Making A List
November 26, 2005 | 10:16 A.M. EST
With that somewhat sad realization, it’s time for one of those best-of columns that persist at this time every year.
Without a doubt, the Home Depot Racing team that ended up winning the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship. From J.D. Gibbs to Greg Zipadelli to Tony Stewart to the guys who work on the orange missile, they did it together and they did it right.
Also without a doubt, this award goes to Tony Stewart. From his pass through the grass at Daytona in the season-opening Busch Series race to his save in the final practice at Homestead, Stewart rarely put a foot wrong all season long. Plus, he’s absolutely hysterical if you’re listening to his radio and he spins or something. During a Truck Series race at Lowe’s in May, he went on a power-slide through Turns 3 and 4, all the while saying, “I got it, I got it, I got it” to his crew.
Most Likely to Win for the First Time
Brian Vickers. He came close on a couple of occasions this year, only to have a problem at an inopportune moment. In fact, I’m betting here and now that all four Hendrick teams will win a race in 2006.
Most Likely to Blossom Early
Clint Bowyer. Taking over the Jack Daniels Chevrolet at Richard Childress Racing, Bowyer will be plenty competitive from the get-go, especially with Gil Martin on the box. Honorable mention to Reed Sorenson.
Driver with the Most to Prove
Kurt Busch. The deal at Phoenix was, perhaps, blown a bit out of proportion to what actually happened, but something like this has been brewing for the combustible Las Vegan for some time. It happened to bite him where he sits this time, and he’ll have some image problems for a while.
Biggest Move of Silly Season
This one’s a combo. The Busch-to-Penske, McMurray-to-Roush deal will bear the most watching, but Bobby Labonte to the Pettys will run a close second. How quickly those three assimilate with their new teams will be key.
Watching Tony Stewart kiss the bricks at Indianapolis. ‘Nuff said.
Watching Robby Gordon blow a gasket at New Hampshire, nearly hitting Michael Waltrip and any number of safety crew members. That could have been a major pain for a lot of people. Runner-up was both the spring and fall races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. As great a track as that is, and as hard as Humpy Wheeler and the staff worked to fix what was wrong with it—bumps, mainly—the races were hard to stomach from a competition standpoint.
That’s a small sampling of the Best of 2005 in NASCAR. Once I sleep off some of this turkey, we’ll do more. Now, where did I put that remote?