Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Skirts and Scuffs recounts the best and worst moments of 2011

36 Sprint Cup Series races, 34 Nationwide Series races, and 25 Camping World Truck Series races - Through it all the women of Skirts and Scuffs were there to provide interviews, opinions, recaps, and more. With the 2011 season in the books we wanted to bring you our look back at some of the best and worst moments in our eyes.


Katy Lindamood: Boiling down ten months of racing into three “best” moments wasn't as difficult as it might sound. Sure there were tons of moments that deserve an honorable mention, but for me these three stands out as being the best of the best. First NASCAR announcing the new points system. Did anyone think it could get closer than the 2010 season? Did anyone predict that it would come down to the final race with just three points between first and second? The new points system has forced drivers to race for the win each week and has produced some of the best racing we have seen in years. Kudos to NASCAR for making the right changes.

First time winners and Cinderella stories deserve a place among the best moments of the season, don't ya think? Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, David Ragan, Marcos Ambrose and Paul Menard got their first Cup victories this season and you can't leave out the story of Brad Keselowski who came from a non-competitive season in 2010 to win three races and win a wild card spot in the Chase. Did you see any of that coming? I sure didn't.
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Finally we have to give credit to Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. In his second season with the Roush-Fenway Racing Stenhouse has done a complete 180 compared to a year ago. In 2010 Stenhouse was pulled from his ride for a few races because he wasn't performing up to Roush's standards and that lit a fire in the young driver. Battling for the points lead all season long Stenhouse has proven he's worthy and that he may just be the next driver to watch. The only thing with Stenhouse is ensuring that he's not moved up too quickly, but I think Roush learned his lesson with Ragan.

On a personal note I'd like to thank our readers and team for making 2011 a banner year for Skirts and Scuffs. Without readers we would be nothing. We look forward to many more years covering the greatest sport out there. To the Skirts and Scuffs team you remind me everyday how truly amazing female NASCAR fans are. Thank you for your continued dedication to the cause. To Summer, Rebecca, Unique, Melissa, Lindi, Debbie, Karel, Rosalie, LJ, Genevieve, Kristina, and Genna (miss you!) thank you for representing Skirts and Scuffs proudly at the track. I am truly blessed to have you all.

On the other side of the coin the 2011 season has seen its share of bad moments; whether it be the hard crashes for Brad Keselowski at Road Atlanta or David Ragan and David Reutimann at Watkins Glen or even Jimmie Johnson's hard crash just a few weeks ago at Charlotte. All those aside, for me the worst moments of the season didn't actually occur on the track.

Kentucky Speedway's traffic debacle and parking issues were a PR nightmare leaving many fans with a bad taste in their mouth and swearing never to return to the newest track on the Cup schedule. Few people will remember that Kyle Busch won the inaugural event but we'll be talking about the melee and the line of cars entering the speedway for years to come. Second on my list is the loss of Lucas Oil Raceway from the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series schedules. LOR provided some of the best racing we see all season. The small track in the middle of a field just a few miles from the monstrosity of Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be missed by longtime fans who appreciate short track racing and Ron Hornaday who dominated the track during it's time on the NCWTS schedule.  

Rebecca Kivak: It’s been an incredible season in NASCAR. The season started with a bang - Trevor Bayne’s storybook win at the Daytona 500 - and ended with one, with Tony Stewart’s all-out charge through the field to his third Sprint Cup title. In between we saw moments that inspired us, made history and some that frustrated us and even horrified us. Here are the moments that stand out in my mind as I look back on the season that was.

BEST

Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win. It was the feel-good story of the year – in only his second Sprint Cup start and just a day after turning 20, Bayne won the hearts of NASCAR fans by winning the daddy of all NASCAR races, the Daytona 500. For once, all fans came together to cheer for this young, optimistic and religious young man, who helped bring the sport to a new audience. No one would have thought then that Bayne would miss part of the year due to a mysterious illness that turned out to be lyme disease. As heartbreaking as it was to see this young man’s career temporarily stalled, he conducted himself with such grace and class upon his return. It was inspiring to see Bayne overcome the obstacles to find himself in victory lane yet again – his first Nationwide Series win came at Texas.

The season finale at Homestead. This race exemplifies why we love NASCAR: two title contenders battling their hearts out for the ultimate trophy, the Sprint Cup title. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards gave it everything they had. Stewart was magnificent in his charge throughout the field, overcoming a hole in the grille early on in the race and bad pit stops, and nailed his restarts, which he had struggled with prior to the Chase. Stewart gave the most ferocious performance I’ve ever seen. His only option to win the title was to win the race, and that’s exactly what he did – he wouldn’t settle for anything less. Edwards did everything he could to win the race and the title – he just simply got beat. His speech in defeat was full of grace and class, and he showed himself to be a champion in every way but holding the trophy. (I know a lot of fans may think that Edwards didn’t show class when he wrecked Brad Keselowski at Atlanta and Gateway in 2010 – and no, he didn’t – but his behavior this entire season shows that he learned from those mistakes to become the man we saw at Homestead.)

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Brad Keselowski's inspiring Pocono win. The will to win can be strong, especially when you have an obstacle to overcome. Keselowski earned the nickname of "Ironman" after winning the second Pocono race with a broken ankle after being injured in a vicious crash during testing earlier in the week. It was absolutely thrilling to see him pass Kyle Busch in the final laps - and the victory became all more real when I saw Keselowski hobble into the media center afterward. After that race, Keselowski went on a tear that saw him finish 2nd at Watkins Glen, 3rd at Michigan and win at Bristol - that's four top-3 finishes in a four-week span! It was a true example of excellence under pressure and shows the unquestionable talent this driver possesses. 

Runner-ups: first-time winners, historic moments for women, teamwork during tandem racing and the end of Johnson’s reign. It was incredibly inspiring to see first-time Sprint Cup winners Regan Smith, David Ragan, Paul Menard and Marcos Ambrose find their way to victory lane. The year began on an uplifting note for women in the sport, as Danica Patrick became the highest-finish woman in NASCAR history with a 4th-place finish at Las Vegas in the Nationwide Series, and just a few weeks earlier Jennifer Jo Cobb became the highest-finishing woman in Camping World Truck Series history with a 6th-place finish at Daytona. I’m not a fan of the tandem racing that has become the norm at restrictor-plate tracks, but I had never seen teamwork like that displayed by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the Talladega spring race. Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. were the dynamic duo and showed what teams needed to do to win in this new-fangled style of racing. I was so impressed I devoted a column of Motor Mouth to it (shameless plug!). And this became the year Jimmie Johnson’s reign atop the Sprint Cup Series ended. For the last five years, Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team set the standard at NASCAR’s top level. Eventually the other teams caught up – it was inevitable they would. But Johnson accomplished something never seen in the sport before – and it may never be done again. I am truly grateful to have witnessed the dynasty firsthand.

WORST

Dan Wheldon’s death. It affected the entire motorsports community and reminded us that despite innovations in safety, this is a dangerous sport. Wheldon was one of my favorites in IndyCar; I genuinely enjoyed watching this man race around the track, no matter what team he was racing for. It still is hard to believe that he’s no longer walking this Earth. The first few days after his death were unreal; I can only imagine the grief that his family must have been going through. An unfortunate first for me: his death was the first I’ve seen live in a race, and I will never forget it. I will also never forget his smile, his talent and the happiness he brought to many.

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs 
Kyle Busch retaliates against Ron Hornaday. It was so blatant - I don’t think I’ve ever seen a retaliatory act that blatant. Busch completely disregarded Hornaday’s safety and those around them, and Hornaday paid the price as it ended his championship hopes. For as talented as Busch is – and he is one of the most talented drivers out there – it still makes me angry to see how reckless he can be. Let’s hope that NASCAR’s decision to park him, M&Ms’ decision to temporarily pull sponsorship from the car and whatever talks he had with Joe Gibbs will help this talented driver to control his anger and impulses so he can be the driver we know he’s capable of being.

Kentucky Speedway’s “carmageddon.” It should have a been a highlight of the NASCAR season when Kentucky Speedway held its first Sprint Cup race in July. The track had fought 10 years for a date and appeared that it was prepared to handle one. It wasn’t – it was a catastrophe of epic proportions. Thousands of fans were tied up in traffic and never made it to the race. Many who did after the race had started were turned away because of a lack of parking spots. Those who made it to the track were forced to endure food shortages and not enough bathrooms. It was atrocious - the fans deserved better. Let’s hope the track gets its act together for next year if it hopes to be an annual date on the Sprint Cup calendar.

Amanda Ebersole: Summing up the three series into best and worst moments in an immense challenge, the racing this year overall has been great. So here are my picks for the best and worst moments of the season.

The best moments of 2011 included:

The breakthrough winners as I just recently discussed,  we have had a season full of first time winners. It is great to see new names getting their shot at glory versus one name dominating so many races.

The new points system – Kudos to NASCAR for implanting a new points system and giving us the best Chase is many years! Thank you for adding back the excitement to the Chase.

The 2011 Chase – Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart made it intriguing to the final lap of Homestead. In the years that I have been a fan, that has not happened. Usually the championship is decided long before and Homestead is just a formality. This goes along with the No. 2 best moment – Thank You NASCAR for the new point format and keeping the Chase exciting until the very end!

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
While I hate to point out the worst moments of the season, let’s face it, there were some.

Kentucky’s debacle – This takes top billing as the worst moment of the season. The premise of Kentucky getting a Cup race was hyped for months but the delivery fell flat after fans were turned away due to traffic issues and lack of parking. That was truly a black eye on NASCAR and the track itself.

Deliberate crashes and lack of consistent penalties – Come on NASCAR, where are the defining lines on these wrecks? In the past few weeks we have had the calamity at Martinsville, Kyle Busch crashing Ron Hornaday under CAUTION and Brian Vickers wrecking Matt Kenseth. The penalties need to be consistent; Busch got parked, mainly because of being under caution, but green flag deliberate wrecks are just as dangerous in my opinion.

LJ Cloud: 

THE BEST
1. Watching Tony Stewart make history in epic fashion at Homestead. I asked him at Texas if he thought he could find his way back to Victory Lane at Phoenix and Homestead since he hadn't been there in so long and he said, “Been a while since I won here, but we're here tonight, aren't we?  I don't know how you count us out."

2. Watching my first live race at Texas Motor Speedway, from standing on pit road during the invocation and national anthem to standing behind Marcos Ambrose's pit box at the start-finish line watching Tony Stewart take the checkered flag to getting to ask questions of the top three in the Media Center. I could write a whole piece on just that weekend. Oh wait, I did!

LJ speaks with Kenny - Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
3. Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 for the Wood Brothers in the No. 21 with the classic David Pearson paint scheme. 

While there were plenty of low moments in the 2011 season, I prefer to focus on the positive aspects.

Lacy Keyser:

Worst moment of the season: Final laps of the Coke A Cola 600. I was on feet ready for that win when suddenly...the 88 ran out of gas. Heartbroken I had to breath in a brown paper bag because I was so overly worked up.

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Best moment: Going to my second race, Kansas and seeing my favorite driver finish second and seeing one of my favorite drivers win the race.

Carol D'Agostino: 

Best Moments in 2011
1. On a personal note, in addition to doing my two races at Dover International Speedway this year I went to the Brickyard 400 for the second time. I stayed with a long time friend (not a NASCAR fan, but she went to her first race!) who lives so close to both IMS and Lucas Oil Speedway that we could sit on her patio and her house mate could tell me which track was practicing just by the sound of the engines!

2. Tony Stewart capping off a tremendous Sprint Cup season that provided intriguing and competitive racing from the first to the last race!

3. In a span of less than one week Marcos Ambrose winning his fourth career Nationwide Series race and his first Sprint Cup event.

Worst Moments in 2011
1. Dan Wheldon’s crash and death in the INDY race in Las Vegas.

2. The weird hair pulling incident between Patrick Carpentier’s crew member and Steve Wallace after the Nationwide race in Montreal.

3. Kyle Busch crashing Ron Hornaday in the Texas truck race.

Holly Machuga:
The best of 2011
1) Attending the Truck and Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway in August. I got to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr., and participate in MIS’s fan appreciation programs!
2) Such a tight points race going into Homestead!
3) Seeing first time winners like Regan Smith, Marcos Ambrose, and Paul Menard!
4) Taking on the Pole Reports!

Worst moments of 2011:
1) The death of Dan Wheldon.
2) The Kyle Busch incident at Texas.
3) The Kurt Busch incident with Dr. Jerry Punch.

Melissa Wright: 
This year I feel that I've been most fortunate than the past several seasons while working in the NASCAR industry. I've met countless new people and learned so much more about the sport, not only by being a writer at Skirts and Scuffs, but from going over the wall myself.

In April, I interviewed David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway as a guest writer for the site as he made his Cup debut. That same weekend I stood trackside during invocations with a driver that ended up being a “start and park” for four different teams this year. Little did I know that I would go on to have my own column shortly after that.

Before I knew it, I was on the road with our staff photographer, Debbie Ross heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star race. We call ourselves, “Thelma and Louise.” For the CWTS race that Friday night, I caught up with our lead editor, Rebecca Kivak and we sat in the stands as NASCAR fans together and watched the North Carolina Lottery 200. Then, that Saturday, Dierks Bentley had a concert in the infield in which Mike Calinoff (who was the second person I interviewed for my column) was a special guest – along with his sister, Stephanie. Stephanie and I became friends through Mike months before this but I had never met her in person. I had only purchased a couple pieces of her One-Of-A-Kind Glass Jewelry. During the concert, Debbie, Rebecca her boyfriend and I all got together and afterwards headed to the tweetup. It was there that I had met Genevieve as well! Summer Dryer was in the Media Center and didn't make her way out to meet us on the hill but it was really nice to finally meet a few others from our staff. Who else attended the tweetup? The Calinoff's, Junior Johnson, SB Nation's very own Jeff Gluck and of course, Bob Pockrass. I also had the pleasure of meeting Mary Lou Hamlin. Yes, Denny's mom. Deb was in hysterics. But the fun was just beginning with the crew challenges so Deb and I made our way to pit road. We laughed, a lot! The laughter carried us home late Sunday night when we made it back to Dallas.

Melissa, Genevieve, and Rebecca in Charlotte
It was summer and back to Debbie and I once again at Texas Motor Speedway for the weekend. The CWTS and IICS were in town, Texas style. This was always exciting for me because the speedway was hosting the first Twin 275s. I was excited to be a part of that history as well on the speedway side of things. I toured the garages, took some pics and wrote a couple articles but the biggest memory that I have from that weekend was my last conversation with Dan Wheldon on Sunday after he left the suites. I congratulated him once again for his Indianapolis 500 win and told him, “Thanks again. See you next time honey.” Wheldon turned back and looked at me with his infectious smile and said, “Honey! I like honey!” My colleagues who didn't know Wheldon were just captivated by his smile – his accent. My response, “Oh yeah? I love honey!” Yes, I was smiling beyond out of control to the point of laughter. He went onto to state his appreciation for the hospitality over the weekend and told me he'd see me next time. Little did I know that it would be the last time I'd see that smile or hear that laugh again. Over all, it was a great weekend.

My list could go on and on but, lastly, I guess what disappointed me the most this season would be the actions of Kyle Busch.

Unique Hiram:
Best of 2011
1. The increased presence of  Skirts & Scuffs in the Media Center throughout the season.
2. Tony Stewart's historical win as the 2011 Sprint Cup champion.

Worst of 2011
1. Dan Wheldon's tragic death at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the IndyCar Series.
2. Marco Simoncelli's tragic death at the Malaysian Moto Grand Prix on he day of Dan Wheldon's funeral.
3. The "Boys Have It" taken to a new level by Kyle "Rowdy" Busch when he purposely wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr.

What are your best and worst moments of 2011? Share with us in the comments in below.

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