Ed Clark: Five surprises that rocked NASCAR in 2012
By RICK MINTER /
Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark, a veteran observer of the NASCAR world and a fairly successful Legends and Thunder Roadster racer with 40 career feature wins to his credit, recently offered his thoughts on the top five surprises of the 2012 NASCAR season.
1. Brad Keselowski Wins Sprint Cup Championship
While Roger Penske’s professional racing operation has been extremely successful in other forms of racing, it had never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship since beginning to compete in the mid-70s. Many expected Brad Keselowski to once again win races in his third year of competition in NASCAR’s premier series, but most were caught off guard by his consistent good finishes and his stellar Chase performance that yielded the team’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
2. Edwards and Stewart Can’t Back Up 2011 Performance
After staging perhaps the best championship duel in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history in 2011, Carl Edwards failed to make the Chase, and Tony Stewart was a non-factor after winning five Chase races in 2011. In non-traditional form, Stewart won two early season races and added one more in July, while Edwards was shut out of victory lane all year.
3. Kenseth and Harvick Switch Teams
After long and successful NASCAR Sprint Cup Series careers with the only teams they have competed with in the series, Matt Kenseth will move from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013, and Kevin Harvick is reported to be leaving Richard Childress Racing to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing beginning with the 2014 campaign. Kenseth had run one race as a substitute driver for Bill Elliott in 1988 before competing in 466 races for the Jack Roush operation. Harvick has driven 430 events for RCR and will finish his career there in 2013.
4. Kyle Busch Held to One 2012 Win
After an extremely successful run of wins, Kyle Busch grabbed only one Sprint Cup Series win in 2012 and failed to make the cut to compete in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship. He also was shut out in the Nationwide and Camping World Trucks Series.
5. Bowyer’s Strong Season with MWR
Many questioned Clint Bowyer’s wisdom when he left the well-established Richard Childress Racing operation after the 2011 season to join Michael Waltrip’s young organization. Even Bowyer admitted his discomfort with the move, but things worked out well as Bowyer took two wins and finished second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. All of this established MWR as a championship-caliber team that should compete for multiple race wins with the sport’s long established team operations in the future.