Speak Your Mind: The 2011 Season Thus Far

The ladies of Skirts and Scuffs are a diverse group. We all have our own opinions and this is our chance to share them.

This week's Speak Your Mind looks back at the first half of the 2011 season and the "best of" moments.

Best race moment:

Rebecca Kivak: The Daytona 500. Seeing 20-year-old Trevor Bayne cross the finish line in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford was an ending I'll never forget. It was the juxtaposition of the sport's past and future, all wrapped up in one moment. A close second would be the Southern 500 - Regan Smith redeems himself three years after Talladega. I also want to give a shoutout to this year's Talladega race. Even though I like pack racing better than the two-car drafts, I thought that race was exciting throughout and especially at the end - with so many pairs contending for the win, I had to get up out of my seat to watch! The teamwork between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson was incredible.
Genevieve Cadorette: Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Talladega; I love teamwork and watching these two race together was awesome, especially in the end when Dale Jr. pushed Jimmie to victory lane first. I need to remind people Dale Jr. pushed Jimmie to the finish line ... OK, that is talent people and Dale Jr. is showing that he's got talent still stuck somewhere in his firesuit. The fact that all four HMS guys started in the first two rows and to have them finish in the top spots was awesome ... sure, it wasn't a perfect back-to-back 1-2-3-4 finish as it was a start, but it was still a great finish. And Mr. Hendrick's comment that he was happy all four cars came back from Dega in one piece for the first time.
Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 win - a highlight of the year.
Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR

In Nationwide: Danica Patrick finished in 4th, becoming the first woman to do so. In Bristol when she collided with Ryan Truex, she stood up for herself by making her gestures on the track - she's not one to mess with boys. Give her more time and she'll make you work for your win. 

Paula Thompson: My favorite moment of the season so far came at Daytona in February – Trevor Bayne’s win in the 500 brought joy to a weekend that had a dark shadow cast over it, as fans and competitors marked the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death at the track. 

Katy Lindamood: Maybe we should call this the feel good story of the year category. I'm going with David Ragan winning the July race at Daytona. After being black-flagged in the 500 for making a pass too early, Ragan made up for it in a big way in the Coke Zero 400, earning his first career victory in the Cup Series. Honorable mention to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Nationwide Series. Last year Stenhouse was benched for a few races because he wasn't performing up to Roush standards, but in 2011 he's proved himself worthy of the seat with a win and a shot at the points title.

Amanda Ebersole: I am tied between Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 win and Regan Smith's win at Darlington. Both Bayne and Smith were unexpected wins and became Cinderella stories, so they both are at the same level for me.

Worst race:

Rebecca: Quaker State 400 at Kentucky. The track's inaugural Cup race was mired in complete disaster over the traffic catastrophe and shortages at the track, as well as a lackluster race to boot.

Genevieve: I feel for the fans in Kentucky - it was the most anticipated race event of the year and it just ended so badly with all those fans not being able to get in after they were stuck in bad traffic for so long. The Cup cars looked fast in Kentucky and it looked like it could've been a great race to go to until I heard about what happened ... it just put a sour taste in a lot of first-time fans attending the event and that's not what NASCAR is all about. We often say your first race will hook you to the sport for life; unfortunately, many Kentucky fans didn't get that "awe" moment that hooked them for life. 

Katy: Kentucky - Not for the actual racing but the backlash from fans, media and other industry experts. No one will remember Kyle Busch won the race, but they will remember the traffic jam, lack of restrooms, and inadequate parking for years to come. 

Amanda: Is this a contest? Kentucky! Racing was difficult, single groove and little passing, but besides that, the debacle created by the track with the parking left such a black eye on them. For those fans, please do not shy away from NASCAR.

Best rivalry: Lots of choices

Rebecca: Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. With Busch and Harvick, it's a perfect rivalry: both are passionate drivers with fiery tempers and competitive with one another across three series and as team owners. 

Genevieve: Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, need I say more? 

Paula: The best rivalry so far has to be Kyle Busch against Richard Childress Racing – even as Busch won his 100th race at New Hampshire, RCR had to get involved! 

Katy: Kyle Busch vs RCR - It's not just Busch vs. Harvick, but Busch vs. the whole organization from Richard to Joey Coulter. I love this rivalry because I love seeing two drivers who are passionate show it on the track, plus with them competing in all three series the rivalry can bubble up at any point. Honorable mention: Tony Stewart vs. the Field - Stewart made it blatantly obvious that if you block him, you're gonna get punted out of the way.

Amanda: Richard Childress vs. Kyle Busch was the most captivating story in my eyes. We all waited to see if Busch would have a black eye after the garage smackdown and many were disappointed he did not. The shocking part - Childress is an owner and finally had enough!

Best soundbite: A quote that is unforgettable

Rebecca: One is full of joy, the other of defeat. Trevor Bayne saying "Are you kidding me?" after winning the Daytona 500. Also, after losing through tire strategy to Carl Edwards at Las Vegas, nothing could console Tony Stewart - not even having the points lead. After the race, a visibly upset Stewart said, "Second sucks." 

Genevieve: There are a lot of cool quotes but I have to say, what happened in the media center with Bruton Smith at NHMS was quite entertaining. "Is NH South Canada?" will be a question/comment he made that'll stick in my mind for a long time. Also, Dustin Long wrote an article last weekend titled, "Is there a government conspiracy to keep Dale Jr. out of the Chase?" A title he came up with after hearing Dale Jr. say that every damn week they keep changing the tires, "I think the government is getting on 'em about how to build them ..." 

Katy: "Are you kidding me?" - Trevor Bayne

Amanda: I agree that it is Trevor Bayne's in-car audio after winning the Daytona 500. His jubilation was contagious - fan or not, 99 percent of people were celebrating with him. Honorable mention nod: Johnny Sauter's "God Bless America" after being black-flagged at Texas. When asked for comments, he simply replied, "God Bless America," which I commend him for saying, rather then spouting off.

Biggest surprise: The moment that surprised you the most this season, on or off track

Did the women of Skirts and Scuffs consider this moment as surprising?
Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
Rebecca: Thirteen different winners in 19 Cup races. It just goes to show you how competitive the series is and that even the underdogs have a chance to win - this is a good thing. If I had a second choice, it would be our three first-time winners: Bayne, Smith and David Ragan.

Genevieve: Two unpredictable wins: one the youngest driver - and debut driver to the 500 and to win the Daytona 500, in only one of his few Cup races with the pros. To beat them all at their own game was awesome! The second one was Furniture Row's Regan Smith to win Darlington simply because no one expected it, they deserved it.

Paula: The biggest surprise of the season has been the emergence of the independent teams. Bayne, Dave Blaney and Regan Smith have all had impressive seasons while doing a lot with a little.

Katy: Jimmie Johnson gets a Twitter account and people who called him vanilla actually start to like him. They still may not like him on the track, but he's become more of a man and less of an enigma in their mind. 

Amanda: I have to go with Bayne's health scare, being sidelined for weeks and missing out of what was dubbed his Cinderella season. It was not of his own doing, but shocking and surprising that you are at the top of your game one minute, then knocked down the next.

Most shocking moment: the moment that had you saying "What?"

Rebecca: Richard Childress-Kyle Busch altercation. Looking back on it, I still can't believe it happened. Also, Trevor Bayne's season being derailed by a mystery illness he now believes was Lyme disease. To go from the top of the world, winning the Daytona 500, to essentially losing his chance at a Nationwide championship was heartbreaking to see. 

Genevieve: Sprint Cup drivers winning more races in the Nationwide series than the regular Nationwide drivers. Just kidding, I think. 

Katy: Richard Childress banned from the garage after he his altercation with Busch. Who the heck saw that happening in this lifetime? Honorable mention: Paul Menard's first several races of the season. Though his performance has fallen off since then, Menard came out of the gate at RCR like a man on a mission. 

Amanda: Carl Edwards winning the All-Star Race and then destroying the car celebrating. Oops!

Biggest letdown: What has disappointed you this season?

Rebecca: After the season he had last year, I'd have to go with Jamie McMurray. After winning the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and fall Charlotte race in 2010, McMurray has faded into the shadows, sitting in 29th in the points standings with only two top 10s this season. Apart from some standout performances at Martinsville, Darlington and leading a few laps at Loudon, there's little to make me think his season will turn around. 

Genevieve: I'll be honest with you, Dale Jr. leading and in position to win twice this year and Kevin Harvick passing him both times, once in Martinsville and then again at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte because he ran out of gas. It's not Harvick's fault that he was the one to pass Junior twice right before he won, but it was a letdown that it was an unfortunate ending for Dale to lead and lose. Also, at the Coca-Cola 600, Kasey Kahne was in row 1 in the restart for the final lap of the race and he ran out of gas also, that could've been a win for him, one long coming, and I'm sure there were a lot of broken hearts that night. 

Paula: The biggest let-down – but catching up fast – has been the performances of the two Stewart-Haas Racing cars. Both Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman seem to be picking up steam as they head into the second half of the season though, so I’m looking forward to writing about them as the second-half surprises when the season ends! 

Katy: Denny Hamlin - The curse of the second-place Chase finishers continues. Hamlin only has one win in 2011 and has struggled with engine woes and poor finishes. Compared to last season, it's a letdown. 

Amanda: I am going to hear about this answer, but I am saying Dale Earnhardt Jr. Yes, he is making progress, Steve Letarte has proved to be a valuable asset for him, but still something always happens.

Surprise performer: Who is the unexpected standout in your eyes?

Rebecca: This is tough, as there are a lot of worthy candidates. I'm giving this to David Ragan, who scored his first Cup win, is having what could be his best year in Cup and at 13th in points, is looking at a wildcard Chase spot.

Genevieve: David Ragan gets my vote for this one, he raced himself into the All-Star race in the showdown and then wins his first Cup race. In some respects, that is two wins in one season, even though one was not a points race.

Katy: I'm going to the Truck Series for this one and my vote goes to Cole Whitt. Young and new to the series, Cole has contended for the win against Cup regulars on many occasions. 

Amanda: Paul Menard, who many heckled for years about "buying" his ride due to his father's company sponsorship. Since moving to RCR, Menard is definitely a driver to watch for. Honorable mention to the entire NCWTS field of drivers! They provide some of the hardest racing in NASCAR.

Which moments do you think fall under the best and worst halfway through the season? Let us know in the comments below.
Speak Your Mind: The 2011 Season Thus Far Speak Your Mind: The 2011 Season Thus Far Reviewed by Admin on Sunday, July 24, 2011 Rating: 5