In their fourth year of existence, the Bowlesy Awards celebrate the best and worst of NASCAR Racing in 2009, taking one last look before we prepare for the next year of
So, without further ado, here are this year's Bowlesys:
He may not have won a race this year, but Montoya established himself among the sport's elite with a near-flawless start to the playoffs. The only man to score four top-fives in the first four Chase races, Montoya appeared to be a formidable challenger to
With five victories, seven poles, and a second place finish in the Chase, Martin had his best statistical season since 1998. The fact he's doing it at 50 and is routinely beating drivers half his age is the best chapter in a career long ago stamped for the Hall of Fame. In the Cup Series today, nine out of every 10 drivers credit Martin with some of the best career advice they've ever been given. It's hard to find an athlete with that type of respect in any other sport, and his decision to continue racing full-time through 2011 (new sponsor GoDaddy.com comes on board at Daytona) will help keep Hendrick Motorsports the team to beat.
While he may have been an outside contender for the Chase midseason, Vickers and his No. 83 team stepped it up to make the playoffs for the first time in Team Red Bull's three-year existence. In the process, the team won for the first time together at Michigan in August, and had nine straight finishes in the top 12 to close the regular season. The capper was a gritty performance at Richmond in September, in which the team posted its best-ever short track finish by holding off the ace of the bullrings,
Others may have tried to wrest this award away, but when the smoke cleared, Earnhardt's No. 88 remained the biggest pile of wreckage. With just two top fives, five top 10s, and 146 laps led, NASCAR's Most Popular Driver set career lows in virtually every category en route to his 25th place finish in the season standings. While his Hendrick teammates finished 1-2-3, Earnhardt stuck out like a sore thumb, which neither a crew chief change (
Johnson's pure domination of the Chase doesn't leave any other nominees for this category. In winning a record fourth straight championship, the No. 48 team was in a class of its own in the playoffs, with four wins and seven top five finishes. Johnson led over 950 laps in the Chase, which averages out to nearly 100 per race. If not for a Texas wreck, Johnson would have clinched the title a week earlier. Here's the scary thing for the competition: with crew chief
After being outshined by his one-time Nationwide rival,
As mentioned above, Kes had a rough start driving the No. 12 car and finished no better than 25th in three starts. But it won't take long for the Hendrick protégé to use what he has learned to make the Penske program one to watch in 2010. The young driver has already convinced the owner to add dozens of personnel, and his enthusiasm, combined with secrets from his former employer, could prove key to success in 2010.
Between falling attendance, the sport's drug policy and, now, a court case involving his ex-wife, France has been in the line of fire like no other NASCAR commissioner before. Let's put it this way: family-owned sport or no, France has been traveling a rough road the last two years, which would make it difficult for anyone to receive a continued vote of confidence going forward. With
After getting spun out by Keselowski at Phoenix, Hamlin "called his shot," so to speak, by publicly announcing he'd go after his rival at Homestead. That's exactly what he did -- spinning out Keselowski within the first 30 laps and drawing a one-lap penalty for his actions. Afterwards, both drivers made it clear that they're not sending Christmas Cards, leading to a much-needed rivalry on the Cup circuit in 2010.
The latest round of Keselowski-Hamlin feuds started at Dover, when the former dumped the latter in the Nationwide race with 12 laps to go. Hamlin's car was totaled, and once the race was over, he confronted the young driver in what grew into a scuffle between crews. Both drivers refused to apologize in a press conference afterwards, admitting they disliked each other in a rare but valuable display of emotion that the sport needs more of in 2010.
"It's not like we haven't been through harder situations than what we're going through right now. Sure, we're running bad ... but nobody's dead."
"It's just a product of this racing and what NASCAR has put us into with this box and these restrictor plates with these types of cars. Drivers used to be able to respect each other and race around each other.
"The sport is not so vanilla. A lot of people hated it, and I guess those are the ones with 88s tattooed on their arm. Or maybe still 8s. I don't know which."
"[If] every driver in the garage comes up to me and says, 'That guy is a complete whack job,' [it's] not 'everyone is wrong and he's right.'"