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NASCAR 2011: ONE TO REMEMBER
Fri, 25 Nov 2011 12:31 PM EST

NASCAR had one of its most exciting seasons ever this year, starting with newbie Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 in February and ending with one of the most thrilling championship races in series history between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards last weekend at Homestead. Basketball lines

In between, there was conflict, controversy and, most importantly, compelling competition—none more so than Sunday’s season finale, where Stewart grabbed his third NASCAR championship, passing an unbelievable 118 cars to win for the fifth time in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Stewart tied with Edwards in the final points standings— a NASCAR first—and gained the title on the tie-breaker of season wins.

Old and new fans apparently liked the fact that the final race came down to a contest between the two veteran drivers. The television ratings backed it up, with NASCAR enjoying an upswing for the first time in years. Overall, ratings for the entire Chase were up 14.8 percent over last year. Basketball betting lines

The year started with Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 victory. The 20-year-old made headlines by winning with his first start at Daytona. Bayne’s win was an incredible opening to the season and helped break up the two-car tandem racing style that had taken over at Daytona.

As the season progressed, 18 different drivers won Sprint Cup races, including six first-time winners.

There was no lack of controversy throughout the season, either, much of it generated by the Busch brothers.

Kurt Busch made life difficult for everyone around him and the drama extended past the last race – just this week, his crew chief quit the team and Penske Racing officials took the unusual step of issuing a public apology after a fan posted video on the internet of Busch being verbally abusive to a sports reporter at Homestead.

And he’s the good brother.

November was rough for Kyle Busch, who was top seed at the start of the Chase and ended the year ranked last. NASCAR suspended him at Texas for deliberately wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution in the Truck Series race, and he had to fight hard to keep from losing his main sponsor.

NASCAR officials also levied fines against him and seemed to be holding Busch up as the one who finally went too far in settling scores. Then, a week after Busch’s incident, Brian Vickers deliberately wrecked Matt Kenseth at Phoenix—after announcing for weeks that Kenseth had it coming—and NASCAR took no action. Fans have subsequently been questioning the double standard.

At least four major teams will be calling it quits next year due to sponsorship issues. Kenseth has no funding lined up as of yet, and team owner Jack Roush already has begun layoffs.

The most immediate challenge, though, is breaking up the two-car packs before racing resumes again at Daytona in February.

The season finale was so thrilling, and drew a fair share of casual viewers, that NASCAR must rise to the challenge at February’s Daytona 500 with a solid show.


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