NASCAR’s Sprint Cup season in review – Charlotte Observer

Superlatives for the 2015 NASCAR Cup season:

Driver of the year

Kyle Busch: Look at it this way. Busch essentially gave the rest of the Cup field an 11-race head start – and won the championship anyway. After being injured in an Xfinity race at Daytona, he roared into the Chase on the strength of a four-victories-in-five races stretch over the summer. Then, when Busch needed it the most, he won at Homestead to clinch his first title.

Race of the year

Sonoma: Kyle Busch, racing on a physically challenging road course and having to cope with a sore leg and foot, held off his brother Kurt to win in Napa Valley. It was Kyle’s first victory after coming back from his Daytona injuries. Kurt, who finished .532 seconds behind his little brother, said (all in fun), “I just wish I could have one more lap to get to his bumper, but I think he didn’t want to see an extra lap.”

Car of the year

Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevy: There was more power, on a week-to-week basis, under Harvick’s hood than anywhere in the Cup garage. Not only did Harvick win three times, but he also finished second 10 times and had a chance at the title at Homestead.

Team of the year

Furniture Row Racing: It was amazing what this one-car team, based in Denver, Colo., far from NASCAR’s epicenter, was able to accomplish. But with Martin Truex Jr. at the wheel, the team not only made the Chase, but was one of the final four at Homestead.

Story of the year (on track)

Jeff Gordon’s retirement: Gordon’s final season was rolling along in a nice, sentimentally satisfying kind of way. Then Martinsville happened. His victory there clinched a spot at Homestead for Gordon and all of a sudden, the prospect of a fifth title in his final try became a real possibility. He couldn’t quite pull it off, but it made the final month of the season all the more compelling.

Story of the year (off track)

Low downforce decision: Hoping to find a way to increase competition and passing, NASCAR experimented with a few aerodynamic packages during the season. A high downforce package was used at Michigan and Indianapolis to decidedly negative reviews. The low downforce setup – tried at Kentucky and Darlington – produced the kind of racing drivers, and fans, are looking for and will be used in 2016 at non-restrictor plate tracks.

Wreck of the year (unintentional)

Austin Dillon, Daytona: Rain had already delayed Daytona’s summer night race until the early morning hours, so there was a sense of relief when Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag. That quickly turned to horror and concern when Dillon’s Chevy went airborne and spun into the catch fence along the front stretch. After the demolished car rolled to a halt, it was hit by Brad Keselowski’s Ford. After a few anxious minutes, Dillon emerged from the car with just a few bumps and bruises.

Wreck of the year (intentional)

Matt Kenseth-Joey Logano, Martinsville: Kenseth wasn’t pleased with Joey Logano after Logano spun race-leader Kenseth during Kansas’ Chase race. So Kenseth took his revenge a few weeks later at Martinsville. Despite being nine laps down and out of the Chase, he wrecked leader Logano, effectively ending Logano’s Chase chances, as well.

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