A Look Back At The 2017 NASCAR Season
Here are 43 hot topics from the 2017 NASCAR Season.
The NASCAR season is one of the longest in sports. Starting with Daytona Speedweeks in mid-February, the NASCAR season kicks off with a flurry of events including Daytona Media Day, which culminates with the Daytona 500 or as we NASCAR fans affectionately call it, “Daytona Day.” The NASCAR calendar doesn’t officially end until late November and for many, including the drivers, the season is not completely over until Champion’s Week in early December. The 36-race season is considered more than a grind. From February to December, fans can count on there being more losers than winners and months of drama-filled entertainment.
As I prepare for 2018 Daytona Day, I have thought long and hard about some of the most memorable moments from the past NASCAR season. In honor of those interesting, compelling, and amusing occasions, in no particular order, below are 43 moments that made me and other NASCAR fans say “Wow”—sometimes in awe, other times in absolute shock and disbelief.
1. An Unlikely Busch Wins the Daytona 500
This was a great moment for Kurt Busch, but an even more awesome moment for car owner Tony Stewart who said farewell as a driver the year prior.
2. The Wall Street Journal Article Heard Around NASCAR
The WSJ claims that “NASCAR, once a cultural icon, hits the skids.” The publication went on to state that NASCAR’s decline in popularity is due to ‘economics and demographics,’ and echoed some hard facts about the current state of NASCAR to the dismay of many.
3. 5 Minutes in the Garage
The new rule can be summed up in one word, “DONE!” If a car cannot be fixed on pit road in less than five minutes, the team has to take the car back to the garage. If a car goes back to the garage, the team is likely done for the day, but there is one exception—mechanical or electrical failures that aren't the result of an accident or contact can be corrected and will be exempt from the 5-minute rule.
4. Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3
When NASCAR announced the “race enhancements” for 2017, there was a lot of confusion. NASCAR then introduced segment racing. The length of each stage is determined by the length of the track. Races are now divided into three stages with Stage 1 and Stage 2 rewarding drivers with points who are in the top 10 at the end of each stage. Points are awarded to all drivers that cross the finish line when the checkered flag drops. The winner of Stage 3 is the race winner and has a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.
5. Daniel Is In. Cousin Carl Is Out.
Carl Edwards unexpectedly called it quits, making way for Daniel Suarez to get behind the wheel of the Joe Gibbs No. 19 Toyota Camry for his first season as a full-time Monster Energy Cup driver.
6. Kyle Busch Tried to Punch Joey Logano
This wasn’t a surprising moment, but it did make for must-see TV, especially when Joey Logano’s crew showed Kyle Busch that their driver was not to be messed with. Upset after what Kyle Busch described as being “dumped,” he confronted Logano after the race and emerged bloody after the ensuing brawl.
7. How about that Kyle Larson
NASCAR Nation can’t quite deem Kyle Larson the “Second Place Kid.” Yes, he had several runner-up finishes this season in Cup Series, but he did win. In fact, he won a lot—four times, actually. He also had 15 top 5s, 20 top 10s, and sat on the pole three times this season. Impressive.
8. “Everything is Great” T-Shirts
Leave it to Rowdy to turn a bloody fight with his archenemy into a $30,000+ profit. After Kyle Busch punched Joey Logano, he answered every reporters’ questions a few days later by saying, “Everything is great.” He took his new slogan, pressed it on some t-shirts, sold them for $22 a piece (22 being the number on Logano’s car), and raised money for the Kyle Busch Foundation.
9. Jr. Retires
There's not much you can say about this. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement of his retirement rocked NASCAR Nation. We won’t see him behind the wheel next year but he will be in NBC’s booth offering his analysis of future NASCAR races.
10. He Won Two Races
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won not one, but two races this season. Most would say winning Talladega was luck, but when he won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, it made fans recognize that Stenhouse Jr. may be a force to compete with on restrictor plate tracks.
11. A Fiery Crash
Aric Almirola suffered a fractured vertebra and was airlifted to a hospital after a fiery crash involving Danica Patrick and Joey Logano at Kansas Speedway. Almirola missed a few races while recuperating from his injuries, but was cleared to return to competition at New Hampshire Motor Speedway eight weeks later.
12. No More Overtime
Dale Earnhardt Jr. voiced his opinion about getting rid of the new overtime rule. “I kind of helped come up with that idea, so this is going to be kind of strange, but I think they should get rid of the overtime line at all the racetracks except for Daytona and Talladega,” said Dale Jr.
13. A Failed ‘Pass in the Grass’
The infamous 'Pass in the Grass' involving Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott turned 30 this year and rookie driver Erik Jones attempted to achieve the same feat while trying to pass Chase Elliott at this year’s Monster Energy All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jones failed and, as a result, his car was torn up but NASCAR fans enjoyed the great debate that followed on Twitter over the hashtag #TeamValance, thanks to Dale Earnhardt Jr.
14. Ryan Blaney’s First Cup Win
Wood Brothers Racing finally made its way back into Victory Lane thanks to Ryan Blaney who captured his first Monster Energy Cup win at Pocono in his 68th start. It was the first victory for the Wood Brothers since 2011.
15. Danica “Had a Moment”
A fan looking for an autograph didn’t get the attention he believed he deserved from Danica Patrick. The fan decided to hail Patrick with “boos” and in return, she gave him a few choice words.
16. Kyle Busch vs. Goodyear
Whether he is right or wrong, Kyle Busch has no problems letting you know how he feels. "Obviously, Goodyear tires aren't very good at holding air," Kyle Busch said after crashing in the season opener at Daytona, leading to a fair amount of uproar afterwards.
17. An “Encumbered Victory”
What’s “encumbered?” Joey Logano learned the meaning of the word after NASCAR snatched his victory away. Logano’s team was penalized after NASCAR found an issue with the rear suspension of the No. 22 car. His crew chief was fined $50,000 and 25 driver and owner points were deducted. Logano did not make the playoffs.
18. The “Roval” at Charlotte
Charlotte Motor Speedway revealed the design for its new “roval” course. The 2.4-mile track will have 13 turns and combined elements of a road course as well as the traditional oval track.
19. Kevin Harvick blames Dale Earnhardt Jr.
No one will ever know why Kevin Harvick thought it was okay to call out Dale Jr. for 'stunting' NASCAR's growth on his SiriusXM radio show Happy Hours.
20. Don’t Drop Your Sandwich
You never know what bizarre thing you will witness at a NASCAR race. Case-in-point, Kevin Harvick’s spotter accidentally dropped his sandwich off the spotters’ stand from 13 stories in the air during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s one thing for mayo to drip from your sandwich, but to drop the entire thing—he should know better.
21. Kasey Kahne won a race
In what turned out to be his final season at Hendrick Motorsports, Kasey Kahne finally won a race. His win at Indianapolis broke a 102-race winless drought. Next year, Kahne will be behind the wheel of the No. 95 for Leavine Family Racing.
22. Matt Kenseth Was Forced Out
After Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Erik Jones would be in the driver’s seat of the No. 20 next year, the writing on the wall became clear—Matt Kenseth didn’t have a ride. Sadly, there isn’t a suitable, competitive car available for Kenseth heading into next season, so he is out.
23. Notable Drivers Were Missing
Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards did not race in 2017. Stewart and Gordon retired. Edwards is thought to have retired, although he simply stated that he’s “stepping away” from NASCAR, and Biffle, who didn’t have a ride this season and no announcement for 2018, will more than likely officially retire soon.
24. Watch Out For The Ambulance
NASCAR created an “inexcusable” blunder following a caution at Richmond Raceway. Drivers came down pit road to find a parked ambulance blocking the entrance, creating a pile-up of cars scrambling to avoid a multi-car collision. As a result, Matt Kenseth, the No. 20 Toyota driver, rear-ended Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford. Yes, that happened, and Kenseth almost missed the playoffs because of it.
25. Smithfield Said What?
Smithfield Foods, sponsors of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Ford driven by Aric Almirola since 2012, decided to take their money elsewhere. It originally appeared as if the brand didn’t want to get behind Bubba Wallace, Almirola’s temporary replacement driver while he was recovering from injuries sustained from an accident, but it quickly emerged that there was a war of words between team owner Richard Petty and the company.
26. Just STFU
It is safe to assume Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski will never get along. Keselowski tweeted, “We are all in for a rude awakening. Haven't seen NASCAR let a manufacturer get this far ahead since the '70s.” Kyle Busch responded to Keselowski’s tweet with four letters—STFU. As Kyle Busch once said, “Sometimes you just don't like a guy.”
27. Matt Kenseth Wins
Matt Kenseth drove the No. 20 Toyota into the winner’s circle at the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in what will likely be his final Monster Energy Series season. Ironically, it was his car sponsor, Circle K’s, first year as a primary car sponsor in NASCAR.
28. The National Anthem Protest
Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty and the Richard Childress Racing team owner shared with the world how they really felt about anyone who decided to protest the national anthem. Let’s just say it involved being thrown out the country and a ride on a Greyhound bus.
29. Dale Jr. Disagrees
In response to all the national anthem protest talks, Dale Earnhardt Jr. shared his beliefs in what has become his most powerful tweet since joining Twitter.
30. Who Will Drive The No. 88?
Hendrick Motorsports finally put all speculation to rest when they announced that Alex Bowman would replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next season. Most of NASCAR Nation believed that William Bryon would take the wheel, but it’s Bowman who will get a shot at wheeling the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro to Victory Lane now that Dale Jr. has retired. To shake things up a bit, Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott will now drive his dad’s famed No. 9, William Byron will jump in the seat of the No. 24 previously driven by Jeff Gordon and now being vacated by Chase, and the No. 5 left vacant by Kasey Kahne’s departure will be withdrawn from competition. Veteran driver Jimmie Johnson will still drive the No. 48.
31. The Blue Tent
Everyone wanted to know why NASCAR officials were transporting tires confiscated during the race to what most believed to be a mysterious blue tent instead of the usually on-site Goodyear makeshift facility.
32. Chase and Denny Have Words
With less than 4 laps left in the race at Martinsville, Chase Elliott was in the lead for what most likely could have been his first Cup win before Denny Hamlin made contact with him and crashed him out. After the race, Elliott returned the favor and drove Hamlin into the wall. The two got out their cars and had some words. No one threw a punch, but to most fans, what Hamlin did was worth a punch or two.
33. Fan Goes Crazy
When Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott had their “dust-up” at Martinsville Speedway in October, which ultimately denied Elliott his first Cup Series victory, fans were very upset. Elliott was obviously irritated but handled the situation with Grace; the fans...not so much. One fan actually confronted Hamlin on pit road and shouted at him, expressing just what he thought about the situation. No one ever said that NASCAR fans weren’t passionate.
34. The No. 3 Returns to Victory Lane
Austin Dillon returned the iconic No. 3 back to the winner’s circle after taking the checkered flag at the Coca-Cola 600, one of most grueling races of the NASCAR season on the greatest day of racing.
35. He Won 3
All Mr.7x NASCAR Series Cup Champion Jimmie Jonson does is win. Johnson won three races this season and currently has 83 Cup wins, ranking 6th on the all-time race winners list. Heading into the 2017 season, some people weren’t sure if the veteran driver had anything left. He didn’t capture the title, but he proved he can still win.
36. Brad Keselowski vs. Toyota
All season long, "Bad Brad" Keselowski had something to say about Toyota. “I don’t think anyone ever had a shot this year the second that thing [Toyota] got put on the racetrack and approved,” said Keselowski, among other things.
37. Brian France Speaks
NASCAR’s boss, CEO and Chairman Brian France, discussed the state of NASCAR in October on SiriusXM Radio. When asked about fans who are concerned about the financial future of the sport he said, “I would say look at history. There are always cycles. … Every sport has different cycles where it’s better than it was or less than it should be, whatever it is, that will work out.” He also added, “I wouldn’t worry about that for one minute if I were a fan because it just works itself out.”
38. It’s A Girl
In any other world, having a baby probably wouldn’t be considered as front-page news, but when the most popular driver in NASCAR announces that he and his wife are expecting, NASCAR media covered the story like it was the Super Bowl. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife, Amy, released that they would soon have a child of their own after Junior's final competitive season in the sport.
39. Aric Almirola replaces Danica Patrick in the No. 10
Stewart-Haas Racing did not renew its agreement with Danica Patrick but decided instead that Aric Almirola would be a better fit behind the wheel. And of course, Almirola brought his own sponsor, Smithfield Foods to back him up.
40. Chase Elliott did not win a race
The pressure is on—or maybe it’s not. Chase Elliott went another year without winning his first NASCAR Cup Series race. He ran well during his 2017 campaign, but he just couldn’t cross the finish line first. The 2016 Rookie of the Year and soon to be Most Popular Driver of the Year did make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
41. Danica Patrick Calls It Quits
Bye Felicia—well, Danica. Danica Patrick is done as a full-time NASCAR Cup driver, at least for now. She was faced with not having a ride or sponsor for 2018, so she had no other choice but to call it quits. Patrick claims that she will run the Daytona 500 and Indy 500, but we will see what happens from there on.
42. Call Him The Stage King And The Champ
Martin Truex Jr. dominated the 2017 season. He conquered NASCAR’s newly introduced segment racing by winning more stages than any other driver and he went on to capture the championship. Truex Jr. won eight races including the season finale at Homestead-Miami.
43. Bubba’s Chance
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. finally gets a chance to prove why he deserves a full-time ride in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Wallace will drive the legendary No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2018. When Wallace drove the No. 43 while temporarily filling in for the injured Aric Almirola in June at Pocono Raceway, he became the first African-American to compete in NASCAR’s Cup Series since 2006. As “the black driver” behind the wheel of a Cup car, Wallace is sure to aid NASCAR with their push towards diversity as well as boost viewership by introducing the sport to an entirely new demographic.