Itís all about the in-between. Between Daytona and Homestead, there are 36 points races that determine the ultimate outcome of the season. During those races, there are always drivers and teams that stand out above the rest and there are always those that struggle unexpectedly, and disappoint their team and fans. This week weíre going to focus on some of the standout moments that made this season good.
Welcome back Richard Childress! Itís been too many years since weíve seen the caliber of racing that rapidly became the norm this season from this team. Both Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton had fantastic years, and it was quite refreshing to see both of them have such success.
Burton had one of the best years of his career, achieving his first win in over five years, 7 top five finishes and an impressive 20 top ten finishes. Although Burtonís luck took a turn for the worse at Martinsville, this season showed us all that he has the ability, talent and team to be a contender again 2007.
Harvick is one who has had to overcome his own reputation from the past few years. This year, Harvick has shown us a new level of maturity, and his infectious smile was often seen near the front with his 5 wins, 15 top 5's and 20 top 10 finishes.
Joe Gibbs really knows how to pick them! It was only a few years ago that Gibbs introduced us to a young Tony Stewart, and this year he once again showed us that he knows talent when he sees it. Denny Hamlin not only garnered Rookie of the Year status and made the Chase, but he won 2 races and finished 3rd overall. I think weíve only gotten a glimpse of whatís to come from this talented young driver.
Hats off to Bobby Labonte who has put Petty Enterprises back on the map. Although he wasnít able to take the #43 car to Victory Lane, this team has certainly shown us that they are on the verge of being great again.
It was also great to see Ward Burton back behind the wheel if only for one race. Personally Iím hoping that he gets a full time ride next year. I enjoy watching the seasoned veterans out there as much or maybe more than the rookies.
How a driver behaves on and off the track is something that can earn or lose the respect of the fans. If you are lucky enough to be listening in on the scanner, you can be most amused by the chatter on Dale Earnhardt Jr.ís radio. Showing true class following a disappointing crash on the last lap at Talladega, he didnít throw blame, but merely chalked it up to Ďjust a racing dealí. After the disappointment of not making the Chase in 2005, it was great to see him back in the front vying for wins and showing us all why heís such a favorite.
Both Bobby Hamilton and Benny Parsons have been battling cancer this season, and it is great news to report that they are both doing very well in their battle. Learning about their fight and success has been very heart-warming and encouraging.
Although 2006 wonít go down in the history books as one of the most exciting seasons, overall it was a pretty good year with a lot of great racing, new talent, and the resurrection of careers that we thought were over. The controversies were plenty, but thatís part of what keeps things interesting.
Thank you all for the responses of your favorite moments of the year. I hope that I highlighted some of your favorite good memories of the year. Next week, weíll talk about some of the events that made the bad list. As always, I welcome your thoughts and opinions.
Til next week.....