Congratulations to NASCAR’s newly crowned champions. The Camping World Truck finale at Homestead was saw Matt Crafton assume the title as soon as the engines fired, since nobody else could score enough points in the race to beat him. The Nationwide season-ender was spoiled in my opinion by a lengthy caution period late in the race that denied Sam Hornish the opportunity to improve his points position. NASCAR should have thrown the red flag as they have done in the past, to ensure a competitive finish. In all likelihood Austin Dillon still would have come out on top, but the fans deserved better.
The final race of the Chase in the Sprint Cup series had all the earmarks of a well-planned and executed military campaign on the part of Jimmie Johnson’s team, with General Chad Knaus directing the battle.
Matt Kenseth’s squad put up a valiant fight, going for the win and all the points they could muster. When the two collided on a restart, that could have been the end for both of them, which would have put Kevin Harvick in charge. But some masterful driving by both contenders saved the day. And congratulations to Denny Hamlin on ending an absolutely dismal season on a high note. His win at Homestead extended his streak of at least one Cup victory in eight seasons, although he left it a tad late this year.
I loved Chad Knaus’s remark on the radio as Jimmie took his victory lap. Knaus said, “Take a drink from that water bottle, because that’s the last healthy thing you’re going to drink tonight.”
And in fact Jimmie remarked about feeling a bit under the weather in an interview on one of the Sirius NASCAR radio shows the next morning. But those guys deserved to party hearty after scoring their sixth Cup championship. Johnson is now only one title behind Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, and scored his sixth championship in only his 12th year in the series.
That’s three years ahead of schedule compared with those two legends of the sport. Johnson may well go on to match, and even surpass them in the number of championships, although it is highly unlikely that he or anyone else will ever match Petty’s 200 race wins.
Sadly, we will be saying goodbye to several mainstays of the Sprint Cup series.
Kenny Schrader and Mark Martin have both announced their retirement along with former champion Bobby Labonte. And Jeff Burton is without a ride and will probably not be back. And the crew chief shuffle has begun as well. As soon as all the new alignments have been finalized, I’ll list them here.
So that leaves only this weekend’s Formula One finale in Brazil to finish out the 2013 major racing season.
With both the driver’s and constructor’s championships locked up by Red Bull, the major point of interest is to see if Sebastian Vettel can add another record to his impressive young career.
If Vettel wins in Brazil, it will be nine victories in a row, tying the record set by Alberto Ascari 60 years ago. Ascari’s nine consecutive victories included the end of the 1952 season and the beginning of the 1953 season. So for Vettel to accomplish the feat in a single season will be a record.
The only other unknown is second place in the constructor’s standings, as Mercedes leads Ferrari by 15 points, 348 to 333. And if both of those teams finish out of the points, there is a remote possibility that Lotus could leapfrog to second.
Next week I plan to review the 2013 racing season’s good, bad, and ugly. I’m accepting nominations.