Alright maybe the decade didn’t end as strong as it started but a lot of things happened in NASCAR. The sport transitioned from the COT to the Gen 6 car. Toyota finally won their first championship. Jimmie Johnson joined the pantheon of “greats.” And we watched a number of stars close out their careers like Jamie McMurray and David Ragan.
Here are the Top 10 moments from the 2010s.
#10 Tony Stewart v. Carl Edwards 2011
Tony Stewart won his third NASCAR Cup Series Championship in 2011 but it wasn’t a walk in the park. Carl Edwards proved to be a worthy adversary. Stewart won 3 of the 4 final races of the season. Edwards finished second in 3 of the 4 final races of the season. Stewart won 5 of the 10 races in the Chase. Carl only won a single race in 2011. Yet, the two were tied for the Championship when the checkered flag fell at Homestead. Stewart was your champ since he had more wins.
It was one of the best championship battles NASCAR has ever had. Stewart fired crew chief Darian Grubb before they went on a tear at the end of the season. You’ve never seen a driver manhandle and power through an ill-handling car as Stewart did in that Chase. Stewart took control of races and powered his way to the front. It was a fascinating battle to watch and one that belongs on this list.
#9 Kyle Busch Wins 2015 Championship
Kyle Busch won his first NASCAR Cup Series Championship after missing the first 11 races of the season. A wreck in the Xfinity Series race at Daytona a day before the Daytona 500 saw Kyle fracture his right leg and left foot. He responded by winning in his fifth race back at one of the toughest tracks on the schedule, Sonoma. He then climbed back into the Top-30 in points to qualify for The Playoffs. The rest is, as they say, history.
#8 Regan Smith Wins The Southern 500
Regan Smith was robbed of his first Cup Series victory at Talladega in 2008. When he wasn’t retained for the 2009 season as DEI and Chip Ganassi Racing merged it appeared Smith’s Cup dreams were over. However, the then upstart Furniture Row Racing team needed a young consistent driver. Regan Smith was their guy. After missing races in 2009, the team ran a complete 2010 season floating around the mid-pack ranks. It was in 2011 though that Smith would help the little team from Denver, Colorado cement their names in the NASCAR history books with a win in the famed Southern 500. Smith stayed out on old tires and held off a charging Carl Edwards for the victory.
#7 Danica Patrick Leads Daytona 500
People are going to hate this pick but history is history. No woman had led a lap in NASCAR history before Danica did it in the Daytona 500.
#6 Watkins Glen 2012 Finish
#5 Tony Stewart Wins At Sonoma In Final Season
Tony Stewart announced that the 2016 season would be his last full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series. The championship-winning driver and team owner spent the final few years of his career battling injuries and off-track issues. A broken leg in 2013 cost him the final 15 races of the season. A broken back in 2016 cost him the first 8 races of the season. And then there was incident at a dirt track in upstate New York.
Much like Kyle Busch though Stewart battled back from injury to win at Sonoma. It would be Stewart’s 49th and final Cup victory and he did it in dramatic fashion.
#4 Jeff Gordon Wins Martinsville In Final Season
Jeff Gordon much like Tony Stewart won in his final season as a full-time driver as well. The 4-time champ needed a win to advance to the Championship 4 race at Homestead and Matt Kenseth helped him get it. Martinsville’s fall race in 2015 was a Hollywood dream. Drama on top of drama as Matt Kenseth took out Joey Logano after the games played by the Penske group. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski tangled. And through it all, Mr. Martinsville himself Jeff Gordon came out the victory. His 9th win at the track, second-most in the modern-era.
#3 Jeff Gordon v. Jimmie Johnson at Atlanta
The best battle of the 2010s.
#2 Kyle Busch Wins #200
In 2019 Kyle Busch won his 200th NASCAR race by winning the Cup race at Fontana. NASCAR fans will debate this until the end of time, are Kyle’s 200 wins as impressive as Richard Petty’s? And the answer is yes, if not more impressive. Kyle did it against stiffer competition (in all three series) than any year Richard was winning races. Regardless there are two members of the 200-win club.
#1 Jimmie Johnson Wins #7
Jimmie Johnson added his name to the history books in 2016 when he won his 7th NASCAR Cup Series Championship. In the finale when it looked like this was going to be Carl Edwards’ year Johnson was handed the gift of a lifetime after Edwards was dumped by Joey Logano on a restart.
Johnson tied Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most titles in NASCAR Cup history. NASCAR fans will debate the merits of Johnson’s titles as well compared to the other two. But no one can dispute Johnson won all 7 of his championships during the most competitive era in NASCAR history.
What was your favorite moment? Let Us know.
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