Highlight Reel: Top Five Most Shocking Moments of 2012

Right now, one of two things are happening right now. You could be in denial that the season is over . . .

. . . Or you forgot until I mentioned it, and you’re mad at me. Either way, I’m sorry.

Trust me, I’m upset as well. Yet, with all things, my motto stands true. Don’t be sad because it’s over, smile because it happened. There are certainly many moments from this season that are worth revisiting in your mind when you’re stuck in traffic or bored at your desk job.

But, which moments were the most surprising, causing slacked jaws and incredulous laughter? Here are the top five:
5. Danica vs. The Shoe

Some things can’t be made up. What happened during the Nationwide series’ final race at Montreal is one of them.

Danica Patrick had a great car that day. She was using her past IndyCar experience to curve with the turns like a pro. It was a day where I remember saying to myself, “She’s got a good handle on these road courses. Huh.” Previously, she had been running sixth at Road America when she got punted on the last lap. This was a taste of redemption and control.

That is, until the demonic Nike got in her way.

Some sorry excuse for a fan threw a shoe on the track, and it landed right in front of Danica. She ran right over the footwear.

Really? Really. What are the odds of THAT?

She had a few issues later and went five laps down, which is terrible to see, although the troubles later might have been unrelated to the shoe.

Either way, her day was ruined. I doubt her confidence was untarnished, too.

So, to the ‘fan’ who threw the shoe: you suck.

4. Tony Stewart’s Helmet Throw

It all started with that Bristol fever; the common flare that flashes through a driver when they roll onto the short track’s surface can make harsh emotions spill over. That’s one of the reasons we love that track. The other is because of hard, throwback racing. Leaning on each other, old-school dueling.

When Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth battled for the lead, it included sparks and impressing donuts on sheet metal. Tony felt like he had been done wrong, so he hammered into Kenseth’s machine, sending them both into the inside wall.

The crowd erupted as the #17 made it down pit road for repairs, and three-time champ Stewart climbed out, fuming. Bypassing the ambulance, Tony stalked toward Matt, who was coming down the road, helmet in hand.

Then, in a burst of anger, Stewart used both hands to launch his helmet at Kenseth’s car, the projectile bouncing off the hood and cracking the windshield.

It may have been a short moment, but it rocked. I could barely contain myself, and it wasn’t that much of a deal.

The sudden emotion was energizing, exactly the shot of life needed. That’s what made it memorable.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sits Out Two Races

People who don’t even watch NASCAR know it because of Junior’s popularity and his last name. So, when he announced he wasn’t racing for two weeks due to a concussion, the world quivered on its axis.

If I remember correctly, one of the previous drivers to publicly announce a concussion diagnosis was Ricky Craven, who suffered from post-concussion syndrome. Yet, Dale Jr. is the sport’s most notable figure. So large, so untouchable. To let that normalcy and weakness slip through is difficult to grasp as a fan.

They’re human, too. Humans take precautions. Recoil when the trusted hand swats them.

I don’t blame Mr. Hendrick and Dr. Petty, Junior’s doctor, for directing him to sitting out. It was just a jolt.

When a huge name is injured, people take notice. The fans took notice.

Even if it was only two weeks, that hiatus was a reminder that these drivers put themselves in jeopardy for our entertainment. We should never take their risks for granted.

2. Phoenix Brawl

Oh, how I love a good confrontation after a wreck. It’s something I admire about the sport and long for when I look back to the Glory Days. Luckily, we received a spoonful of that near the end of the season.

Long story short, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer were racing hard, and Gordon ended up in the wall. The drivers pointed their fingers at each other, of course. The four-time champ waited for Bowyer to come around, and he rammed into him. That raised a red flag in NASCAR’s subconscious, and they called him to the hauler.

While Jeff was getting ready to go talk with the head honchos, Bowyer’s crew ganged up and jumped him from behind. Gordon escaped to his own transporter, but his crew stood on his place, and a HUGE fight ensued.

It looked like a mob scene. The best part was when Clint saw the fight and wanted a piece of Jeff instantly. He shot out like a bullet, making the sprint from pit road to the front of Jeff’s carrier in record time, only to be stopped by officers.

When the po-po show up, you know this is serious.

So serious that it was mentioned on The Today Show, Good Morning America, HLN, and everywhere else on TV. Some publicity (though probably not for the best of reasons)!

That fight proved that there’s still an edge! Let the drivers duke it out! Besides, it was great promotion for 5-Hour Energy: the product will help you mow through a gigantic crowd and ALMOST beat your enemy to a pulp!

1. Starting the Season with a BANG!

Juan Pablo Montoya is regarded as an on-track hazard by many fans. Put him up against a jet dryer, and fire in the hole!

Something broke in Montoya’s car after a pit stop, and the car swung right, sending him into the jet dryer. His car was demolished, and gasoline flowed onto the track, igniting and setting the surface on fire.

This resulted in a LONG red flag. Like, two hours long. NASCAR and Monday primetime have such an explosive chemistry, eh? The race finally ended after one in the morning, a historical event in many ways.

It was a great opportunity for Tide to get some exposure and material for their next commercial. “Use Tide! If it’ll soak up fuel from Daytona’s crevasses, imagine what it can do for your clothes!”

Poor Montoya. Although he -thankfully- walked away, he will be known for this incident for a while. Probably the rest of his career.

But that’s no big deal, Juan, because you’re a firework, baby.

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