Wednesday on Peacock, the NASCAR America Motormouths crew shared their favorite moments from the 2021 NASCAR season. You can check out what they had to say, plus interviews with Cup Series champion Kyle Larson and Xfinity Series champion Daniel Hemric, in the video above.
As we enter the offseason, we want to join in with our own list of moments – including breakthrough victories, short track tempers, and a 11.8-second pit stop that will go down in history.
Perseverance pays off for Michael McDowell
A nearly six-hour rain delay pushed the finish of the Daytona 500 past midnight the following morning. But those that stayed up saw a wild ending.
Michael McDowell was running third behind Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski down the backstretch on the final lap. As McDowell drafted behind them, Keselowski moved inside on Logano entering Turn 3.
Contact was made between the teammates, setting off a fiery, multi-car wreck that McDowell narrowly escaped. Moments later, the caution came out to freeze the field, with McDowell leading ahead of Chase Elliott.
With that, McDowell had finally earned his first career win in his 358th Cup Series start.
Good to the last drop
RETWEET TO CONGRATULATE @KyleBusch on his WIN at @PoconoRaceway!@JoeGibbsRacing // #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/zp54txZYtO
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) June 27, 2021
Fuel mileage finishes are always intense. As the final laps tick away, contenders fall by the wayside, one by one, until the driver and team that’s hit the strategy correctly emerges.
Such was the case in the second race of a June Cup weekend doubleheader at Pocono Raceway.
With nine laps to go, Brad Keselowski had to pit for a splash of fuel. The lead now belonged to William Byron, but with two laps to go, he had to pit as well for fuel. That left Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch in first and second – until Hamlin blinked and pitted while Busch began the white-flag lap.
Busch made it around one more time to win the race – a result that seemed improbable earlier, when his No. 18 car suffered from transmission issues. At one point, Busch’s car chief entered the Toyota to try and pry loose a stuck shifter.
But while those issues made getting out of pit road tough, they also made Busch pit a lap later than others who ran out of fuel ahead of him. In the end, it all worked out.
Say it with us – “It’s Bristol, baby”
In March, Bristol Motor Speedway hosted the first Cup race on dirt since 1970. But NASCAR’s return to “The Last Great Colosseum” in September – minus the dirt – produced some true highlight-reel moments.
The Xfinity Series’ regular season finale ended with AJ Allmendinger, Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier in contention for the win on the final lap. Coming out of the last turn, Cindric got into Allmendinger and they both slid across the finish line, with Allmendinger winning the race and the regular season title.
One night later in the Cup race, Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick were racing for the lead late when contact between them cut down Elliott’s left front tire. After returning to the track several laps down, Elliott ran Harvick hard and then stayed in front of Harvick, which enabled Kyle Larson to catch Harvick and pass him for the win with four laps to go.
After the race, Larson celebrated while Elliott and Harvick confronted each other on pit road. Their feud was revived later in the playoffs at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval with two more incidents – and Elliott moving on in the post-season.
Bubba Wallace scores historic win at Talladega
With rain threatening at Talladega Superspeedway in October, Bubba Wallace surged into the lead. But the most important move he made was the one he didn’t.
Three laps later, he stayed low down the backstretch to keep Brad Keselowski behind him instead of attempting to block Joey Logano. Ryan Preece was spun out of the pack and a wreck ensued to bring out a caution with Wallace still in front.
Then came the rain. And the waiting. And ultimately, the joy, as Wallace was declared race winner after 117 laps of a scheduled 188.
For the first time in 58 years, a Black driver had won in NASCAR’s premier division.
“This is for all those kids out there who want to have an opportunity, in whatever they want to achieve, to be the best in what they want to do,” Wallace told NBC Sports afterwards.
“You’re gonna go through a lot of bullshit. But you’ve always got to stay true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you and stay strong. Stay humble. Stay hungry.
“There have been plenty of times where I’ve wanted to give up, but you surround yourself with the right people and it’s moments like this that you appreciate.”
The pit stop of a lifetime
Kyle Larson put it clearly after winning last Sunday’s Cup season finale at Phoenix Raceway to claim his first series title: Without his final pit stop, he and the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team would not be champions.
For much of Sunday, Larson’s car was down on performance and needed continuous adjustments. But he had two elements in his favor: A strong pit crew and the No. 1 stall on pit road, earned by winning pole position.
It all came together after a caution for debris with 30 laps to go. Larson entered pit road fourth, worst among the Championship 4 drivers. He came out first after his pit crew changed four tires in 11.8 seconds, their second-fastest stop of the year.
That was all Larson needed. He led the final, 24-lap sprint to the finish to cap off his historic season.