From The Marbles

  • Vitals: 9th in the points standings. 3 wins, 12 top 5s, 16 top 10s. 2 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Tony Stewart was at his July Daytona best once again, winning for the fourth time in the last eight Coke Zero 400s.

    To do it in 2012, he took advantage of a huge push from Kasey Kahne before Kahne got loose from contact with Jeff Burton and side-draft split apart Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle to take the lead for good on the backstretch before carnage erupted behind him in turn 4.

    It was Smoke's third (and final) win of 2012.

    Moment to forget: Like we've said before, the restrictor plate giveth and it also taketh away. Stewart was at the front of the pack at Talladega in the Chase on the final lap, but this time, instead of being far enough in front of the crash in turns three and four, he was the crash, flipping over after making contact with Michael Waltrip in an attempt to stay in front of both Waltrip and Casey Mears.

    The wrap: How much different would Smoke's 2012 Chase have been

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Tony Stewart
  • Vitals: 1oth in the points standings. 2 wins, 11 top 5s, 18 top 10s. 5 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Yeah, yeah, yeah, there was that whole thing at Phoenix. But we're saving that for Clint Bowyer. Instead, we're going to go with Gordon's surprise win at Pocono after he went from sixth to first in less than a third of a lap.

    As the pack entered turn one, Gordon had Kasey Kahne to his inside and Martin Truex Jr. to his outside. But leader Jimmie Johnson got loose while racing Matt Kenseth and the two made contact and washed up the track. Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle, the drivers immediately behind them, were forced to check up, and that opened the door for Gordon, who was in front by the time that Kenseth spun into Denny Hamlin, causing the yellow flag to fly. Before the race got back going, the skies opened up, and the race was called. Gordon was in victory lane.

    (However Gordon's win was marred by the death of a fan outside of Pocono Raceway after the race. The significant weather

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Jeff Gordon
  • Vitals: 11th in the points standings. 0 wins, 7 top 5s, 19 top 10s. 2 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: At Texas and Kansas, the seventh and eighth races of the Sprint Cup Series season, Martin Truex Jr. led a combined 242 laps. Texas was a sixth place finish and at Kansas, he looked poised to take his first win since at Dover in 2007. However, after hiding behind the clouds all day, the sun appeared over the final laps of the race and Truex faded while Denny Hamlin's car came to life and he took the win. Truex finished second.

    That race was Truex's fifth straight top 10 and through those eight races, he was second in the points standings. While he finished 25th and 28th in the next two races, that stretch showed that Other Junior was going to be a significant player in 2012.

    Moment to forget: Given that a typical Sprint Cup race features more than a handful of start and parkers, it takes a significant early calamity for a team who races for the win to finish last. And at Phoenix, the second

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Martin Truex Jr.
  • Vitals: 12th in the points standings. 1 win, 10 top 5s, 20 top 10s. 0 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Where were you on Sunday, June 17, 2012, the day that Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended his winless streak?

    If you're a tried and true NASCAR fan, you likely remember every moment of that historic and incredible day in NASCAR history. One that saw Earnhardt Jr. lead 95 laps and pull away from Tony Stewart to record his first win in four years and cause many men, women and children to cry tears of joy.

    Moment to forget: Entering Talladega, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in seventh place, 39 points behind the Chase lead. After Talladega, he was 11th, and 51 points back.

    But the standings weren't the issue. During that wild crash on the final lap (one that has seemed to be a staple of these year-end reviews because of the individual circumstances it created for many drivers) Junior suffered his second concussion in weeks. The first was a previously undiagnosed one he suffered while tire testing for Goodyear

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Vitals: 13th in the points standings. 1 win, 13 top 5s, 20 top 10s. 4 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Busch's first and only win of the season came at Richmond in the spring, when he took the lead on pit road during the race's final caution and held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the win.

    Moment to forget: The back-to-back engine failures that Busch suffered at Dover and Pocono on the first two weekends of June. Before Dover, Busch was eighth in the points standings. After Pocono, he was 12th. After those two races, Busch was never able to crack the top 10 in points again.

    The wrap: It seems pretty hard to believe that a driver with 13 top fives and 20 top 10s didn't make the Chase, but that was Busch's season in 2012. Had Brad Keselowski not deftly pulled off a move to separate he and Busch on the final lap at Talladega, Busch might have made the Chase. Had Busch not crashed at the second Pocono race, he might have been in the Chase. It was just one of those years.

    And, fittingly, in a

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Kyle Busch
  • For a brief moment, the 2012-13 offseason was over.

    Sprint Cup Series teams tested the new sixth generation Sprint Cup car Tuesday and Wednesday at Charlotte, and you can check out the comments from champion Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. above.

    The cool temps Wednesday morning meant higher speeds, and Kasey Kahne's fast lap of 193.771 MPH was faster than the existing Charlotte track record. Cup Series testing resumes January 10 at Daytona International Speedway.

  • Vitals: 14th in the points standings. 1 win, 6 top 5s, 14 top 10s. 5 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Ryan Newman, king of the stealth victory. His only win in 2010 came when he held off a race dominating Jeff Gordon after a late two-tire pit stop for track position at Phoenix. And his only win in 2012? Well that was even stealthier.

    Newman was third on the inside line after a late-race caution for David Reutimann, and he made contact with Clint Bowyer's bumper before they dove into turn one. Bowyer was committed to the inside line and had a ton of momentum. Too much, in fact. There was no room for he and Gordon and Jimmie Johnson side-by-side-by-side in Martinsville's tight corners, and the three went around, opening the door for Newman to take the lead and hold on for the win.

    Moment to forget: With three races to go in the race to the Chase, Newman was ahead of both Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch for the final Wild Card Chase berth. But then Newman crashed at Bristol after contact with old

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Ryan Newman
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    Vitals: 15th in the points standings. 0 wins, 3 top 5s, 13 top 10s. 2 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: The year that many thought was Edwards' to seize started off with a flourish when he won the pole for the Daytona 500. Edwards finished that race eighth while his teammates, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, finished first and third respectively. Oh, Daytona, how you reflected the season.

    (Edwards' highest finish in 2012 was fifth. Fifth. How staggering is that?)

    Moment to forget: An apparent miscommunication between Edwards and his spotter that resulted in a restart penalty at Richmond in May.

    Edwards (wrongly) assumed that he was the leader of the race after a caution flag flew in the middle of green flag pit stops. However, Tony Stewart, the driver to his inside was the race leader. Stewart appeared to spin the tires, complicating matters, and Edwards went in the restart zone.

    Edwards was penalized for jumping the restart in a race after leading a race high 206 laps. He finished 10th, but

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Carl Edwards
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    Vitals: 16th in the points standings. 0 wins, 1 top 5, 9 top 10s, 1 DNF.

    Moment to remember: Menard's lone top five of the season came at newly repaved Kansas Speedway, where he finished third, the highest finishing Chaser of the race and led six laps. It was crew chief Slugger Labbe's first race back from a suspension after Menard's car was found to have altered framerails after the August Michigan race. In that race, Menard finished 9th.

    Moment to forget: With one DNF, it seems pretty easy to pinpoint, right? Well, we won't go with it. That DNF came in the fall race at Talladega, when Menard was caught up in that mass of sheetmetal with almost everyone else on the final lap and finished 28th. That was his second lowest finish of the season.

    For the forgettable moments, we'll say both Phoenix races. His worst finish of the season came in the first Phoenix race when he finished 31st and in the second race there he was caught up in that final lap carnage and ended up with Danica

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Paul Menard
  • Vitals: 17th in the points standings. 1 win, 2 top 5s, 12 top 10s. 3 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Logano started and finished first in the spring Pocono race, leading 49 of the race's 160 laps. And he made his pass for the lead on Mark Martin on lap 157 with authority.

    After looking to the inside down the frontstretch, Logano entered turn one on Martin's bumper and made slight contact with Martin's rear. That was enough to move Martin up the track and opened the inside for Logano to shoot through for the lead.

    It was a risky move; had Logano hit Martin harder, it could have sent Martin (and Logano) careening into the fence. Had Logano backed off, he would have lost his momentum and may never have gotten to Martin's bumper again. He had his run, he went for it, and he got it, notching his second career Cup Series win.

    Moment to forget: That win at Pocono put Logano in the thick of Wild Card contention at 14th place in the points standings. He would never be any higher. The following week

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Joey Logano
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    Vitals: 18th in the points standings. 1 win, 3 top 5s, 8 top 10s. 4 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Hey, we have a winner! Being the lowest ranked winner in the points standings isn't much of an honor, but Marcos Ambrose's win was sure fun to watch. Let's watch it again.

    That win was followed by two top five finishes, suddenly making Ambrose a legitimate Chase contender as the Sprint Cup marched towards the final race before the Chase at Richmond.

    Moment to forget: And then things started sputtering from there. In the 12 races since his fifth place finish at Bristol, Ambrose's highest finish was a 12th place at Kansas Speedway. In that stretch, Ambrose had three crew chiefs (Todd Parrott, Mike Ford and Drew Blickensderfer) and finished outside the top 20 six times, including crashing at Talladega and then at Texas after losing a tire.

    The wrap: After Richmond, Ambrose was 15th in the points standings, but was 17th after Chicago and then settled into 18th. He showed enough flashes at non

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Marcos Ambrose
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    Vitals: 19th in the standings. 0 wins, 2 top 5s, 6 top 10s. 2 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Anything that happened at Daytona. In February, Jeff Burton led 24 laps and finished fifth. In July, Burton avoided the final lap melee and finished second to Tony Stewart. So if you're counting at home, that's two top fives. And Burton had two top fives all season.

    Moment to forget: Burton was in the top 10 for a grand total of one week. He fell out at Phoenix after leading seven laps because of an engine failure. He finished 33rd and fell to 12th in the standings. Adios, top 10. Burton hardly knew ye.

    The wrap: 2010 seems like a long time ago for Burton. Since making the Chase (and finishing 12th) that season, he's finished in the top 5 just four times and in the top 10 11 times. And he hasn't been to victory lane since 2008.

    Since Burton last made the Chase, Kevin Harvick has been the only Richard Childress Racing driver to make NASCAR's playoffs. Both years, Burton has been the lowest ranking

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Jeff Burton
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    Vitals: 20th in the points standings. o wins, 1 top 5, 4 top 10s. 3 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: After Richard Petty Motorsports swapped crew chiefs for the final 10 races of the season, Almirola's performance improved after three straight finishes of 26th or worse over the final three races before the Chase.

    During the Chase with Todd Parrott as his crew chief, Almirola finished in the top 20 eight times, including a fourth place effort at Martinsville. That wasn't his best performance, though. However, it's in the next section.

    Moment to forget: Almirola was dominant in the early stages of the fall Kansas race, leading 69 laps. But then he brushed the wall and was plagued by right front tire problems, problems that were his eventual demise when he smashed the outside wall.

    Vitals: Doesn't it seem like Aric Almirola has been around the Cup Series forever? Almirola's been racing in NASCAR's top series since 2007, but has competed in 71 races, just one short of two full seasons. Kind of

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Aric Almirola
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    Vitals: 21st in the points standings. 0 wins, 0 top 5s, 0 top 10s. 3 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: After back-to-back top 10s at Las Vegas and Bristol, Jamie McMurray finished 10th at Pocono, the 14th race of the season. And that was it. For the rest of 2012, McMurray resided in the land of the mid-teens to the mid-20s.

    His best run came at Talladega in the fall, when he led 38 laps, but then this happened while McMurray was running fourth:

    Moment to forget: Before those consecutive top 10 finishes, McMurray's race ended early at the Daytona 500 because of a crash and at Phoenix because of an engine problem and was 36th in the points standings after two races.

    The wrap: McMurray got up to as high as 16th in the standings after the first Talladega race, but fell back to 20th the following race at Darlington and hovered around the edge of the top 20 the rest of the season.

    And surprisingly, it was an improvement from last year. Just two years removed from a three-win season in 2010 that

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Jamie McMurray
  • Vitals: 22nd in the points standings. 0 wins, 0 top 5s, 2 top 10s. 5 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Oh, gee, what could it be?

    Even if Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2012 Sprint Cup Series title, nothing was going to top the jet dryer incident at Daytona in February. Nothing. And Montoya obviously didn't win the championship, so nothing was really a close second either.

    So when it comes to performance on the box score (the blaze was performance art at its finest), the highlight of Montoya's season are the back-to-back poles that he scored at Pocono at Watkins Glen in August. But, as Montoya's 2012 tended to go, they lead us directly into the next section.

    Moment to forget: Those two poles could have been a great launching point for Montoya to grab a win, jump into the top 20 and suddenly be in the discussion for a Chase wild card berth over the final three races of the regular season. But instead, Montoya finished 20th at Pocono and then 33rd at Watkins Glen after issues with his left front

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Juan Pablo Montoya
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    Vitals: 23rd in the points standings. 0 wins, 0 top 5s, 2 top 10s. 2 DNFs

    Moment to remember: Appearing in our Yahoo! Sports rain-delay Daytona chat? Finishing 10th in the voting for the Sprint Cup Series' most popular driver?

    It's a little tough to find a signature moment for Bobby Labonte and his JTG-Daugherty race team in 2012. They were a consistent bunch and had only 2 DNFs all season, but there's really not much to say other than they were consistent at being consistent. Labonte finished in the 20s 20 times in 2012.

    And for a stat that makes you triple-take, Labonte only led one lap the entire season. That was lap 74 of the Brickyard 400.

    Moment to forget: Anything that happened at Kansas. The track's two races were the races that Labonte failed to finish. He lost an engine in the spring race there, completing only 132 laps and in the fall, crashed out of the race.

    The wrap: After piecing together rides in 2010, Labonte has found a consistent home at JTG-Daugherty for the last

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Bobby Labonte
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    Vitals: 24th in the points standings. 0 wins, 1 top 5, 4 top 10s. 4 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: After Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sidelined for two races after suffering a concussion at Talladega, Regan Smith was summoned into the driver's seat of the No. 88 and performed admirably, even though it's not reflected in the final results of his first race replacing Junior.

    Smith finished 38th at Charlotte after blowing an engine just 61 laps into the race, but the following week at Kansas he finished 7th after bobbling on his qualifying lap and qualifying 39th. Not bad for a guy that had parted ways with his team the week before Charlotte.

    (In his final race for Furniture Row Racing before being replaced by Kurt Busch, Smith finished fifth.)

    Moment to forget: Smith underwent a horrid stretch of five races in the summer from Michigan to Loudon where he didn't finish higher than 26th and finished below 30th three times and dropped two places in the points standings.

    The wrap: Smith and Furniture

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Regan Smith
  • Vitals: 25th in the points standings. 0 wins, 1 top 5, 5 top 10s. 6 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: Let's start with the positive, shall we? Busch finished third at Sonoma and was a contender for the win until he suffered a broken trackbar. But yet, he still finished third. It was a testament to Busch's driving ability and why he wasn't rideless for the 2012 season. The dude can wheel a race car.

    Moment to forget: What else can we write about Busch that hasn't been written already? Here are the moments that Busch would like you to forget or believe were taken out of context or blown out of proportion in 2012:

    -- Being confronted by Ryan Newman's gas can man after the race at Darlington. Newman's crew was mad that Busch smoked his tires through their box after both drivers had gone for a spin late in the race.

    -- Threatening a reporter after being asked a question about racing Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide Series race at Dover while being on probation. Busch was subsequently suspended

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Kurt Busch
  • Vitals: 26th in the points standings. 0 wins, 4 top 5s, 10 top 10s. 5 DNFs. (24 races)

    Moment to remember: Sometimes, a driver's moment to remember on the season isn't one to remember because it's a positive one. And for Mark Martin, that's definitely the case.

    Martin qualified on the pole at Michigan (one of four he scored all season) and was the class of the field. However, while leading what would have been his 55th lap of the day on the 65th lap of the race, Martin lost control of his car off of turn four and went skidding through the infield grass.

    What happened next was one of the most replayed moments of the season. Martin's car barreled towards the edge of an opening from the garage to pit road and his car was impaled by the end of one of the walls at the opening just in front of the left rear tire.

    It was a point of impact that could have had far more severe consequences if Martin had hit a few feet closer to the front of the car. Will it lead to new designs in the openings

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Mark Martin
  • Vitals: 29th in the points standings. 0 wins, 0 top 5s, 0 top 10s. 11 DNFs.

    Moment to remember: It's certainly not often that a team that starts and parks on occasion also starts on the pole for a Sprint Cup Series race, but that's what happened for Casey Mears and Germain Racing at Bristol in August. OK, OK, it wasn't a pole the traditional way, but let's not nitpick.

    In the weekend's first practice session, Mears and team ran a quick lap in qualifying trim that held up while most teams were running race setups. Before the scheduled qualifying session, a thunderstorm moved over the track and wiped out qualifying. And with NASCAR's rule that the starting is determined by speed in the first practice if qualifying is rained out, Mears found himself on the pole. He led the first 26 laps of the race before finishing a lap down in 21st.

    Moment to forget: The week after Bristol, Mears qualified 19th at Atlanta, poised to capitalize on the momentum from the previous race. However, his engine

    Read More »from 2012 season in the rear view: Casey Mears