Adamson: A bit of good, lots of bad in ‘09 NASCAR season

  • By Scott Adamson Scripps Howard News Service
  • Friday, November 20, 2009 9:51am
  • SportsSports

The 2009 NASCAR season heads for an anticlimactic finish, with Jimmie Johnson needing to simply run around in the middle of the pack on Sunday to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title, and Kyle Busch wrapping up the Nationwide crown by starting his engine on Saturday.

Ron Hornaday, of course, took top honors in the Camping World Truck Series last week.

On the plus side Johnson’s achievement is a monumental one. At the age of 34 he will join Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon with the third most titles in Cup history, and the seven shared by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt are in sight.

He is the best driver with the best team in the sport, and there is no indication that he is about to throttle back.

Mark Martin made things interesting, and proved that age hasn’t slowed him down a bit. He’ll likely have to settle for his fourth runner-up spot in Cup points, but his was clearly the “feel good” story of the season.

For Busch, who will take a Cup title sooner rather than later, he has already established himself as one of the best all-around competitors racing has ever seen, winning big in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series — 61 checkers in all.

But while there were some positive storylines in NASCAR this year, in many ways 2009 was memorable for the wrong reasons.

Weather wreaked havoc with the series, with the season-opening Daytona 500 shortened by rain and the Sprint Cup’s longest event, the Coca-Cola 600, moved to Monday for the first time in 50 years.

It seemed that there were more time trials rained out than contested, making one wonder just how important qualifying is anyway.

Talladega races, formerly two of the best on the circuit, turned into 490 miles of parade laps before being marred by crashes at the end. No matter what officials do to tweak restrictor plate events, they seem to get worse instead of better.

And there is the Jeremy Mayfield situation, which doesn’t look like is going away anytime soon.

First he’s suspended for testing positive for drugs (which he denies using), and then he and NASCAR file dueling lawsuits. Throw in the sideshow of Mayfield’s legal battle with his stepmother and the sport gets some negative publicity it hardly needs.

TV ratings dipped dramatically in 2009, down 15 percent from a year ago. One of the problems could’ve been start times, which were all over the map.

NASCAR has decided to standardize starts in 2010, which should help some. But with the NFL and college football bringing in more and more viewers, the sport will probably continue to play second fiddle to the gridiron during the second half of the Cup season.

There was a time not so long ago when everything NASCAR touched turned to gold. Now, however, it’s struggling to stay relevant.

Here’s hoping next season will showcase less rain, fewer lawsuits and better racing.

Contact Scott Adamson of the Anderson Independent-Mail in Anderson, S.C., at adamsonl(at)

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