Jimmie Johnson made NASCAR history by becoming the first driver to win four consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships.
Courtesy: NASCAR Media Relations
There certainly were some outstanding performances – both from a driving and racing standpoint – that took place during the recently completed 2009 NASCAR season. The following is a look back at some of those standout performers and memorable races, as selected from discussions with the national series directors, competition department and NASCAR PR managers.
Top Drivers (in alphabetical order)
Raybestos Rookie of the Year
Top Team Owner
Top Breakthrough Performers (in alphabetical order)
Comeback Driver of the Year
Top Races of the Year (in chronological order)
Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway (March 29) – An aggressive pass of Denny Hamlin on Lap 485 gave Jimmie Johnson the lead and he pulled away to beat Hamlin by .774 seconds and claim his 41st career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory and his fifth in the past six races at Martinsville. It also gave Hendrick Motorsports its 18th win at the .526-mile short track, exactly 25 years after its first series victory at this same track. Hamlin, who led a race-high 296 laps, had grabbed the lead from Johnson with a bold move to the inside on a Lap 456 restart. Entering Turn 3 on Lap 485, Johnson nosed beneath Hamlin, who in turn, squeezed Johnson to the inside, which forced him to bounce off the curb. Johnson then slid up the track, there was contact between the two lead cars and Johnson passed for the lead.
Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway (April 26) – In a typical wild and wooly Talladega finish, Brad Keselowski was a surprise winner, laying claim to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory. With Carl Edwards’ car flying hard into the catch fence behind him, Keselowski crossed the finish line just .175 seconds ahead of his mentor, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Driving the No. 09 Chevrolet for car owner James Finch, Keselowski moved to the inside when Edwards went high to block him in the final 400 yards of the 188-lap race. Edwards slid back down the track in another attempt to block, but Keselowski was already inside his left-rear quarter panel and his move to victory was on.
Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (May 16) – It was the 25th running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the evening’s action on the race track delivered an exciting 100 laps of fierce competition for the fans. Tony Stewart passed Matt Kenseth through Turn 2 on Lap 99 to capture his first all-star race win and his first trip to Victory Lane as a driver-owner. Stewart only led the final two laps, but that was all he needed. The race was divided up into four segments: 50 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps, and a go-for-broke 10-lap shootout at the end. The fans loved the format and so did the drivers.
Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway (May 31) – Restarting eighth on Lap 374 of 400, Jimmie Johnson atoned for a slow pit stop and charged through the field to run down Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart and win his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover. Johnson, who led a race-high 298 laps, cleared Stewart for the lead through Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 398 and pulled away to finish .861 seconds ahead of Stewart. Having taken two tires to Johnson’s four during the final pit stops for both teams, Stewart repeatedly ran high through the corners to try to block Johnson’s line. But, Johnson finally found room to the outside through Turns 1 and 2 and completed the winning pass through the final two corners.
Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway (June 21) – Kasey Kahne held off road-course ace Tony Stewart through a succession of four late-race double-file restarts to post his first win at a road course and get Richard Petty Motorsports back into Victory Lane – the organization’s first win since 1999. After Kahne took the lead from Scott Speed on Lap 80, he stayed out in front the rest of the way. Stewart’s attempts to pressure Kahne into a mistake failed to materialize. Marcos Ambrose made things interesting, by charging up through the field after starting from the rear because of an engine change to eventually finish third.
Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway (July 4) – With Kyle Busch slamming the frontstretch wall after an unsuccessful attempt to block, Tony Stewart posted his second victory of the season and his third win at the mid-summer Daytona race. With a push from teammate Denny Hamlin, Busch had taken the lead approaching the white flag and held it through Turn 4 of the final lap. But Stewart drove his No. 14 Chevrolet to the left rear of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota off the corner, forcing Busch to the bottom of the track to maintain control of his car. Stewart then moved high and as Busch slid back up to block, contact with Stewart’s car turned Busch’s car into the wall and ingnited a dramatic multi-car wreck near the finish line.
Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Sept. 20) – In the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Mark Martin held off a ferocious charge by Juan Pablo Montoya on a restart with three laps left to win for the first time at New Hampshire. Martin’s team relied on shrewd pit strategy to help pull off the win. Under caution on Lap 194 of 300, crew chief Alan Gustafson opted to leave Martin on the track with a small group of cars that did not pit. On Lap 204, Martin passed Kurt Busch for the lead and held the top spot until he pitted on Lap 243, earlier than any other car. Martin regained the lead on Lap 272 and held it for the remainder of the race, despite a flurry of late cautions that resulted in three harrowing double-file restarts in the final 20 laps.