Editor’s note: Counting down to the season finale Sunday in Miami, Front Row takes you on a tour behind the scenes of ESPN’s NASCAR production on many platforms. Friday, an overview of what’s involved in ESPN’s coverage; Saturday, a look at memorable moments on the circuit this season; Sunday, predictions on which driver, Tony Stewart or Carl Edwards, wins the season’s title.
MIAMI –Trevor Bayne’s stunning victory in the Daytona 500 and Kyle Busch’s meltdown two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway rank as the two most memorable moments in the 2011 NASCAR season, according to reporters who cover the sport for ESPN.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season ends this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway and ESPN will have a live telecast of the Ford 400 starting Sunday, Nov. 20, at 2 p.m. ET. Today, ESPN Front Row continues its behind-the-scenes photo essay of ESPN’s NASCAR coverage.
In a poll, reporters were asked to list their five most memorable moments of the season.
Participants were NASCAR Now host and reporter Mike Massaro and reporters Marty Smith and Shannon Spake; ESPN.com motorsports editors K. Lee Davis and Joe Breeze and writers Terry Blount, Ed Hinton and David Newton; ESPN Radio RaceDay host Pat Patterson; ESPN the Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee; and ESPN race telecast pit reporters Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch.
The Most Memorable Moments of 2011:
1) Trevor Bayne wins the Daytona 500: In the first race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, 20-year-old Bayne, in only his second start in the series, won the sport’s biggest and richest event.
2) Kyle Busch vs. Ron Hornaday at Texas: In a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in February, Kyle Busch deliberately crashed Hornaday into the wall under caution. Busch was “parked” by NASCAR for the rest of the weekend, missing the Sprint Cup race, and had sponsor M&Ms pull its backing for the final two races of the season.
3) Brad Keselowski wins with broken ankle: Only days after breaking his ankle and suffering other injuries in a testing accident at Road Atlanta, Brad Keselowski gutted out a victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.
4) Tony Stewart’s Chase: After saying his race team didn’t even deserve to be in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Stewart has not only won four races but is in position to win the championship in Sunday’s race.
5) Paul Menard’s win at Indy: Menard scored his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track his father had long supported with entries in the Indianapolis 500
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Jeff Gordon’s 85th career win at Atlanta, which moved him into third place on NASCAR’s all-time list … the crash at Charlotte that effectively ended Jimmie Johnson’s five-year reign as NASCAR Sprint Cup champion … finish of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a blown engine as he took the checkered flag … Unprecedented traffic issues surrounding inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway … Jamie McMurray’s emotional return to his hometown of Joplin, Mo., after the devastating tornado … finishes of both races at Talladega … first-time wins by Marcos Ambrose (Watkins Glen), David Ragan (Daytona) and Regan Smith (Darlington) … David Pearson’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction speech … the Greg Biffle/Boris Said confrontation after the Watkins Glen race.