that his son, Cash, was born two years after his last win at Charlotte in October 2012. So when Bowyer ended a 190-race winless streak in March at Martinsville, it provided this moment of Bowyer running down the frontstretch to celebrate with his 4-year-old son.
Most Clint Bowyer Moment of the Year
Race winner press conferences typically only last a half hour when you’re: A) Dale Earnhardt Jr., B) a first-time winner or C) Bowyer after snapping his already mentioned 190-race winless streak.
With Cash in his arms, Bowyer yelled “How bout that?!” to the entire Martinsville media center and let out a holler that had built up over six years. It was on from there.
Most GIFable Kyle Busch Moment of the Year
You might not remember much about the Xfinity night race at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, which was won by Kyle Larson.
But thanks to Kyle Busch getting into the marbles and hitting the wall on Lap 70 while he led, the race will live forever on Twitter and in our hearts thanks to this moment at the end of Busch’s interview.
The “That Could’ve Been A Lot Worse” Save of the Year
Denny Hamlin had a rough year, going winless for the first time in his full-time Cup career.
Hamlin kept his season from being a little more awful with this moment from the playoff race at Richmond Raceway. On Lap 52, Hamlin was caught from behind by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was faster after he pitted a few laps earlier. Stenhouse tagged Hamlin’s left rear as they exited Turn 4, sending Hamlin sideways.
But Hamlin kept the car from going completely around and no one hit him. After he pit, Hamlin fought back to finish ninth in Stage 1.
Reminder that Stage Racing is Pretty Good, Part 1
The best stage racing moments are not reserved for short tracks.
Everyone will remember the last-lap battle between Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch at Chicagoland Speedway. But don’t forget the end of Stage 2.
Kurt Busch led with one lap to go and teammate Kevin Harvick was close behind. Harvick pounced entering Turn 3, going high to get by Busch. The two nearly made contact as Busch took him all the way to the wall, getting sideways in the process.
Harvick squeaked by for the stage win.
Reminder that Stage Racing is Pretty Good, Part 2
Nineteen races later in Miami, in the season finale, Harvick got a taste of his own medicine courtesy of Kyle Larson.
Larson took his trademark high line all the way around Homestead-Miami Speedway on the last lap of Stage 2, passing Harvick out of Turn 4 to take the green checkered flag.
Best Throwback Scheme of the Year
But the best effort in throwbacks goes to Austin Dillon and Richard Childress Racing for in the Southern 500. While the No. 3 Chevrolet didn’t have the GM Goodwrench sponsorship, RCR’s tribute to Dale Earnhardt’s “Quicksilver” 1995 All-Star scheme was a throwback in more than just the car. Like in 1995, the team didn’t unveil the scheme until they showed up at the track.
Best Outcome for a Bad Situation
In July, Bubba Wallace experienced a wreck at Pocono that took his breath away and scrapped his No. 43 Chevrolet.
A few days later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. called into NASCAR’s “Glass Case of Emotion” Podcast to ask Wallace if the destroyed car could be added to his famed race car graveyard.
In September, Earnhardt’s Dirty Mo Media published “The Requiem,” a video depicting the car’s funeral.