2009 season highlights

by Monte Dutton

Men, moments and great deeds that will be remembered from NASCAR, circa 2009:

• Jimmie Johnson became the first driver in by Monte Dutton NASCAR history to win four consecutive championships. He broke a tie with Cale Yarborough, who won three straight (1976-’78).

•At age 50, Mark Martin, competing full-time for the first time in threeyears, finished second in the Sprint Cup standings. Martin, who hasnever won a championship, was the runnerup for the fifth time in hiscareer.

• Ron Hornaday Jr. became the first four-time champion in the history (1995-present) of the Camping World Truck Series.

•Kyle Busch won a total of 20 races in NASCAR’s so-called three “majortouring series”: four in Sprint Cup, nine in Nationwide and seven inTruck.

• BradKeselowski pulled an upset at Talladega that required him to tanglewith Carl Edwards on the final straight of the final lap. Edwards’ Fordleft the ground, ripped through the catch fencing and tumbled over andover numerous times. Rules were changed and fencing raised andbolstered for the latter race at the track.

• Joey Logano’s New Hampshire victory made him the youngest driver ever to win at NASCAR’s top level.

• Hendrick Motorsports took the top three spots in the cup standings, with Johnson first, Martin second and Jeff Gordon third.

• Tony Stewart led the regularseason point standings, and both he and Ryan Newman made the Chase in Stewart’s first season as a team owner.

• Matt Kenseth won the season’s first two races but struggled afterward, and like Kyle Busch, failed to make the Chase. Kenseth’s victory in the Daytona 500 was a first for owner Jack Roush.

• The leading race winner of 2008, Carl Edwards, failed to win at the cup level in 2009.

• The sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., had the worst season of his career and was the only Hendrick Motorsports driver who failed to make the Chase.

• NASCAR’s suspension of driver Jeremy Mayfield for alleged substance abuse spilled over into the courts and touched off an unseemly series of lurid allegations from both sides.

• Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, William HG France and William C. France were selected as the first five inductees in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, currently under construction in Charlotte and scheduled to open in May 2010.

• Juan Pablo Montoya, from Bogota, Colombia, qualified for the Chase and blossomed into NASCAR’s first foreign-born star. The most improved driver in the Sprint Cup Series was an Australian, Marcos Ambrose.

Monte Dutton has covered motor sports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at (c) 2009 King Features Syndicate

The defining moment of the 2009 Sprint Cup competition was JimmieJohnson’s fifth-place finish at the Ford 400 race at Homestead inNovember, guaranteeing Johnson his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title.(Getty Images photo)