Entering the 2010 season there were those who said NASCAR needed a boast. Something to bring back the fans and up the ratings that have been suffering the last few seasons.
In January, Robin Pemberton went off NASCAR’s script and said, “boys, have at it.”
Don’t forget the fights, season long feuds and great racing. Here’s a look back at the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Daytona: “After we won Talladega we went to McDonalds, so I think tonight we’ll have a Big Mac.” — Jamie McMurray
Some drivers have called winning the Daytona 500 the greatest day of their life and McMurray let all the emotions pour out in victory lane. He laughed, he cried and he thanked everyone he could. His talk about McDonalds landed him a sponsorship with the food chain two races later.
California: “They’re really good, but they’re also really, really lucky. They have a golden horseshoe stuck up their ass there’s no getting around that.” — Kevin Harvick
Jimmie Johnson’s 48th career win came after a lucky break on pit road. While making his pit stop the caution came out and upon beating the leader, Jeff Burton, off pit road he inherited the lead and eventual win. Afterwards Harvick said it was another typical Johnson day.
Las Vegas: “No luck involved in that one.” — Chad Knaus
When Johnson won the next week in Vegas, after taking four tires on a pit stop when leader Jeff Gordon took two, his crew chief made sure everyone knew that they don’t need luck to win.
Atlanta: “To come back and intentionally wreck someone, that’s not cool.” — Brad Keselowski
Call it the start of a new era: the Keselowski-Carl Edwards era. Early in the Kobalt Tools 500 Edwards came down the racetrack and over the front nose of Keselowski’s No. 12. Contact sent Edwards up into the wall. In the garage he said Keselowski didn’t do anything wrong but 100 laps later when he returned to the racetrack he sent the 12 car airborne.
Bristol: “I’d rather lose to any of the 41 cars out there than this No. 48 car.” — Kurt Busch
Losing is never fun. But losing to Jimmie Johnson the last four years in the Chase makes losing that much harder. When Johnson beat the dominant car of Busch for his first Bristol win, he started an ‘anybody but the 48’ campaign.
Martinsville: “Whose house is this?” — Denny Hamlin
When fans think about certain racetracks they think about certain drivers, such as Daytona and Dale Earnhardt. Now that he’s won the last four of six races at Martinsville, everyone should know who to think about when heading to the Virginia paperclip.
Phoenix: “I’ve got to throw [Tony] Gibson [crew chief] under the bus — he wanted to go four, and I said, ‘Just give me two.’ “ — Ryan Newman
His first win at Stewart-Haas Racing, and first since the Daytona 500 in 2008, came from beating Jeff Gordon on a late restart. The winning call ended up coming from the pits and the two tires that the No. 39 Chevrolet had. Newman said he wanted to be able to play defense from the lead instead of having to fight for it on offense.
Texas: “I was having fun until all those cautions starting coming [out] there at the end. We run 450 miles to settle it there in a bunch of mess at the end of the race and it’s kind of stupid.” — Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Unless they need one, drivers and fans are not big on caution flags. Through the 2010 season many drivers accused NASCAR of throwing cautions for no reason. With the new green-white-checkered rule a lot of equipment gets torn up as well and Earnhardt Jr. said the whole thing is just stupid.
Talladega: “Our sponsor’s leaving us, and the best part about it is that they can leave while we’re winning. That’s the best part of the whole thing.” — Kevin Harvick
Starting at Daytona in the 2011 season, Harvick will have another new sponsor, Budweiser. But now that Richard Childress Racing has turned things around, Harvick doesn’t seem too concerned about Shell-Pennzoil leaving the No. 29.
Richmond: “Certainly getting plenty of practice at it.” — Jeff Gordon
Drivers are rewarded for leading every lap but the last one and through the first part of the 2010 season Gordon came close numerous times to breaking into victory lane. Restarts were his Achilles heel as a few came down to a late caution. Gordon acknowledged he needs to get better at them or he won’t win.
Darlington: “We have to make a decision whether we want to be a championship team or do we just want to pretend to be one.” — Jeff Burton
Nothing hurts a race team more than pit road mistakes, which plagued Burton’s team a few times this season. After one in Darlington, which took a car capable of running the top three out of contention, Burton noted those mistakes weren’t going to help their big picture efforts.
Dover: “We’re just getting started here.” — Joe Gibbs
When driver Kyle Busch won at Dover, Joe Gibbs heard from Rick Hendrick how he felt JGR had caught up and maybe surpassed HMS. Gibbs didn’t believe so and in victory lane said they still had some work to do.
Charlotte: “I thought about that Ganassi car behind us. He wasn’t going to get by us.” — Kurt Busch
Before the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte, the biggest race of the IndyCar season was being run in Indianapolis. Chip Ganassi’s driver Dario Franchitti won it over the normally dominant Ganassi cars. A few hours later a Ganassi driver was chasing down Roger Penske’s driver, Kurt Busch. Unlike in Indy, Busch made sure the finishing order was reversed.
Pocono: “I don’t know what his problem is with me, but it’s probably not his fault. His wife wears the firesuit in the family and tells him what to do. It’s probably not his fault.” — Joey Logano
While running fifth coming to the white flag, Logano was spun by Kevin Harvick in turn three. It wasn’t the first time the two made contact but it was the last time that Logano would let Harvick get away without knowing how he feels. After confronting the driver on pit road, he threw a shot at his wife in the media.
Michigan: “Now I know what Jimmie has felt like the last four years.” — Denny Hamlin
His slogan has become “all we do is win” and Hamlin did on eight occasions in 2010. The wins came at many different racetracks as well as in dominating fashion. For the most part he was in complete control, much like another driver had been the last four years.
Sonoma: “Better be ready to drink some beer here in a little bit. Woohoo! About time! Booyah!” — Jimmie Johnson
It took a mistake by leader Marcos Ambrose and a late caution, but Johnson finally won his first road course race at Sonoma in June. The win was also the 51st of his career.
Loudon: “When we got going on the restart, Kurt knocked me out of the way, and I thought, ‘I don’t care if I win this race or not — I don’t care if I finish this damn thing — I am running into him and getting back by him one way or another … My thought process was, ‘Wreck his ass.’ “ — Jimmie Johnson
The following week came win No. 53 after a late battle with Kurt Busch. Busch may have played his hand too soon and end up costing himself the win after he performed a bump and run on Johnson. There was enough time for Johnson to come back and retake the lead and the win. If he didn’t win, he was going to make sure that Busch knew of his displeasure with the move.
Daytona: “I guess it’s my fault … Guess I turned right across the 42, I wanted to wreck myself.” — Kyle Busch
No driver likes to lose but Busch is a driver that doesn’t know how to handle it. He was leading at Daytona when he was turned into the outside wall on the backstretch, after making contact with Juan Pablo Montoya. It sent a very fast racecar back to Charlotte early.
Chicago: “I’ve probably not seen anyone have to walk around for a year-and-a-half and apologize about winning a race.” — Ty Norris
David Reutimann’s first career win at Charlotte in May of 2009 wasn’t received well by some fans. They called it cheap because he stayed out and won when the race was called early due to rain. Since that time Michael Waltrip Racing’s general manger, Norris, has said Reutimann has been trying to redeem himself by winning the correct way.
Indianapolis: “I get to kiss the bricks!” — Jamie McMurray
He won two of the biggest races of the year. Three total. And became a father soon afterward. For McMurray there was no way that the 2010 season could have gotten better, even if he made the Chase. After completing the tradition of putting his winning car in Daytona USA, McMurray took part in another tradition at Indy.
Pocono: “I got wrecked on the straightaway. Jimmie Johnson drove straight through us.” — Kurt Busch
It was a straightforward answer from Busch when asked what happened. It was also more frustration from Busch as he again came out on the wrong end of a battle with Johnson.
Watkins Glen: “I still want to win on an oval.” — Brian Pattie
Juan Pablo Montoya has no problem telling someone how he feels about him or her. After losing the Brickyard 400 the last two seasons, the fingers have been pointed at his crew chief, Pattie. When the team finally won at Watkins Glen, Pattie felt relief but still wants the team to win on an oval to show they can compete anywhere.
Michigan: “It seems like it’s been longer than that.” — Matt Kenseth
Through the first half of the 2010 season many wouldn’t have thought that Roush-Fenway Racing was competing in the Sprint Cup Series. They were nowhere to be found. But when the summer months came the team started to hit their stride. For Kenseth a fifth place finish in Michigan was his first top 10 since May.
Bristol: “Kyle Busch is an ass!” — Brad Keselowski
Twenty-four hours after being wrecked by Busch in the Nationwide Series race for the win, Keselowski took to the PA system during Cup Series driver introductions. After stating his name, car number and team, Keselowski stated something that made nearly everyone cheer.
Atlanta: “I’ve never been so happy to win a race in my life.” — Tony Stewart
It’s no secret that Stewart doesn’t heat up until the summer months. But after winning early and often in 2009 and dominating the regular season, Stewart started off slow in 2010. He finally broke into the win column in mid-September.
Richmond: “Maybe I took for granted how well Denny ran last year.” — Jimmie Johnson
Denny Hamlin’s sixth win of the year came during the last race of the regular season and gave him 10 bonus points for the Chase. It also put him as the No. 1 seed heading into New Hampshire. Suddenly, Johnson’s path toward a fifth title came across a large obstacle.
Loudon: “I just had a feeling — this race just felt like [it did] back in 2007, and we did it again.” — Clint Bowyer
A driver never forgets his first career win. For Bowyer it came at New Hampshire in 2007 after making the Chase that many felt he shouldn’t have been apart of. He dominated the day and won, erasing those doubts. In 2010 he qualified for the Chase again and again dominated New Hampshire for his first win of the season.
Dover: “Man, you are rubbing it into all these guys’ faces here.” — Chad Knaus
Never count out Jimmie Johnson and his team, which some were ready to do after he finished 25th in the first Chase race. At Dover, however, he dominated and won for the sixth and final time of the 2010 season. Johnson did his celebratory burnout at the exit of pit road – where the rest of the drivers had to pass to go to the garage.
Kansas: “We were kind of down in the dumps about Dover, one of our best race tracks — we had a top-10 car there. But we can’t go back and do it over again.” — Greg Biffle
A win in Kansas was the second of the year for Biffle and his No. 16 team, but he couldn’t stop thinking about a win that could have been. A week earlier the series was in Dover, a track that he’s a past winner at. Instead of contending for another checkered flag, he finished 19th, something that wasn’t acceptable for his standards.
California: “I really, really wanted to win just to set the record straight on what had happened with the last win.” — Clint Bowyer
Had it not been for Tony Stewart and a late race caution, Bowyer might have been in victory lane for the second time in 2010. Instead he had to settle for a second place finish and still answer questions about his illegal New Hampshire winning car.
Charlotte: “Gave it up two nights in a row.” — Kyle Busch
It’s hard to beat Busch when he has a dominating car, but for two nights in Charlotte that’s what drivers were able to do. On Friday it was Brad Keselowski who got the best of Busch even with older tires. Saturday night Jamie McMurray ran away from Busch late in the going.
Martinsville: “Who said it was over? I TOLD you it wasn’t over.” — Denny Hamlin
When Jimmie Johnson won at Dover many proclaimed the Chase to be over. Give him the championship trophy they said. Hamlin on the other hand was asking, what about me? In Martinsville he won and led the most laps while keeping Johnson from leading any laps at all. The win brought him within six points of the point lead.
Talladega: “About 6 inches … It’s just one of those deals where we’ve won a few by a few inches and we’ve lost a few.” — Kevin Harvick
At Talladega in the spring it was Harvick by nearly six inches over Jamie McMurray for the victory. On the second trip to Alabama, Harvick’s teammate Clint Bowyer was deemed ahead of the No. 29 when the caution came out on the white flag. Bowyer won and Harvick finished second.
Texas: “I’ve lost plenty of championships in the past, and this is racing, and it doesn’t come easy, and you are not going to get what you want every single year and every single weekend.” — Jimmie Johnson
The championships that Johnson was alluding to aren’t known since he’s won the last four straight. And while he acknowledged he a driver can’t get what they want every single year, he and crew chief Chad Knaus made sure they did when they permanently swapped crews with teammate Jeff Gordon, which help secure their fifth title.
Phoenix: “I was sitting pretty.” — Denny Hamlin
Twelve laps. Hamlin was 12 laps away from his first Sprint Cup Series championship heading into Homestead. The reason? He dominated Phoenix by leading the most laps and running the top two all day, where he certainly would have finished. Johnson on the other hand struggled in the back end of the top 10 and never led a lap. The points would have swung to give Hamlin over a 60-point at the end of the day. Instead Hamlin had to pit. Johnson finished fifth and Hamlin finished 12th, erasing his point lead to only 15.
Homestead: “Why didn’t you set the cars up like this before, Bob?” — Carl Edwards
The fans may never have known amid the closest Chase battle in its history, but Edwards did win the last two races of the season. In doing so he helped Roush-Fenway Racing put themselves back on the map after a rough start to the season. In Homestead, Edwards joked that his crew chief was holding out on good racecars.
Bonus: “In EVERY sport there is some team that sets the bar. We have HMS [Hendrick Motorsports] in cup. Until ANY team decides to grow a pair, he will win SIX in a row.” — Joey Meier
After clinching his fifth straight title, everyone in NASCAR had something to say about Jimmie Johnson. Brad Keselowski’s spotter did so through his Twitter page, sending a message to the NASCAR world for 2011.