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Friday 5: Rule change is chance for drivers to go back in time

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Jeff Gordon marveled as he watched Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch run nose-to-tail or side-by-side lap after lap for the lead late in the 2017 spring Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.

“These are the two of the most equal race cars and one of the best races for the lead I’ve seen here at Martinsville in a very long time,” said Gordon, a nine-time Martinsville winner, on the FS1 broadcast.

Keselowski and Busch rarely seemed apart for a spell within the final 100 laps, whether it was Keselowski pressuring Busch or Busch doing the same thing by closing on Keselowski’s rear bumper.

It is the type of racing NASCAR hopes will return with the announcement this week of a short track package, which includes a smaller spoiler, that shares similarities to what was run in 2017-18.

What makes that 2017 spring Martinsville race stand out is how close Keselowski and Busch ran to each other before Keselowski won.

It contrasts the 2019 spring race, which featured a larger spoiler as part of the high downforce package used at all tracks. Keselowski led 446 of 500 laps that day. Runner-up Chase Elliott could not run close to Keselowski for long. 

Brad Keselowski celebrates his 2017 Martinsville win after a duel with Kyle Busch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Keselowski explained to NBC Sports the differences in those packages and why the cars could run closer together in the 2017 race than the 2019 race.

“You’re able to brake differently, the cars were harder to stop, they had a smaller spoiler, so you had to really use a lot of finesse to work them down into the corner,” Keselowski said of the package used in 2017-18. “You didn’t lose the nose as quickly because you weren’t using aero as such an assist in the middle of the corner.

“If you had asked me earlier in my career if I thought aero would come into play at Martinsville, I would have said you were crazy. Same thing I would have said if you had told me that the cars would make almost 4,000 pounds of downforce. Those two conversations go hand in hand.

“The 2019 car, the easiest way I know how to explain this … at full speed at the tracks that we ran at, if the race track would have been inverted, the car would have stayed on the racetrack. That’s downforce. … It’s to a point where it could be a Hot Wheels track and we could run upside down. That tells you how much assistance the cars were getting from the air.”

The short track package will be used at all ovals 1 mile or less and the three road course events for a total of 14 races this year. Eight of the season’s final 15 races, including five in the playoffs, will be run with this package. The championship race at Phoenix will use this short track setup.

“Making this change is certainly a step in the direction of putting the racing back in the drivers’ hands and out of aerodynamics’ control,” Keselowski said. “More times than not, but not always, the result is better for the fans. I think it’s a win as a whole.”

2. Tire change with short track package

One of the complaints drivers and teams had last year was the lack of tire wear during events. Without such wear and tire falloff, drivers found it more challenging to pass, particularly at short tracks. 

With the lower downforce package at short tracks this year, Goodyear will construct a tire intended to wear more, said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing.

“We are going to make some changes,” Stucker told NBC Sports about the tire that will be used with the short track setup.

“From a traction, from a grip-level perspective, I go back to what we learned at the Martinsville test that we had there in July, what we learned at our Richmond test back in October. Granted that was in the Next Gen car, but we were able to evaluate some things and learn some things about Richmond and the same thing with Phoenix because we evaluated several different compounds. We got different reference points at those two tests along with stuff we’ve done in the past at those two race tracks testing-wise. We were able to formulate a plan to go a little softer than what we have been.

“Even understanding that the downforce is coming off, on top of that, we’re going to go ahead and take a step in trying to increase the grip level mechanically, which will also result in higher tread wear that, hopefully, will fall off.”

With a new short track package and a tire intended to wear more, will NASCAR need to use the traction compound (darker portion of the track) at Phoenix again this year? (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Goodyear will not do any testing before the first race with the short track package — Phoenix on March 8 — because there isn’t enough time.

NASCAR met with drivers, teams, Goodyear and others in Nashville before the December awards banquet to devise a course of action for the short tracks. That followed NASCAR President Steve Phelps saying before the season finale in Miami that “our promise to our fans … is that we are going to provide the best racing we can at our short tracks.”

One issue that has not been determined is if the traction compound applied in the corners at Phoenix Raceway last year will be reapplied for the March race. With a new short track package and a new tire, the traction compound might not be needed.

“Our opinion, and I think everybody’s is … (the traction compound) is to enhance the multiple racing lines, it is enable multiple grooves to come in at a particular track,” Stucker said. “We’re not in favor of just applying traction compound on a racetrack just to go faster. That’s not the goal.”

3. Decisions, decisions

Among the challenges for some teams with the short track package is determining how much wind tunnel time to devote to that setup and to the higher downforce package used at the bigger tracks.

NASCAR announced in October that organizations would be limited to 150 hours of wind tunnel time in 2020.

While the short track package shares similarities to what was run in 2017 and ’18, it’s not the same. Jimmy Makar, senior vice president of racing operations for Joe Gibbs Racing, said that wind tunnel time will be important for the short track setup.

Makar told NBC Sports that it will be a “challenge” to properly divide the wind tunnel time between the low downforce and high downforce packages.

Even with simulation programs playing a greater role for teams, Makar says wind tunnel testing is still vital.

Kyle Busch scored his second Cup title in five years in 2019 for Joe Gibbs Racing. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“You can learn a lot of basic things in (simulation) and kind of get your preliminary ideas and thoughts together and then apply them in the wind tunnel to get your final decision on how that change worked,” Makar said. “The wind tunnel, I think, probably is still your closest thing to the racetrack.”

Other key decisions for teams will come as the year progresses.

Teams will have to decide how to allocate resources in preparing high downforce cars, low downforce cars and also the Next Gen car that debuts in 2021.

“It does create a bit of a different challenge because it is that much different,” Makar said of the Next Gen car. “It’s completely, uniquely new to us. Just looking at the car and how things bolt together, it’s a big learning curve for all the teams. It’s not like over the years when you had a body change or an aero package change, it’s still the same car.”

Makar said one thing that will help is that with NASCAR putting a freeze on teams developing new parts, those crew members can focus on the Next Gen car.

Another key issue will be for any organization that has multiple teams in the playoffs — and even multiple teams in the final eight or the championship race. Go all in on a championship or work on the Next Gen car to begin next year strong?

“In my view, the obvious thing is (this year’s) championship is the first and foremost goal,” Makar said. “That’s what we have to focus on. That’s the next thing in line.”

4. His turn

The recent shuffling of drivers and crew chiefs at Team Penske could have some fans of Brad Keselowski feeling down.

Car owner Roger Penske split Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe, sending Wolfe to work with Joey Logano. Penske also moved Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, over to be with Ryan Blaney. That left Jeremy Bullins, who had been Blaney’s crew chief, to join Keselowski.

So what would Keselowski tell his fans about now being paired with Bullins?

Jeremy Bullins moves over from Ryan Blaney’s team to be Brad Keselowski’s crew chief in 2020. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“First thing I’d tell my fans is that Jeremy is the only Cup crew chief at Penske of the three that hasn’t won the championship,” Keselowski said. “The way I see it, he’s the next one to win one.”

Keselowski is focused on this season but he did tell NBC Sports that “I’m super proud of everything we were able to do as a team with Paul as crew chief and everyone else that was on the team at that time. I haven’t really spent much time looking out the rear window because I can’t change anything. So I’m looking out the front windshield.”

With a new crew chief will come new demands.

“I’m sure that Jeremy and the team are going to challenge me to be better,” Keselowski said. “I think that’s healthy. I’m going to do the same with them. I guess I view it as a complete blank slate. Our goal is to be the best and win the championship in 2020.

“What’s great is that we all have enough experience for that to be a realistic opportunity. If you combine that with our willingness to try new things, I think it could be a lethal combination.”

5. A name to remember

Cannon McIntosh’s assignment last fall was to write an essay about himself as if the high school junior was preparing a college application.

He felt good about what he wrote.

Until he got his grade.

A zero.

McIntosh’s instructor thought what McIntosh wrote was not true, that it had been plagiarized. No way, the teacher assumed, this student was a race car driver.

Cannon McIntosh (right) with Jay Drake, team manager of Keith Kunz Motorsports.
(Photo by Swikar Patel/TRD)

The situation was quickly rectified. Soon more than McIntosh’s teachers will know who he is.

The 17-year-old has been making a name in midget racing the past year and earned a ride with Keith Kunz Motorsports for this week’s Chili Bowl as a Toyota Racing Development driver. Keith Kunz Motorsports has won the past five Chili Bowl titles, including the past three with Christopher Bell.

McIntosh, who grew up in the Tulsa, Oklahoma suburbs and has to only make a short drive to the site of the Chili Bowl, won his preliminary feature Monday night to earn his first berth in the Chili Bowl Nationals A main.

He can’t wait until Saturday night’s feature race.

“I’ve raced pretty much all the guys that are going to be in that feature,” McIntosh told NBC Sports. “I know what to expect, and I know what I’m going to have to bring to the table, racing against those guys.

“(Kyle) Larson and Bell are definitely going to be the ones to beat coming Saturday. I’ve raced them before and I know what to expect. I’m going to have to be on my game. No matter what happens, we did well, we made the feature. I’m just hoping we can put on a good show, let them know we were there to fight.”

Chad Knaus: ‘We’re better prepared’ for new Camaro model

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The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season will see Chevrolet teams competing with the new Camaro ZL1 1LE model two years after the Camaro’s debut and one year before the Next Gen car’s scheduled debut in the series.

Chad Knaus, entering his second season as crew chief on William Byron‘s No. 24 Chevrolet, addressed the new Camaro model Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

“The unknown is obviously the car. That’s just going to take a little bit of time,” said Knaus, the last crew chief for a Chevrolet team to compete in the Cup Series’ Championship 4, when he and Jimmie Johnson won their seventh title in 2016.

In the Camaro’s first two years, Chevy teams have won 11 races, including four in 2018, while Ford won 29 races and Toyota won 32 races.

Another factor in the change was the problems with the ZL1’s pointed nose when it came to pushing other cars at Daytona and Talladega compared to Ford and Toyota and their flatter noses.

Knaus predicted the rollout of the new model will be “significantly different” to the Camaro’s debut in 2018.

“We’re more educated, we’re better prepared,” Knaus said. “What happened when we we brought out the new car is at the exact same time NASCAR changed the way they were inspecting the cars and employing the Hawkeye laser scanner, right? The older car, when it was designed, wasn’t really built for that. We had a little bit more leeway, we could have manipulated it let’s say just a little bit better to get some performance out of it. Well, with the restrictions that NASCAR’s put on us with the surface conformance all the way around the car, we didn’t have that ability.

“So that car was, it came out behind, does that make sense? With those rules, we weren’t able get on top of it. I do feel this car is coming out of the gate stronger. You never know that until you hit the race track, obviously. But I do feel it’s better and we’re going to be able to go out there and race a little bit better, which is great for Axalta and all our sponsors, they’re expecting that.”

The Camaro ZL1 1LE model will see its first track action Feb. 8 when teams practice at Daytona International Speedway for the Feb. 9 Busch Clash and Feb. 9 Daytona 500 qualifying.

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2019 Season in review: Chase Elliott

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Chase Elliott

CREW CHIEF: Alan Gustafson

TEAM: Hendrick Motorsports

POINTS: 10th

WINS: Three (Talladega I, Watkins Glen and Charlotte Roval). Tied his total from 2018.

LAPS LED: 601 (Most in his four full-time seasons)

TOP 5s: 11

TOP 10s: 15 (career worst in four full-time seasons)

POLES: Four, career best (Bristol I, Dover I, Watkins Glen, Talladega II)

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Earned his first superspeedway win in Cup and repeated as winner at Watkins Glen. He put on a stunning performance on the Roval when he came back to win after he plowed into the Turn 1 tire barrier in the middle of the race.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Any hopes Elliott and the No. 9 team had of topping their 2018 season came crashing down in the Round of 8. Elliott finished 32nd or worse in all three races, capping it off with a wreck in the final elimination race on Lap 165. After his Roval win, he finished in the top five once, at Kansas Speedway in the Round of 12 when he capitalized on a late wreck to finish second.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2020: 2020 will be the last season Elliott has Jimmie Johnson as a full-time teammate. It will be interesting to see how Elliott transitions into a leadership role as he’ll be the most tenured Hendrick driver once 2021 arrives.

Top 19 moments from the 2019 NASCAR Season

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We’ve spent the last four days looking back at NASCAR in the 2010s through its most memorable quotes, its 10 best driver, best finishes and most memorable moments.

Now it’s time to look back at 2019 and the moments that defined the sport.

In chronological order, here are the top 19 moments from the 2019 season (watch the above video for more).

 

February 17, 2019 – DAYTONA 500

Following a restart on Lap 191, Matt DiBenedetto spun (after contact from Paul Menard) and sparked an accident that collected a total of 21 cars. This was the first of three multi-car wrecks in the closing laps of the race (Lap 195, Lap 199). Only three of the race’s 40 cars were not involved in crashes during this race (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain). In the end, it was Hamlin taking home the victory, leading a 1-2-3 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing. The victory took place just over a month following the passing of team president J.D. Gibbs.

Hailie Deegan’S TWO WINS

Rising star Hailie Deegan earned two wins in 2019 in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West competition. Both wins came on exciting last-lap passes: Feb. 28 on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track, June 8 at Colorado National Speedway

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March 8, 2019 – CUP SERIES AT PHOENIX

After the first round of qualifying, Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell were involved in a scuffle on pit road. Suarez was upset with McDowell for getting in his way during the session. McDowell was unhappy because he felt Suarez tried to wreck him. McDowell’s crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, rushed in and shoved Suarez onto the hood of McDowell’s car. Suarez tried to kick McDowell while still on the car.

March 17, 2019 – CUP SERIES AT FONTANA

Kyle Busch led a race-high 134 laps in his victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The victory was Busch’s 200th across NASCAR’s three national touring series (Cup, Xfinity and Trucks), becoming just the second driver to reach that milestone. Richard Petty had 200 wins during his career, all in the NASCAR Cup Series.

April 13, 2019 – CUP SERIES AT RICHMOND

Martin Truex Jr. held off a late challenge from Joey Logano to earn the win. It was Truex’s first Cup Series victory on a short track, having gone winless in his previous 80 attempts. This was the first of Truex’s series-leading seven victories in 2019.

May 18, 2019 – ALL-STAR RACE AT CHARLOTTE

Kyle Larson took home a check for $1 million by winning the All-Star Race. His victory was overshadowed a bit when Ryan Newman made contact with Clint Bowyer during the race’s cool down lap. Afterwards, an angry Bowyer rushed over to Newman’s car and threw multiple punches before crew members hauled him away. Neither driver was hurt.

FIRST-TIME WINNERS IN CUP SERIES

The NASCAR Cup Series saw its only first-time winners of 2019 in consecutive weeks. First, Alex Bowman passed Kyle Larson with six laps to go and held on to win at Chicagoland (June 30). The following weekend at Daytona (July 7), crew chief Peter Sospenzo had driver Justin Haley stay out during a caution following a massive multi-car accident, earning his first Cup Series win when the race is called due to weather.

July 13, 2019 – CUP SERIES AT KENTUCKY

Kurt Busch went from fourth to first during the overtime restart. He would then battle his younger brother Kyle on the final lap, passing the eventual Cup Series champ coming out of Turn 4 to take the checkered flag.

July 21, 2019 – CUP SERIES AT NEW HAMPSHIRE

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin engaged in a classic last-lap duel at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Harvick held off the hard-charging Hamlin in one of the best finishes of the year.

August 4, 2019 – CUP SERIES AT WATKINS GLEN

Following their epic duel the previous year at Watkins Glen, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. went head-to-head again on the historic road course. Their battle came down to the final stage, and once again, Elliott was victorious. The race also featured Bubba Wallace spinning out Kyle Busch on Lap 62 after the two drivers engaged in some aggressive racing on the front stretch. On the previous Lap (61), Ryan Blaney spun Jimmie Johnson, leading the seven-time champ to confront Blaney after the race.

August 17, 2019 – CUP SERIES AT BRISTOL

Matt DiBenedetto was in pursuit of his first Cup Series win and led a career-high 93 laps at Bristol. However, he could not thwart the effort of Denny Hamlin, who made the winning pass with just 12 laps to go. During the NBC Post-Race Show, Hamlin and DiBenedetto embraced in a show of sportsmanship.

THROWBACK WEEKEND AT DARLINGTON (AUG. 31 & SEP. 1)

NASCAR honored its past during Throwback Weekend at Darlington as many drivers sported retro paint schemes belonging to the heroes of the past. Fans also welcomed back Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the driver’s seat just two weeks after a plane crash involving himself and his family. The weekend was capped by Erik Jones’ victory in the Southern 500.

September 29, 2019 – CUP SERIES PLAYOFFS AT CHARLOTTE ROVAL

Chase Elliott overcame his miscue on the Lap 65 restart on the Charlotte Roval, when he crashed into the Turn 1 tire barrier. Elliott rallied to pass Kevin Harvick with six laps to go and held on for the win. Alex Bowman, who finished second, grabbed the final transfer spot into the Round of 12. The event also featured a post-race altercation between Bubba Wallace and Bowman, who were involved in an on-track incident during Stage 2. Wallace walked up to Bowman, who was sitting next to his car, and splashed what appeared to be an energy drink in his face.

October 14, 2019 – CUP SERIES PLAYOFFS AT TALLADEGA

In a race determined by just .007 of a second, Ryan Blaney advanced to the Round of 8 with a thrilling victory over Ryan Newman at Talladega. The race featured three large multi-car wrecks, with the third and final one on Lap 182. During this crash, Brendan Gaughan‘s No. 62 car completely flipped, landing on its tires. Incredibly, Gaughan walked away from the crash.

October 19, 2019 – XFINITY SERIES PLAYOFFS AT KANSAS

A heated conversation between title contenders Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer turned physical following the playoff race at Kansas Speedway. The two drivers fell to the ground as they were swarmed by members of both teams. Reddick sustained a red mark above his right eye following the altercation.

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October 27, 2019 – CUP SERIES PLAYOFFS AT MARTINSVILLE

Martin Truex Jr. secured the first ticket to the Championship 4 with a dominant performance, leading 464 of the race’s 500 laps. The bigger story took place after the checkered flag when Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin got into a heated argument that led to a physical altercation. Team Penske crew member Dave Nichols Jr. was suspended one race for violently pulling Hamlin to the ground.

November 10, 2019 – CUP SERIES PLAYOFFS AT PHOENIX

Entering the Round of 8 elimination race at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix, Denny Hamlin was 20 points below the Championship cut line. As the race played out, Hamlin needed to win to advance to Miami. Hamlin pitted from the lead with seven laps to go and took just two tires only, winning the race off pit road. The decision paid off as Hamlin won to secure his spot in the Championship 4. Kyle Busch finished second to advance on points, joining Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick.

November 16, 2019 – XFINITY SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP AT MIAMI

Tyler Reddick became the sixth driver to earn back-to-back Xfinity Series Championships, and the first to achieve the feat while driving for different teams (JR Motorsports in 2018, Richard Childress Racing in 2019). The highlight of the race took place with 19 laps to go as Reddick and Cole Custer exchanged the race lead three times in one lap.

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November 17, 2019 – CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP AT MIAMI

Kyle Busch earned his second Cup Series Championship with a hard-fought victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Following the race, he shared a victory lap with his son Brexton as the two cruised into Victory Lane.

 

Decade in Review: Most memorable NASCAR moments of the 2010s

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The NASCAR of 2010 and the NASCAR of 2019 offer completely different landscapes, from different postseason formats, rules packages, series sponsors and a rapidly changing driver pool driven by the “youth movement.”

A lot happened over the last 10 years, but what are the moments that defined the sport in the 2010s?

Here are 10 moments and stories as voted on by NBC Sports’ writers.

 

1. Aug. 5, 2018

It was a Sunday that began a new era for NASCAR.

Just after 5 p.m. ET, NASCAR’s soon-to-be-voted most popular driver, Chase Elliott, claimed his first career Cup Series win after a late-race duel with Martin Truex Jr. at Watkins Glen International.

The victory on the New York road course came in Elliott’s 99th Cup start and deep into his third full-time season of competition.

Roughly two hours later and more than 300 miles away in Sag Harbor Village, New York, NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France was arrested on charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

France took a leave absence and later pled guilty to the DWI charge. He was replaced in his position by his uncle, Jim France, one of the sons of NASCAR founder William H.G. France.

Jim France is now the permanent CEO and Chairman of NASCAR.

In the past year, while staying out of the spotlight, Jim France has overseen the integration of the sanctioning body with its track operation arm, International Speedway Corp., the merging of NASCAR with ARCA (which goes into full effect next year) and the Cup Series’ transition to a new premier sponsor model starting next year.

Elliott has won six times in the last two seasons and has been voted most popular driver both years.

 2. Johnson ties Petty and Earnhardt, Nov. 20, 2016

Jimmie Johnson’s record-tying seventh Cup Series title did not come easily.

After starting the season finale from the rear of the field due to a pre-race inspection failure, the Hendrick Motorsports’ driver did not lead in the season finale until an overtime restart to finish the race.

He led the final three laps and solidified his name as one of the greatest to drive a stock car, alongside Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. Johnson’s seven titles are spread out over 11 years and multiple playoff formats.

3. Playoff elimination format introduced, 2014

NASCAR unveiled a new post-season format in 2014 that ensured the championship would be decided among four drivers in the final race of the season.

A field of 16 drivers are now whittled down over three rounds with the Championship 4 settled on after the Round of 8. In the finale, the highest placing driver is the champion.

Kevin Harvick claimed the first title under this format, earning his first championship in the process. So far all six championships under the elimination format have been claimed by the winner of the season finale.

Kyle Busch’s 2019 title made him the first repeat champion of the playoff era.

(Photo by Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)

4. “Spingate,” Sept. 7, 2013

 Richmond Raceway was the site of the 2013 Cup regular season finale and a race manipulation scandal that had far reaching consequences.

Michael Waltrip Racing was at the center of “Spingate,” which got its name from the alleged intentional spin conducted by Clint Bowyer in the closing laps of the race, one part of a plan intended to get Bowyer’s teammate, Martin Truex Jr., into the playoffs.

The plan, while initially successful, eventually backfired.

NASCAR fined MWR $300,000, the largest fine in the sport’s history, and docked Bowyer and Truex’s teams 50 points each. Truex was knocked from playoff eligibility and replaced by Ryan Newman.

Further controversy over alleged coordination between Team Penkse and Front Row Motorsports resulted in Jeff Gordon being added as a 13th driver to the playoff field the following weekend.

As a result of the controversy, NAPA Auto Parts withdrew from sponsoring Truex’s team after the season and began sponsoring Chase Elliott at JR Motorsports (and eventually at Hendrick Motorsports).

Truex wound up at Furniture Row Racing in 2014 and three years later won the Cup championship with the single-car team.

Michael Waltrip Racing closed its doors after the 2015 season.

5. Tony Stewart’s final championship run, 2011

 When the 2011 Chase for the Cup began, two-time champion Tony Stewart entered the postseason with no wins and believing his team was a waste of space in the playoff field.

Then Stewart reeled off five wins in 10 races, including the season finale in Miami, where he beat Carl Edwards and clinched the title in a tiebreaker over Edwards.

Stewart remains the only Cup driver to earn their first win of the season in the playoffs and go on to win the championship.

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6. NASCAR returns to dirt, July 24, 2013

Arguably one of the most anticipated NASCAR events since the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series returned NASCAR to its roots in 2013 with its first race at Eldora Speedway, the dirt track owned by Tony Stewart.

Austin Dillon claimed the win in the inaugural event and other winners of the Eldora Dirt Derby include Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe.

7. Juan Pablo Montoya, a Jet Dryer and a Tweet, Feb. 27, 2012

Twitter as a social media platform has existed since 2006. But NASCAR Twitter™ came into its own late on a Monday night during the rain delayed Daytona 500.

With 40 laps left the and the race under caution, something broke on the No. 42 Chevrolet of Juan Pablo Montoya as his car entered Turn 3. His car then slammed into a jet dryer, causing a fiery explosion, spilling gas across the track and destroying Montoya’s car.

No one was hurt, but it led to scenes of track workers cleaning up the mess with Tide, drivers racing each other to a port-a-potty and the cherry on top, Brad Keselowski’s tweet from inside his No. 2 Dodge during the red flag.

Keselowski sent the tweet at 9:58 p.m. ET and NASCAR Twitter was born.

8. “Five Time,” Nov. 21, 2010

Jimmie Johnson got his decade off to a notable start by accomplishing a feat no one had done before or will likely repeat.

Johnson successfully won his fifth-consecutive Cup title, two more than the previous best feat of three straight by Cale Yarborough (1976-78).

Next season will be Johnson’s final full-time Cup campaign and he’ll try to start the next decade just like he started this one, by making some championship history with his eighth title.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)

9 (tie). Danica Patrick’s Daytona 500 pole, Feb. 17, 2013

Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career ended after 252 national series starts, the last coming in the 2018 Daytona 500.

Patrick never won in her time in a stock car, and the long-term impact of her time in NASCAR and her popularity likely won’t be evident for a while.

But there’s one thing that can never be taken away from her time in the sport: her pole for the 2013 Daytona 500.

That’s how Patrick started her first full-time season in Cup, by becoming the first woman to win the pole for a Cup Series race.

 9 (tie). Trevor Bayne’s only Cup Series win – Feb. 20, 2011

Trevor Bayne only won once in his Cup Series career and boy did he make it count.

The day after his 20th birthday, driving the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford in his second career start, Bayne survived the second green-white-checkered finish attempt of the Daytona 500 and won the “Great American Race.”

Bayne would make 187 Cup Starts, with the last coming in 2018 with Roush Fenway Racing.

9 (tie). Enter the Roval – Sept. 30, 2018

Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and NASCAR couldn’t have asked for a better debut for the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

It all came down to the last lap and the final turn on the new road course, which combined Charlotte’s traditional oval and the revamped infield circuit, the first of its kind in NASCAR.

Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson made contact and spun while racing for the lead, Ryan Blaney stole the win and Kyle Larson drove his battered No. 42 Chevy by the prone car of Jeffrey Earnhardt to pick up the one spot necessary to force a tiebreaker with Johnson and Aric Almirola and advance to the second round of the playoff.

Come back tomorrow for the best race finishes of the 2010s.

Now it’s your turn to vote. What was NASCAR’s most memorable moment of the 2010s?

 

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