By admin | November 27, 2008
By Richard Allen
Invariably, the end of any sports season brings about the usual season reviews. A look back at this year’s NASCAR season reveals that this was a remarkable time of firsts and lasts.
Let’s start by looking at the things that happened for the first time in 2008.
For starters, this was the first season in which the Car of Tomorrow was used exclusively in the Sprint Cup division. The car was used on a part time basis in 2007 which had teams going back and forth working and testing two different types of cars. This year, the CoT got the full attention of NASCAR’s teams.
The new car received mixed reviews over the course of the year. There is no question the car is safer than its predecessor. However, there were far too many races in which cars were spread out and unable to pass one another. There is still much work to be done for this car to provide better competition.
Another first was the success of Toyota. Like the CoT, the foreign manufacturer made its debut in 2007. However, this season was the first in which NASCAR’s newest player experienced the thrill of victory lane. Joe Gibbs Racing delivered ten wins for Toyota with Kyle Busch accounting for eight of those checkered flags.
It was a year of firsts in regard to wins and losses as well. This was the first season in which Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had won a race in over two years. And, it was the first season in which Jeff Gordon had not won a race since he earned his first win in 1994. Both of these Hendrick Motorsports teammates found themselves looking up at the achievements of one of their other teammates, Jimmie Johnson.
Speaking of Johnson, he became the first driver since Cale Yarborough to win three consecutive Sprint Cup championships. It had been thirty years since Yarborough became the only other driver to accomplish the feat.
There were also some lasts to occur in the 2008 NASCAR campaign.
Tony Stewart drove his last race for Joe Gibbs Racing. The pairing of these two icons had accounted for 33 race wins and two Sprint Cup titles in ten years together. Stewart is leaving to drive for his own team at Stewart Haas Racing. Gibbs will hand over the keys to one of the sport’s most successful rides to young Joey Logano.
2008 was the last season in which Dale Earnhardt, Inc operated as a separate entity. At the end of the season the company originally formed by seven time Sprint Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, Sr. is believed to have joined forces with Chip Ganassi to form Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.
This was also the last season in which teams would be allowed to test. Testing had been allowed on a limited basis on the tracks at which the Sprint Cup Series competed and on an essentially unlimited basis on tracks at which the series did not compete. NASCAR banned the expensive and time consuming practice in announcement at season’s end.
All in all, this NASCAR season was not one of the sport’s best. However, there were moments of intrigue. Many of those moments made for some of the interesting firsts and lasts to have occurred in 2008.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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