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Hood: A Long, Awarding Season

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 21 2010

Thankfully the wings got the boot during the 2010 Sprint Cup season. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The longest season in all of sports concludes on today when the checkered flag waves over the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Today, all eyes in the motorsports world will be focused on Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson as they battle for the Sprint Cup trophy.

The champions in NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series have already been crowned.

So in honor of the champs, Brad Keselowski and Todd Bodine, I figured it’d be ok to hand out some hardware of my own as we look back on the 2010 NASCAR season.

The envelopes please…….

The Good Riddance Award: Goes to the Wing. I have yet to meet one person who actually liked the hideous-looking wing that was attached to the rear-deck lids of Sprint Cup cars from 2007 through April of this season. Of all the changes made by NASCAR this year, ditching the wing in favor of a return to the spoiler was easily their best decision.

The Gutsiest Driver Award: To Denny Hamlin. After winning a rain-delayed event at Martinsville in March, Hamlin went under the knife for knee surgery and was back in the car at Phoenix just over a week later. One race later, he wound up in victory lane in Texas. Who says race car drivers aren’t athletes? A simply amazing feat.

The Birdies are Fine in Golf but not in NASCAR Award: To Kyle Busch. One day after dropping the F bomb in front of the media in Texas, Busch proceeded to give a NASCAR official the middle-finger salute as he sat in his car on pit road. Hey Kyle, see that in-car camera to your right? Say cheese, dude. Your wallet just got $25,000 lighter.

The Hulk Hogan Headlock Award: To Jeff Gordon. Hulk Hogan is widely-regarded as a great entertainer with terrible ring technique each time he steps inside the squared circle. So in honor of his unsuccessful attempt to put Jeff Burton in a headlock in Texas, this award is headed Gordon’s way. Eat your vitamins, brother!

The Said Head Award: To Boris Said. The curly-haired Said gave his fan base plenty of reason to cheer following his dramatic last lap Nationwide Series victory in Montreal in August when he edged Max Papis in a photo-finish. Said accomplished the feat with RAB Racing, which has no affiliation with a Sprint Cup team. Who said? Boris Said!

The There Are Still Plenty of Good Seats Still Available Award: This year’s Brickyard 400 was contested in front of more than 100,000 empty seats at Indianapolis Motor Speedway which, according to Wikipedia, boasts a seating capacity of more than 257,000. The track estimated the day’s attendance to be 140,000. It was simply stunning to see so much shining metal from the grandstands that afternoon.

The There’s No Crying in Baseball or NASCAR Award: To Jamie McMurray. One of my favorite Tom Hanks quotes is in the movie “A League of Their Own” when he tells one of his female players it’s not ok to cry in baseball. Jamie McMurray shed tears after winning the Daytona 500. Hell, if my career had nearly bombed and I turned around and won that race, I’d probably cry too. Way to go Jamie Mac!

The Good to See the Black RCR No. 3 Chevrolet Back in Victory Lane Award: To Austin Dillon. It wasn’t in the Sprint Cup Series, but it did do the spirit good to see Richard Childress’ grandson pilot the paint scheme made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt to victory in a NASCAR truck series race in Iowa.

The Best Race from Start-to-Finish of the Year Award: To the spring race in Talladega. There were an incredible 88 lead changes among 29 drivers during 188 laps of racing. It was highlighted by Harvick’s slingshot move around McMurray in the tri-oval on the final lap. And heck, as an added bonus the paying customers were even able to stick around for free afterwards and watch a pretty dang good rain-delayed Nationwide Series race later that afternoon.

The What In The Heck Were They Thinking Award: To Toyota and Michael Waltrip Racing. Ford still regrets the day they let a promising young driver named Jeff Gordon slip out of their camp and jump to Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports in 1992. We’ll likely look back in five years and wonder why Toyota and MWR let Trevor Bayne escape to Ford and Roush Fenway Racing in 2010.

The Best Looking Car of the Year Award: To the new car in the Nationwide Series. They only hit the track five times this season, but Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota’s versions of the Nationwide Series’ new car looks like they rolled right off the show room floor. Each model looks spectacular up close. The new car goes full-time in NASCAR’s junior circuit in 2011.

The Biggest Shock of the Year Award: To the voters who chose the 2011 inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Bud Moore is a very well-respected former NASCAR car owner and decorated veteran. Still, I didn’t think the Spartanburg, S.C. resident would wind up being inducted into NASCAR’s second Hall of Fame class. But that’ll happen next spring for Moore, who fielded cars for many giants in the sport.

The Double Secret Probation Award: To NASCAR. Hamlin and Ryan Newman were tagged with secret fines by NASCAR earlier this year for being critical of the sanctioning body. But NASCAR was the one left with egg on their face after details of the penalties were leaked to the media. Shame on you NASCAR for not being willing to let a competitor call you out over questionable debris cautions.

The Most Disappointing Driver of the Year Award: A tie between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya. I’ll give Montoya a slight edge in this category because he was expected by many to compete for the championship. As for Earnhardt, everyone continues to scratch their head over his inability to run up front.

The Driver of the Year Award: Hamlin, Harvick or Johnson? The accounting firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe is still tabulating the results. But check back with me around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday and we’ll name the winner of this award.

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 21 2010
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