This season of NASCAR was an interesting one. With allegations, fistfights and a new championship structure, there were constant headlines around the sport and its participants.
This past weekend, Kevin ‘Happy’ Harvick won his first title driving for the Stewart-Haas racing team.
From the start, long-time fans were riveted by the numerous driver changes undergone by the different teams. More than 10 drivers played musical chairs, including the would-be champion, who moved from his sustained position from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas. Thirty-six races were run all over the county, resulting in more than 10,000 miles of racing.
Officials announced that the championship structure was to be modified this year. In order to win the “Chase for the Championship,” one had to accumulate enough points from finishing positions from every race.
What makes this season unique is the more “playoff” aspect of eliminating contenders at each round of competition. For the last handful of races, the number of eligible championship participants narrowed slightly. With four events to go, eight drivers could be in contention, the following race only four could be qualified and so on. This new structure gained lots of popular praise towards the end. It also created additional friction and drama between drivers and teams that would boil over later on in the season.
Drama was not lost this year in NASCAR. The first big hit was the undoubtedly tragic accident involving previous NASCAR champion, Tony Stewart, and a young amateur driver, Kevin Ward Jr., in upstate New York in late August.
During a non-professional race Stewart and Ward rubbed wheels and caused an incident. In a rage, Ward stormed onto the racing surface and stood in the midst of oncoming traffic. Allegedly not seeing the unprotected driver, Stewart hit Ward and killed him immediately.
For the remaining NASCAR season, the investigation of Tony Stewart hung over the sport and many words were said. The police ruled the case an accident and let Stewart free of all charges.
The televised races themselves were extremely volatile as well. Some of the more colorful personalities of the sport literally brawled over on-track disputes. The first real sizable track disturbance happened at race number 31 held at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In the final laps there was more commotion on track than usual with the result of chaos between numerous drivers. After all drivers were out of their cars, a scuffle broke out between normally mild-mannered Matt Kenseth and former champion Brad Keselowski.
The confrontation erupted into a wild and confusing series of events where Kenseth forced Keselowski in a headlock. Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart were also lightly ensnared though did not seem to fully comprehend as to why they were involved.
Only a few races later the madness continued at Texas Motor Speedway. With only a handful of races left in the season, tension was high for one of the series veterans, Jeff Gordon.
A former champion and longtime fan-favorite, Gordon was looking at this season to be one of his last chances to be at the top. During the race, there was an incident involving Gordon and the ever-tenacious Brad Keselowski resulting in Gordon not finishing high enough to make it to the next championship determining round of races.
Infuriated, Gordon sped into the infield after the race and proceeded to start of the biggest melees in NASCAR history. Multiple teams were found brawling and had to broken apart. Fines were readily handed out.
Even though the excitement on the track was high, what really cranked up the volume on this NASCAR season occurred outside the races themselves. This chemistry between the teams created additional agitation that got these drivers on edge and had fans talking across the nation. With the new champion enjoying his reign, this winter will be a long one humming with the anticipation for the 2015 race season.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Cora Veltman at firstname.lastname@example.org.