The NASCAR season is now well under way and while the regular season is still more than a month away, teams and drivers are already looking at the post-season racing plans. One of the many cool things about the sport is that it is so open to interpretation, especially with the different race formats that can be run. There are plenty of examples of one-off events that turned out to be pretty cool and a lot of fun, such as the Starkey Cup series held at the Los Angeles grand opening in May. The format was inspired by German race formats and it was great to see the fans get into the spirit of things and have a lot of fun even if it was just for one night. Even more impressively, considering the grand opening took place in Los Angeles, the weather was perfect and the crowds were massive, totaling close to 50,000 people. This was definitely a memorable event for the entire city and the teams that took part were clearly happy to have had such a positive impact on the community.
The Biggest Surprise By FAR
One of the biggest surprises of the season so far was the win by Juan Pablo Montoya in the penultimate race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The main reason for this was because the Colombian driver was a bit of a wildcard selection; he hadn’t really proved himself all season long and most were tipping him to pull off a shock win at some stage. Instead, he took the fans by surprise when he won the race and with it, the championship. It was an incredibly impressive drive and if it hadn’t been for a few bad breaks, he would have been celebrating a championship victory instead of just the end of the season. Montoya’s win was a major feather in the cap of NASCAR as a whole, given the difficult year that the entire industry had. The win also highlighted how unpredictable the racing can be, how each individual driver’s skills can vary and how one bad break or mistake can completely unravel a driver’s championship bid.
The rivalry between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch has been one of this year’s biggest talking points. It’s safe to say that both drivers hate each other’s guts and will do everything they can to beat each other on race day; the build-up to the championship showdown has been great entertainment for fans. The battle for the lead of the race on many occasions has been so close that it has been difficult to determine who was going to win on any given day. The two men constantly trade the advantage of speed and maneuverability, which makes the races always interesting to watch. One of the best things about this rivalry is that while it certainly comes with its share of tensions, there is also a lot of respect between the drivers as well. This is probably why the two men have never been involved in a serious accident on the track despite the intensity of their battles. They know how professional they have to be at all times and how much damage could result from a single misjudgment.
It’s fair to say that a lot of drivers aren’t exactly happy with how the season has gone so far. One of the biggest disappointments was Martin Truex, Jr.’s failure to take advantage of the opportunity presented to him at the beginning of the year. After winning the Daytona 500, the former 3-time champion had a legitimate shot at winning the championship this year. Instead, he has struggled all season long, often times coming last or near-last in the races. When asked about the season so far, he had this to say:
“I had a chance to win the championship this year. I didn’t take advantage of it, which I’m regretting. You never know when your last championship chance is going to come along. You have to be ready when it does. It is what it is. As for the rest of it, I’m not going to make any excuses. We’ll see how it all turns out in the end.”
More Than Meets The Eye
The name Juan Pablo Montoya always seems to bring up great memories for people. One of the most amazing things about the Colombian driver is that he has become a real American success story. He was raised in an orphanage in Colombia and eventually moved to the US, where he became a naturalized citizen. Not too long after, he began racing motorbikes, going on to win the AMA Superbike Championship in 2000. After retiring from racing, he got into open-wheel cars and went on to become the 2003 IndyCar Series champion. This year, with his newfound wealth and fame, he has purchased a ranch in Argentina and has begun farming organically. It’s incredible to think that someone who started out living in a small house as a kid has become one of the biggest celebrities in NASCAR. The man is certainly an inspiration to all who are looking to pursue their dreams, no matter what they may be.
The 2019 season will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the best in NASCAR history. Aside from the numerous one-off events and memorable nights that can be looked back on with pride, there were also countless positives that we as a whole can take away from this year’s racing. Chief among them being the improved quality of the racing, mostly thanks to the increased number of teams and the introduction of a points system, which encourages more aggressive driving. The new season will also see the return of some fan-favorites, namely Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, who both confirmed their participation earlier this year. Both men are coming off of incredible seasons and it will be interesting to see how their experience and expertise will translate to next year. Even more tantalizing is the fact that many of the sport’s biggest stars, including Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard, are set to return for another season. The new season will also mark the first time that the Brickyard 400 will be held at night, so it will be interesting to see how that changes the dynamic of the event.
The racing industry as a whole saw a downturn this year, with fewer people attending races and fewer teams and drivers participating, especially in the later rounds. That being said, it was still a fairly good year for motorsport and it has surely raised the bar for future seasons. If you’re a fan of NASCAR and you’re unhappy with what happened this year, there are plenty of options for you to become involved in some way. Become a coach or a driver for a team, volunteer at a track and help out with whatever tasks they may have for you or just follow the sport online, where you can get all the information you need to keep up with the latest news and results. Even if you’ve been a long-time fan of the sport, it’s never too late to get involved.