Between a new championship format, a tweaked Generation-6 race car and the biggest wave of rookies to hit the sport in a long time, NASCAR produced a thrilling season in 2014 that provided close finishes, big confrontations and a popular first-time champion in Kevin Harvick.
Here is a list of the best and worst from the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
The Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway turned out to be the best season-ending event NASCAR has promoted in over a decade. As it turns out, the new championship format proved to be a rousing success as the Championship Four all ran nose-to-tail in the closing laps of the race and decided both the trophy and the championship between them.
The Sanctioning Body intended to create a Super Bowl atmosphere and succeeded. Homestead continues to be one of the most underrated stops on the tour and has produced great on-track racing ever since the reconfigured pavement began to age a few years back. Combined, the 2014 season-ending race will be talked about for years to come.
Best of the rest: Daytona 500, Bristol Night Race, Southern 500, Watkins Glen
Four years into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at Kentucky Speedway and three of those races have clearly been the worst overall event of the season. The lone exception has been the 2013 race which is the only one that was ran under the heat of day thanks to a rainout the night before. There is something about the bumpy surface and shape of the bluegrass intermediate track that just lends itself to bad race.
Once again, Kentucky Speedway produced a dud in 2014 with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski taking turns dominating a field that was often separated by seconds. The facility itself is picturesque and the sightlines are amongst the best in the sport but the competition side just isn’t working for the Sprint Cup Series under the status quo.
We didn’t completely know it at the time but there was so much on the line at Texas in the fall for the AAA Texas 500. The championship ultimately may have been won and lost in that race during a series of late restarts that involved names like Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick.
The middle race of the Eliminator Round saw Brad Keselowski make contact with Jeff Gordon on the penultimate restart, cutting the latter’s tire and spinning him out of contention. Meanwhile, Keselowski fought tooth and nail with Johnson, knowing that a victory was the only thing that would likely advance him to the Championship Four.
The results spilled into a pit road scuffle between Gordon, Keselowski and Harvick and the energy at the speedway that night was nothing short of electric.
Best of the rest: Watkins Glen, Richmond (Spring), Daytona 500, Homestead
Few stories in NASCAR seem to transcend the sport and receive national attention. The Tony Stewart incident at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park dirt track in New York — where he struck and killed a rival driver, Kevin Ward Jr. — was one such case. Beat reporters were up over 24 hours and sleeping in the media center as a result of covering the ordeal while all the major news networks, including CNN and FOX News, attended the race in Atlanta where Stewart returned to the track.
Best of the rest: The new Chase format, major fights at Texas and Charlotte.
Brad Keselowski versus Everyone has dominated NASCAR headlines off and own since he made his Sprint Cup debut back in 2009. But the antagonism surrounding the 2012 Sprint Cup champion reached new heights in 2014.
Keselowski maintains a stance that veterans drivers would have him change into a loser and that those changes caused him to miss the Chase last season. He returned to form both on the track and the public light in 2014 and shook of the political landscape of the Sprint Cup Series in the process.
The increased intensity manifested itself in the form of dramatic post-race altercations and fights at both Charlotte and Texas, leading us to our next category…
All related to Keselowski for reasons attributed above —
“He’s just a dipshit. I don’t know how he ever won a championship.” – Jeff Gordon
“It’s tough to win a championship when no one likes you,”
“He tried to flatten all four of my tires. That’s no fly zone. That’s a punk-ass move and he will get what he gets back when I decide to give it back.”
“There are no rules right now.” – Kevin Harvick