Sprint Cup Series 2012 Year in Quotes ReviewBy Kelly Crandall
For the first time in history, the Daytona 500 was postponed until Monday. It was worth the wait when Juan Pablo Montoya blew up a jet dryer under caution. There was the exciting last lap at Watkins Glen, a great battle for the final Chase spot between Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, and the disappointing season of Carl Edwards.
Plus, for the first time since 2004, a champion not named Tony Stewart or Jimmie Johnson was crowned. Brad Keselowski took home the hardware in Dodge’s final season, finally delivering team owner Roger Penske to the top of the NASCAR promise land.
For those and other memorable moments, here’s a final look from the best in the business.
Daytona: “It’s gonna be you, it’s gonna be you. We’re gonna win the Daytona 500 agaaaaaaain!” — Spotter Mike Calinoff for Matt Kenseth
For once in its existence, the biggest race of the year and its winner, were overshadowed. A wreck on lap two, a rain delay, and a jet driver fire courtesy of Montoya, took center stage and much of the headlines. All of which brought us to the wee hours of the morning where it was Kenseth who scored his second win the Daytona 500.
Phoenix: “It feels so good to be competitive again!” — Denny Hamlin on the radio to his team
Hamlin made a promise in Victory Lane at Homestead in 2009, that sometime soon his team was going to win the championship. A year later, 2010, he came one position short, losing the championship in Homestead. In 2011 he suffered what some would call the second place curse. His 2012 campaign was a comeback for Hamlin, working with new crew chief Darian Grubb.
Las Vegas: “I have no doubt this could be another pivotal year for Tony.” — Gene Haas, Co-owner of Stewart-Hass Racing
Now a three-time champion, Tony Stewart also started the year off hot. He picked up a win at a track he’s never done so before and in a race that escaped him a year ago after he dominated.
Bristol: “I love Bristol and Bristol loves me.” — Brad Keselowski
There’s a new king of Bristol and he again drives a blue No. 2. Keselowski backed up his impressive win from the August night race in 2011 to make it two in a row at the bullring. And it was the first time that he would tweet from Victory Lane.
California: “It’s been a real enjoyment in my life to get involved with this race team.” — Steve Addington
For the second time in three weeks Stewart found himself in the winner’s circle. Quickly hyping the talk of successfully defending his title and doing so with a new crew chief, after hiring Steve Addington away from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Martinsville: “I would like to hear a good excuse to be honest with you because I’m sure it would be laughable.” — Dale Earnhardt Jr. on David Reutimann
Ryan Newman continued Stewart-Haas’s winning ways a week later. But at the expense of a few of his competitors after he shoved Clint Bowyer into turn one and he made it three-wide resulting in a wreck. Some, however, were upset there even was a restart because no one had any idea why Reutimann was limping around the track, eventually coming to a stop, instead of heading for pit road.
Texas: “When I caught lapped traffic, some guys that were multiple laps down didn’t show much respect for myself, the leader.” — Jimmie Johnson
Johnson was cruising toward his first win of the season at Texas, leading 156 laps and hoping to be the man who scored Hendrick Motorsports 200th win. Except, just as he did in Martinsville, Johnson found that Newman had something to say about that, seemingly giving him a hard time when trying to lap him, allowing Greg Biffle to catch and pass him.
Kansas: “It’s kind of things like that that seem to be the story of my career since my first win.” — Martin Truex Jr.
Some drivers find it hard to win their first NSCS race, but Truex has had a different problem. Since his first win at Dover in 2007 he’s had difficulty breaking through for his second win. Kansas has become one of his best tracks and he led 173 tracks but was overtaken by Hamlin with 30 laps to go.
Richmond: “When the caution is for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing that one.” — Tony Stewart
Debris cautions always provide topic for conversations, as was the case in a few NSCS and NNS races this year. Stewart was in control of the race at Richmond; he led the most laps and was the leader when the fifth and final caution came out. But he lost the race off pit road on the subsequent pit cycle and then lost ground on the restart as well as the win.
Talladega: “It’s almost comical at this point.” —- Jeff Gordon
There were three drivers in 2012 who had black clouds over their season, one of which was Gordon. He managed to take race-winning cars and encounter any and all possible problems. On lap 12 of the Aaron’s 499 he was caught up in a wreck and left Talladega 23rd in points.
Darlington: “Jeff – I wouldn’t fly home with him.” — Rick Hendrick on Jeff Gordon
Things didn’t get any better for Gordon a week later, even though he was racing at a track he’s won on seven times. Two flat tires forced Gordon to the garage for repairs and he would finish 35th as Hendrick celebrated with teammate Johnson who delivered him in 200th NSCS win.
Charlotte: “Just used all my tires up trying to get to him – I was driving with my eyes out and my hair on fire for 20 laps on that restart trying to catch him.” — Denny Hamlin on Kasey Kahne
The HMS dominance continued at Charlotte, with Kahne getting his first win with his new team. Although Hamlin gave it his best shot, attempting to take advantage of his fresh tires after the last pit stop, which came under green flag conditions. Kahne though, was the fastest car that night and led the most laps.
Dover: “We got Madagascar coming to a theatre near you June 8th, got Jimmie Johnson coming to Victory Lane right now.” — Spotter Earl Barban for Jimmie Johnson
The spring race at Dover won’t be remembered for Johnson winning for the seventh time at the track. Or that he spanked the field by leading 289 of 400 laps. On that day, Johnson and his team proved that they can he can rock a rainbow colored wig and a bright blue car that sported the Madagascar 3 paint scheme.
Pocono: “I hope it shuts them all up is what I hope.” — Joey Logano on his critics
When Logano won his first career race at Loudon in 2009, critical NASCAR fans said it wasn’t a real win, since he took advantage of the race being called because of rain. In a year that would prove to be his last with JGR, he captured one more win, this time at Pocono when he won the pole, led the most laps and gave former mentor Mark Martin a bump and run with three laps to go.
Michigan: “We have this victory bell that I get to take around for the first time since we built it. And ring the hell out of it all over the complex, I’m going to ring that damn thing as hard as I can.” — Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr. got his own redemption win in the same place he got his first with HMS. His coming 144 races later and this time, no one could say that he lucked into it as he was the class of the field and looked to be back in championship shape.
Sonoma: “We’re a place for refugees, nobody really wants to work for us. These two didn’t have anywhere to go.” — Michael Waltrip on Brian Pattie and Clint Bowyer
Waltrip first joked about his new MWR team with Bowyer and Pattie but they didn’t let anyone laugh at them as their first win together led to a few more through the season. As well as a shot at the championship in just their first season.
Kentucky: “We’re just ready to win. I really had fun winning the other week, so I’m ready to get back to Victory Lane … I ain’t going to be as patient this time.” —- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Winning can be infectious and Earnhardt Jr. was hoping so with how well he ran to start the season. But his win at Michigan would be the only one he scored in 2012, because almost doesn’t count in racing.
Daytona: “Driver AJ Allmendinger has been temporarily suspended from NASCAR competition based upon notification on a positive ‘A’ test NASCAR received from it’s medical review officer.” — Steve O’Donnell, senior vice president of racing operations
Two hours before the green flag in Daytona, there was a shocking announcement from NASCAR. It set off weeks of speculations and theories as to what happened with Allmendinger, and whether he would ever return to racing. Luckily for Allmendinger, he chose to participate in NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program and was reinstated later in the year.
New Hampshire: “Darian has won more a couple of races this year, more than he’s taken away from me.” — Denny Hamlin on crew chief Darian Grubb
Pit road can win and lose a team a race, as Hamlin experienced in Loudon. After dominating the race he came down pit road for his final pit stop and Grubb called for four tires and fuel. Hamlin only wanted two tires, which he didn’t clearly express. The long stop put him deep in the field on a restart and he was only able to recover to a second place finish.
Indianapolis: “We’re racing trucks, they’re racing cars.” — Brad Keselowski on Jimmie Johnson’s team
Losing sucks, losing to Johnson sucks even more. Keselowski was doing his best to prove in Indy that he was a legitimate contender not only for the championship but also in big races. He came up short, finishing ninth and in the process began to hint that Johnson and HMS were using setups that were outside the grey area.
Pocono: “The way our year has gone, we’ll definitely take it like this.” — Jeff Gordon
Sometimes the racing God’s are on your side and Gordon has experienced that a few times in Pocono. Struggling to find Victory Lane and turn his season around, things cleared up for Gordon at the triangle, literally. First, the leaders wrecked in front of him in turn one, giving him the lead and then the rain came and he was declared the winner.
Watkins Glen: “It was just absolutely crazy at the end.” — Marcos Ambrose
It certainly wasn’t easy but Ambrose survived a wild last lap in which he went from third to first to score his second career win, as well as making it two in a row at The Glen, while thrilling the crowd in the process. Kyle Busch was leading at the white flag but yelling that there was oil on the track, however NASCAR never threw the caution.
Drivers started slipping, sliding and spinning out, including Busch, who was spun by Keselowski. Then Keselowski and Ambrose dueled to the finish, bumping and banging, sliding off the pavement before making it around to the finish line. While many went crazy over the finish, drivers were furious that NASCAR claimed they didn’t see the oil.
Michigan: “I know they don’t talk about us a lot, but they will when we get to Vegas.” — Greg Biffle
Biffle might have been the first favorite for the 2012 championship considering how strong he and new crew chief Matt Puccia came out of the box. They were the early point leaders and won at Texas. But he quietly faded in the background as others started winning. But when Biffle stormed back to the top at Michigan, he was still feeling just as confidence about his Chase chances.
Bristol: “I don’t give a crap. Hell with the helmet.” — Tony Stewart on Matt Kenseth
It’s very rare to see two drivers who are racing for the lead to both wreck. Stewart and Kenseth managed to pull it off in Bristol on the frontstretch, each ruining their shots at the win. Stewart was none too pleased about the incident and after he climbed out of his Chevrolet threw his helmet at Kenseth as he was driving down pit road.
Atlanta: “I’m not a real religious person, but I feel like somebody’s trying to teach me a lesson.” — Carl Edwards
For those who never before believed in the second place curse, watching Edwards suffer through the 2012 season might have changed that. After tying Stewart in points and losing the 2011 championship, Edwards and his team weren’t able to come back stronger this year. They went winless and missed the Chase.
Richmond: “There’s no right way to handle this situation.” — Kyle Busch
After hanging on to the final Chase spot for weeks during the summer, Busch was in control of his own destiny to make the Chase. Until the last few laps at Richmond when pit strategy ruined it all, he started sliding through the field, went a lap down and fell out of the Chase.
Chicago: “It’s a great day for us. It cools me down a little bit after being hot last night.” — Roger Penske on Brad Keselowski’s win
To start the Chase and his championship run, Keselowski bested Johnson who dominated the race. For team owner Penske, it was a good pick-me-up after watching his IndyCar driver Will Power lose the championship the night before in California.
New Hampshire: “We will win next week.” — Denny Hamlin on Twitter
It was the equivalent of calling his shot. After running out of fuel in Chicago, Hamlin let all his fans know that it wasn’t time to give up. But then, when asked about it when he arrived in Loudon, Hamlin said he wasn’t calling his shot, just being confident. He did though, win and that’s good enough to say he called it and nailed it.
Dover: “Thank you, TRD. [Expletive] us out of another one. Piece of [expletive], mother [expletive].” — Kyle Busch on the radio after checkered flag
Fuel mileage races aren’t for everyone, some drivers are better than others in managing their tanks. As Keselowski, who has become a decent fuel mileage racer, won again, Busch had to pit with less than 10 laps to go and give up the win after leading the most laps.
Talladega: “I just screwed up.” — Tony Stewart
He’s always been one to man up and admit to his mistakes and after starting the big wreck on the final lap at Talladega Stewart took the blame. He was attempting to block Michael Waltrip who was charging on the inside and looking for the lead. Everyone later learned that Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion from the wreck.
Charlotte: “We ran around in circles and were done.” — Jimmie Johnson on the fuel mileage race
For once, Johnson was happy to have a fuel mileage race go his way, he finished third and knocked a few points off Keselowski point lead. But he had to do so by racing in a way he’s not accustomed or happy about, slowing down to go fast and not having a shot to win the race.
Kansas: “I’m ready to go home and have a couple of beers. It’s just been a long day.” — Brad Keselowski
The new surface of the Kansas Speedway proved to be treacherous and became the wildcard of the Chase. Drivers simply spinning out by themselves with record cautions and many damaged cars. Keselowski was one of the few who were able to manage his car and point lead with an eighth place finish.
Martinsville: “If it’s not mean to be, it’s not meant to be. We’ll have our time. It’s just that our time is not now.” — Denny Hamlin
Despite an impressive drive from the back of the field twice, speeding penalties will do that to you, it wasn’t enough for Hamlin to salvage his Chase chances. His No. 11 machine came to stop on the frontstretch when there was a shortage in the master control shift.
Texas: “I guess there are no restart rules.” — Kyle Busch
There was one person unimpressed with the hard-nosed race between Johnson and Keselowski for the win. That being the third place finisher, who noted that both Johnson and Keselowski each got away with jumping a restart as the leader near the end of the event. The two drivers, ironically, noted that the other might have gone early as well.
Phoenix: “It was a cowardly, chicken move by someone who has raced for championships before and knows how important every position is.” — Michael Waltrip on Jeff Gordon
With Johnson in the garage after hitting the wall, second place in the standings was there for the taking for Clint Bowyer. He was running in the top 10 and could have headed to Homestead with a shot at the championship until Gordon wrecked Bowyer on purpose. Gordon felt Bowyer had hit him one too many times during the season.
Homestead-Miami: “I feel like the best is yet to come. I really do.” — Brad Keselowski
With Johnson having trouble for the second straight week, Keselowski was in the clear to win his first career NSCS championship. His 15th place finish did that, becoming the first driver since 2004 not named Stewart or Johnson to do so. It was also the first title for Penske and in Dodge’s final season. It was Keselowski’s only third full year of Cup competition.