While the checkered flag waved on the 2019 season many weeks ago, the holidays have allowed the editorial team here at NASCAR.com to look back and reflect on our own personal favorite moments that this past season had to offer.
July 13, 2019: Rising above some honorable mentions, Kurt Busch’s victory at Kentucky Speedway in July deserves recognition for a pair of reasons, one being his dynamic battle with his brother, Kyle, in a dazzling two-lap shootout. The second enduring memory came in quick succession, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 crew riding the car to Victory Lane in a celebration reminiscent of an earlier era.
Oct. 6, 2019: Katelyn Larson’s Victory Lane shotgun. The more and more I thought about this, I just couldn’t shake the mental image of Mrs. L downing a tallboy with ease while celebrating her husband’s win at Dover International Speedway in the NASCAR Playoffs. It was everything a NASCAR Victory Lane should be and harkened back to the pomp and circumstance — and straight-up partying — of days past. To then go and top herself by doing it again at the NASCAR Awards just brought it to a whole new, memorable level.
April 13, 2019: In recent years, Martin Truex Jr. had done everything but win on a short track. This was the one blemish on his resume and every year he seemed to get a little closer, but still he was 0-for-80 on short tracks coming into the Richmond Raceway spring race. On this night, Truex was not to be denied holding off foe Joey Logano and friend Clint Bowyer for the victory. Watching Truex keep Logano at bay was especially fun after the duo’s memorable Martinsville Speedway encounter the previous fall that was still fresh in everyone’s minds. Watching Truex exorcise those short-track demons was a long time coming, and he seemed relieved that those questions had been vanquished.
Oct. 10, 2019: My favorite moment of the season was on the virtual track when Zack Novak took the checkered flag to claim the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series title. From the intense-yet-clean racing between Novak and Keegan Leahy on the final lap to the Novak family bursting into Zack’s racing room on live national television to congratulate him, it was an unforgettable series of events and a true display of what esports means.
Nov. 10, 2019: For close to 10 years, Denny Hamlin was best known for coming up short in 2010, when he let Jimmie Johnson come away with the NASCAR Cup Series title. In 2019, Hamlin buried that reputation with a six-win season and a walk-off win at ISM Raceway, giving himself a shot to race Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick for the title. Although a large patch of tape on the nose of the car may have cost him this year, Hamlin’s clutch performance elevated his status from as a guy who lets big moments get away to a big bat who you can count on when you need a run late.
Oct. 6, 2019: Kyle Larson winning at Dover International Speedway during the NASCAR Playoffs was entertaining for multiple reasons. The victory snapped a 75-race winless streak for Larson and also granted him his first-ever Round of 8 berth. It then threw a loop for everybody else in the postseason field, especially reigning Cup champion Joey Logano (missed the green flag) and reigning race winner Chase Elliott (lasted only eight laps), since Larson entered the competition below the cutline and an elimination race was up next. Great chaos. Oh, and Katelyn Larson shotgunning in Victory Lane afterward was legendary.
Nov. 21, 2019: While there are many moments from this season that come to mind, one day in particular sticks out to me more than the rest. Jimmie Johnson’s retirement press day may mean sadness for some because it’s announcing the end of an incredible career, but it also allowed us to appreciate one of the greatest to ever drive a stock car. We sometimes take for granted the talent we witness when we get to see and cover it every weekend, but seven NASCAR championships and 83 wins are feats not to be ignored. It wasn’t the actual announcement or another member of the old guard passing the torch, but the promise that we get one more year to appreciate the talent of the California champ.
June 30, 2019: Alex Bowman’s first career NASCAR Cup Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway really sticks out as a top moment of the 2019 season. The thrill of watching Bowman battle it out with Kyle Larson in the closing laps had you on the edge of your seat. The road to claiming the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver seat after Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement wasn’t easy for the 26-year-old Arizona native, so to see all the hard work finally come to fruition was a cool moment for the sport. The victory was made more special as Bowman’s predecessor was on the NBC Sports broadcast to call his run to the checkered flag.
Aug. 17, 2019: I’m a person who doesn’t like it when players from opposing teams pal around after the game, exchanging jerseys (or phone numbers) or whatever. That’s why I am somewhat surprised that my favorite moment of the 2019 season was when Denny Hamlin apologized for outdueling Matt DiBenedetto to win the Bristol Night Race. It’s your responsibility as a competitor to go all-out for every win, but Hamlin’s feeling of regret in that moment was spot-on and totally understandable. It was just such a good battle down the stretch. As a fan, you wished DiBenedetto would hold on for the win, but you knew Hamlin would eventually get him – and he did with just 11 laps to go.
So, 2020, you have some pretty big shoes to fill.