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Archive for Thursday, November 27, 2003

Lasting impressions from other series

Reflecting on most memorable moments, drivers in Busch, truck divisions

November 27, 2003

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The NASCAR Grand National and Truck series produced some exciting moments this season as well as NASCAR's best points races. As the 2003 season wraps up, let's take a look back at some of the best and worst moments the Grand National and Trucks series had to offer.

Grand National

Driver of the Year

There are many possible candidates here, but one driver went about trying to win the championship with reckless abandon, striving to do whatever it took to win races: Bobby Hamilton Jr. The addition of crew chief Harold Holly was an important key to Hamilton Jr.'s four wins in the second half of the season, but somebody still had to drive the car.

Race of the Year

No question. The seemingly endless side-by-side, nose-to-tail battle between Brian Vickers and Shane Hmiel at Indianapolis Raceway Park -- both going for their first win -- was by far the most dramatic race of the season.

Biggest Blunder

NASCAR's creation of the "act of passing" doctrine that prompted the black-flagging of Vickers while he led the Texas race and appeared to be on his way to his first win. The call would come back to haunt NASCAR in the season finale Truck race at Homestead, Fla.

Smartest Move

Ricky Hendrick's hiring of Vickers to replace him in Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 Chevrolets. Vickers, 20, won three races and the Grand National Series championship with the team in his first full season. Vickers now moves to Hendrick's No. 25 Chevrolets as a rookie in the Nextel Cup.

'Welcome Back' Award

The Truck Series race of the year was the season opener at Daytona,
narrowly won by Rick Crawford.

The Truck Series race of the year was the season opener at Daytona, narrowly won by Rick Crawford.

David Green has been in and out of the Grand National Series, but his first full season with Brewco Motorsports almost produced his second series championship and did give him the most wins (three) he has had in one season.

2004 prediction

With Jeff Green's return to the series, David Green back for another season and the addition of talented rookie Kyle Busch, the 2004 title should be wide open. But look for Hamilton Jr. to continue his rise to the top of the standings.

Trucks

Driver of the Year

An untimely wreck derailed his championship hopes, but Brendan Gaughan was clearly the class of the field. He earned six wins, including a second consecutive season sweep of both Texas races, and three poles. Not bad for a driver and team based on the West Coast.

Race of the Year

Not much could beat the season opener at Daytona, which featured a three-wide finish with Rick Crawford coming out with the victory.

Biggest Blunder

Because it made a similar call earlier in the season, NASCAR had to black-flag Ted Musgrave in the season finale for being in the "act of passing" to the left on the last restart, thus denying him his first series championship.

Smartest Move

Roush Racing's hiring of Carl Edwards has to be a no-brainer. He won rookie of the year honors and had three wins and one pole.

'Welcome Back' Award

Bobby Hamilton left Winston Cup and joined the Truck series with his own team. He won twice and finished sixth in points.

2004 prediction

If Gaughan is in the series -- he is being wooed by several Nextel Cup teams -- he will be the favorite. If he is gone, the title chase is wide open.

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