Frontstretch Staff · Sunday January 8, 2006
Dear guys ‘n’ gals,
It’s that time again! A new year brings with it a chance to start with a clean slate, not only in life but in the NASCAR realm as the 2006 season is now but a month or so away.
But before we open the book on 2006, it’s time to write the final chapters in the 2005 NASCAR season that was. Join us over the next seven days as our Frontstretch Staff gives their take on some of the best and worst moments of the year, as well as the biggest challenges facing the sport as we head into a new season. And here’s the best part: we’ve left space underneath for you to add your own opinions! As always, we’d love to hear your own take on what should be remembered about NASCAR in 2005.
Today’s review tackles the sport’s No. 2 series in both ratings and attendance, the young guns and accomplished veterans of the NASCAR Busch Series. In some ways, the series finished 2005 better off than it had ever been, with Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex, Jr. staging a furious championship battle to the very end. When the smoke cleared at Homestead, it was the even-tempered Truex who won the title, but Bowyer who had gained the respect of his own boss, earning himself a Nextel Cup ride with Richard Childress Racing in 2006.
Like Bowyer, several other “young guns” used the Busch Series as a chance to strut their stuff, with Denny Hamlin and Reed Sorenson among the rookies having impressive enough seasons to land them full-time Nextel Cup rides for this year. Seasoned veterans like Kenny Wallace and David Green, too, made statements they weren’t done yet, with Green winning the final race at Pikes Peak and Wallace nearly winning several times on his way to a Top 10 finish in points.
But as the series heads towards 2006, stormclouds seem to have slowly gathered on the horizon. More Nextel Cup drivers than ever before are driving the full Busch schedule next year in hopes of getting more seat time, pushing out new drivers looking for their chance to make the big time. And the infusion of Nextel Cup satellite teams in the Busch Series has made it harder for the independents to remain competitive in the face of rising sponsorship costs.
So is the glass half-empty or half-full? We polled our Busch experts on a variety of questions and got their take on some of the highlights, lowlights, and challenges that occurred during the 2005 season…
Busch Series Review
Mike Neff, FS Columnist
What was the Best Busch Series Moment of 2005?
I think the best Busch moment was in the very first race of the year at Daytona. Tony Stewart went bonzai through the grass early, but then recovered, ultimately winning his first Busch race. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Tom Bowles, FS Columnist
Who was the Biggest Surprise in the Busch Series in 2005?
The “young guns” always impress, but what surprised me more this year was the performance of Kenny Wallace. Still struggling to get one final chance at Nextel Cup, the youngest of the Wallace brothers put together an impressive season, finishing in the Top 10 in the final points standings and rising to as high as 4th late in the year. He didn’t win, but came close several times, and with the lack of new young drivers entering the series due to the Buschwhackers, has to be considered a title favorite in 2006.
Nikki Krone, FS Editor
What was the Biggest Disappointment in this year’s Busch Series?
Shane Hmiel. He was given a second chance by NASCAR and given a HUGE opportunity by Braun Racing and DEI. And what does he do? He throws it ALL away by getting in trouble once again for drugs. The guy has a lot of talent, but in the end, he just keeps throwing it all away.
Toni Heffelfinger, FS Busch Series Columnist
What is the Biggest Challenge Facing the Busch Series in 2006?
Maintaining a separate Busch Series identity. Races in 2005 featured up to 19 Cup “Buschwhackers” invading the ranks of the regulars. For next year, 6 drivers have already committed to full Busch and Cup seasons, meaning there will never be less than 6 Buschwhackers per race. Some estimates have called for up to 25 Cup invaders in some of the 2006 races. Will the series become simply just an extra Cup practice session?
We’ve talked Cup and Busch, but what about the Trucks? Part VII of our seven-part series on Monday tackles the year that was in that series as our Year in Review comes to a close.
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