Well, the long marathon of the 2008 NASCAR season has come to a close. As good ole Rusty predicted at the start of the chase, Jimmie's done the unthinkable and won a record tying third consecutive Nextel Cup. He now joins Cale Yarborough as the only driver to ever win three consecutive titles. Now, the sport has changed so much since the mid-70's, that it's hard to draw any real comparisons, but we can take note that none of the greats, not Earnhardt, not Gordon, not Pearson, not even Petty won 3 consecutive titles. Jimmie has. That, my friends, is a dynasty.
So, while Jimmie's down in Miami showering himself in champagne and lug-nuts, let's look back on some highlights and low lights from 2008.
Biggest Surprise: Kyle Busch. Ole shrub shocked the world with the uber-dominance of his race cars during the first 26 races. Once the heat was on, he seemed to pull a Tony Romo and choke up big time, though. I think I even saw his rear tire changer crying in the corner last week; "that's my driver, man, that's my driver." But for the regular season he did seem to be the car to beat every week, and I don't think anyone could have predicted that.
Sad to see ya go: Dale Jarrett. In 2008, DJ climbed out of the racecar and up into the zoo of the broadcast booth. Now, I've seen some cheesy commercials, some of which worked, some didn't. DJ's UPS farewell commercial was pretty sweet, though. What's even sweeter is I really doubt he's gonna Favre-it-up in 2008 and drive for some rink-dink team (sorry Jets fans). Classy guy, Rusty's gonna miss'em.
Biggest Disappointment: Jeff Gordon. Rusty thought Jeff was going to get his fifth title this year. He was hot at the end of 2007. He NEVER, before this year, went win-less in a season. Well, screwed that one. Don't reckon you'll be coming to Rusty for stock tips, either. BUY BUY BUY, boys!
Awesome-ist Race: It's a tie! Budweiser Shoot-Out & Smoke's win at 'Dega. Well, you had to know that Rusty was going to be a homer and pick a Junior moment, right? JR's win at the first race of the year, the non points paying Budweiser Shootout, was not so much a win as a statement. JR's move to Hendrick put a tremendous amount of pressure on the driver of the 88 car. He answered all those questions by coming out and winning the first time in an HMS seat, at Daytona, in prime-time! Smoke's win at 'Dega this fall equals it in awesomeness. Stewart seemed destined to always be a bridesmaid at Talladega, finishing second more times than I can count. In the last race in Alabama as the driver of the 20 car, he finally got that monkey off his back. Yeah, JR got caught up in the big one, but Tony won, and it was awesome!
Biggest Change for 2009: Tony Stewart. Smoke's leaving Joe Gibbs racing in 2009 to form his own team with Rocket Ryan Newman. Tony's been with his crew chief, Tony Zippersomethingorother, from the beginning. They've won 2 titles, and been in the hunt nearly every year. It'll be weird next year not having the two of them together. Kinda like Smokey with no Bandit, Luke with no Bo, or ham with no burger. Smoke, no Zippy. That's a tough ham bone to gnaw on.
Rusty's "throw your remote at the TV" moment: Richmond in May. JR's win-less streak stood at exactly 2 years, and with the same number of laps remaining, the shrub punted JR from the lead. Clint Bowyer won. Just a few days later, Rusty flew to Las Vegas and tried to jump in that big water fountain. Lucky for his fans on the inter-web and his momma, he was talked down by a Michigan fan. If only the Michigan fan would have known what awaited the trombones come fall . . . but I digress.
2008's been quite a season. In just a few short months, we'll be starting to get geared up for Daytona and the beginning of the 2009 season. Till then, y'all have fun with the football, and Rusty will see ya on the other side of Santa.