Well, folks, another year of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing has come and gone in nine months. Now that the year’s over, it’s time to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly that described the 2016 Sprint Cup Season.
Depending on how you look at it, Jimmie Johnson captured his 7th Sprint Cup championship, tying NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. Including his top 10 points finishes in the Busch Series in 2000 and 2001, the only season that he finished outside of the top 10 is 2014. Chase format aside, those are very impressive statistics.
The Daytona 500, where Denny Hamlin held off Martin Truex Jr. by a fender, and Matt Kenseth, the leader going into turn three on the final lap, ended up finishing in 13th. Not to be ignored, Regan Smith also ended up in 8th place for Tommy Baldwin Racing, ensuring that kids ate free at Golden Corral the next day.
Penske Racing’s restrictor plate domination, with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano taking three of the four plate races.
Kyle Larson scoring his first career victory at Michigan International Speedway, breaking a 99-race winless streak and punching his ticket into the Sprint Cup Chase grid.
Chase Elliott, despite not winning a race, won the pole for the Daytona 500, amassed 10 top 5s and 17 top 10s, finished in the top 10 in points, and also won the Rookie of the Year.
Chris Buescher picking up his first career victory and second ever for Front Row Motorsports in a fog-shortened race at Pocono in August.
Depending on how you look at it, Jimmie Johnson winning his 7th Sprint Cup championship, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. A lot of people feel that Jimmie Johnson isn’t a real champion due to his titles coming in the Chase. With the regular season format, Jimmie would only be a two time champion, in 2009 and 2013.
Tony Stewart retiring from NASCAR after the season. He was one of the last remaining drivers that was unafraid to speak his mind, and drove with fire throughout his career. It will be really sad to see him go, and he definitely will be missed at the track.
Greg Biffle leaving Roush Racing and most likely retiring. I remember watching the Busch Series races where he was dominant week in and week out. It’s too bad he never got that elusive Cup championship to go with his Busch and Truck Series championships.
Brian Scott suddenly retiring to spend time with more family. Even though he didn’t have a lot of good finishes, it seems very sudden for a guy who could have hung around for a while. Nevertheless, I respect his decision and wish all the best for him and his family.
The charter system, instituted in February, a few weeks before the Daytona 500, guarantees that 36 teams will automatically qualify for every race for the next nine years. This system takes out the fifth car that some teams usually will run for up to seven for rookies. I would have liked to have seen Daniel Suarez run a JGR cup car for a race or two, like Chase Elliott did for Hendrick Motorsports last year, but it looks like those days are over. This charter system also prevents smaller teams from attempting to run in the Cup Series, forcing teams and drivers to be “on loan”. There are too many good drivers coming up, and not enough rides.
The caution clock being instituted in the Truck Series. This is ridiculous because it guarantees that there will be no caution-free races ever. It’s only a matter of time before this nonsense makes it to the Xfinity and Cup Series.
Some of the finishes to the races this year. I’m not pointing fingers or blaming any specific teams for their tires going down. But I’m not gonna lie, some of these finishes seem pretty suspicious to myself and the common fan.
Pure Michigan 400: Chase Elliott leads with 13 to go, win in sight, Michael Annett cuts a tire. On the ensuing restart, Chase spins tires, and Kyle Larson wins.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400: Chase Elliott leads with 3 to go, Michael McDowell cuts a tire. On the ensuing restart, Martin Truex Jr. passed Ryan Blaney to win the race.
Can-Am 500: Matt Kenseth was 1 1/2 laps from punching his ticket to the final four, when Michael McDowell cut a tire. On the ensuing restart, Alex Bowman blocked Kyle Busch, inadvertently putting Kenseth in the wall, eliminating him.
Ford EcoBoost 400: Carl Edwards has the dominant car, a yellow comes out for Dylan Lupton “spinning”. On the ensuing restart, Edwards goes to block, and hits the wall, causing a huge wreck, leading to a red flag period. Jimmie Johnson then goes on to win the race and the championship.
All in all, if I had to grade 2016, I would give it a C. I hope that NASCAR, with Monster Energy Drink being a new sponsor, will turn things around for the better.