Ranting and Raving's Best of 2013 Awards

Drew Hallowell

The staff of Ranting and Raving was blessed to have been able to attend and watch a multitude of races during the 2013 season. The following is our "best of list," containing benchmark happenings from NASCAR, IndyCar, Short Track and Dirt. Happy New Years!

Best livery or paint scheme:

Matt Weaver: The Snowflake 100 paint scheme for Augie Grill may be one of the more majestic looking cars in motorsports history. There's not a lot you can say for it so I posted a picture of it below.

Aaron Creed: Augie Grill’s Snowflake 100 wrap was unlike any other throughout the year.

Alanis King: Augie Grill's Pro Late Model scheme from this year's Snowflake 100 takes the cake. Actually, can Grill be given this award for the next decade? It won't be an easy feat to top that paint scheme, and it probably won't happen any time soon.

A close second to Grill's icey blue Game of Thrones White Walkers car would have to be Kurt Busch's Wonder Bread car from Talladega, which continued his on-track allusion to Ricky Bobby's predicament in Talladega Nights from last year's running of the sponsorless "ME" car.

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Best race:

Weaver: The World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park from August may be the most fun I've ever had at a race track. The 17 lead changes was the high water mark of the season for the Southern Super Series. The event featured numerous spotlight battles between Bubba Pollard, Augie Grill, Daniel Hemric and eventual winner Preston Peltier and served as a reminder why the southern Super Late Model product may be the best in racing right now.

Creed: In an annual event that normally sees an enormous amount of attrition, this year's Winchester 400 went mostly altercation free and still had 14 lead changes among seven drivers despite some lengthy green flag periods. The race came down to two of the sport's brightest starts down the stretch in Erik Jones and Chase Elliott.

King: The best race of 2013, not only for the on-track showing, but for what it did for NASCAR as a whole, has to be the Camping World Truck Series at Eldora Speedway. It not only provided entertainment in a midweek race, but it opened the door for NASCAR to branch out in diversity of its tracks since Eldora was so well received by the fan base. While NASCAR probably won't see the Sprint Cup Series racing on a Wednesday or at a dirt track anytime soon, it certainly isn't a possibility to rule out now that the Trucks have successfully done it.

Best finish:

Weaver: The spring Bristol NASCAR Nationwide finish featured everything a fan would want. A somewhat-villanous Cup veteran in Kyle Busch battled door-to-door with emerging prospect Kyle Larson at the league's premier short track. At the time, it wasn't known just how dominant Busch would be in Nationwide and the fact that Larson came within .023 seconds of topping him is quite remarkable.

Beyond that, who doesn't like a side-by-side and cars bouncing off each other at the line type finish?

Creed: Two number 26s battled door-to-door toward the closing laps of the World Crown 300 before one of the Southeast's finest Bubba Pollard was passed for the lead for good by North Carolina's Preston Peltier. Even more remarkably, it was Peltier's first start in two months after being laid up from a non-racing accident.

King: With .023 seconds separating the top two, the March Nationwide Series race at Bristol was the most captivating finish this season. What was impressive about the finish was not only the time gap -- with the first- and second-place cars bouncing off of each other and crossing the finish line virtually simultaneously -- but the two drivers separated by that gap: Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson.

Busch, a successful Sprint Cup Series driver known for his dominance in Nationwide races, is usually seen battling other Cup stars for wins in the series. Seeing Larson, then a Nationwide rookie making a name for himself and now a full-time Cup driver beginning in 2014, battle for the win with Busch in the final laps was not only enthralling in itself, but refreshing to see due to which drivers were involved.

Most costly mistake:

Weaver: Chase Elliott's misplaced tungsten cost him the biggest Super Late Model victory of the season and tarred him on the eve of what should be his breakout NASCAR season in 2014.

Creed: Did someone say Tungsten? What was a perfect and history making weekend resulted in Chase Elliott’s disqualification from a second career Snowball Derby victory.

King: It wasn't a driver error or a mess up on pit road, it happened in post-race technical inspection: the tungsten weight found in Chase Elliott's winning car from the Snowball Derby, which ended a history-making weekend on a fairly disappointing note for the No. 9 team. The finding of the tungsten -- a more costly weight by about $48/lb. -- rather than lead resulted in a disqualification handed out by technical inspector Ricky Brooks, as well as a new finishing order with Erik Jones declared as the official winner.

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via Speed 51

Biggest controversy:

Weaver: Richmond Spingate set a new low for publicity in regards to NASCAR integrity. While drivers spinning out intentionally to receive an intended result is nothing new, 2014 and the final race to make the Chase was where NASCAR fans decided that enough was enough. Clint Bowyer's spin changed the complexion of the Chase and eventually saw NASCAR introduce the 100 percent rule before the playoffs could even begin.

Creed: Florida Speedweeks saw Stephen Nasse and Kyle Benjamin put together some dominant Super Late Model performances at the New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt. However, they were not in contention for the week-long championship after being disqualified after a one-two finish during the initial night for opposite reasons, Nasse being too heavy on the left side and Benjamin being too light. The next night, Benjamin's team parked before the race started after being sent to the back for failing to "cross the track in time."

In addition, the Tour-Type Modifieds, which were predicted to receive a car count boost following the UNOH Battle at the Beach, turned out to have the opposite effect due to injured cars and drivers.

King: Though it sounds like a broken record where the "controversy" topic is concerned, nothing can challenge the Michael Waltrip Racing fiasco from Richmond. Not only did one points-manipulating move result in an entire team's reputation being put into question, it cost Martin Truex Jr. -- an innocent party -- a Chase spot and his primary sponsor, NAPA.

A controversial spin that intended to help Truex Jr. secure a Chase berth did the exact opposite, and MWR is now a two-car team in 2014 because of the sponsorship loss. Doesn't seem worth it, does it?

Driver of the year:

Weaver: Jimmie Johnson has scored six championships in eight seasons and finished in the top three at least three other times. Johnson is realistically the driver of the decade.

Creed: All Matt Hirschman did was win. The Modified ace won eight out of ten Race of Champions Tour features as well as the championship, and won many special shows including the North South Shootout and Turkey Derby.

King: Can Jimmie Johnson's decade of dominance leave any doubt about his worthiness of this award? Johnson's sixth title in eight years moved him significantly closer to reaching Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. the Sprint Cup Series championship wins column, and the two greats each have seven apiece -- the most all time. Johnson's performance this year posed the question of when, not "if", the driver will reach that milestone and join the ranks of Earnhardt Sr. and Petty, and also proved why Johnson is the driver of the year -- and likely the century.

Story of the year:

Weaver: Silly season took on a new definition of insanity this year across every level. Major seats were swapped in Formula 1 (Ferrari), IndyCar (Ganassi) and NASCAR (RCR, Ganassi) changing the complexion of the entire motorsports community moving forward.

Creed: Frank Kimmel's reemergence as a champion and multi-race winner in ARCA resulted in a dominating tenth title and he surpassed Iggy Katona for sole possession of first place on the all-time win list with 80.

King: It's not a particularly positive story, but IndyCar driver Dario Franchitti's retirement due to injury was the most shocking news pieces to come from this year in racing. The four-time IndyCar champion's career ended after a severe concussion sustained in an October crash in Houston, as Franchitti was told that ending his racing career to prevent higher risk of serious injury in the future was in his best interest, and the driver complied with the expert advice.

Most compelling title fight:

Weaver: The Southern Super Series came down to a pair of popular drivers in Bubba Pollard and Daniel Hemric and one point with Hemric edging the veteran in the final race of the season at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Pollard, Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek stayed in the title mix all season and were the most consistent threats in a very deep talent pool in the tour's first season.

Creed: PASS North had three drivers searching for their first ever series title and were separated by only seven points going into their last race of the season. Cassius Clark, Joey Doiron, and D.J. Shaw all led laps and finished in the top five. Shaw took the win, but came up one point short of fifth place finisher Doiron, and Doiron was four points short of third place finisher and champion Clark.

King: While it didn't seem like it was going to be the best title fight going into the season finale at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville -- a 53-point deficit, to be exact -- the Southern Super Series championship battle ended up being quite a show.

The deciding of the inaugural championship came down to one point in the All-American 400 -- won by the driver who came into the race at a fairly large disadvantage. When Bubba Pollard, the championship leader going into the season finale, was involved in a wreck with Kyle Benjamin late in the race, the door was opened for Daniel Hemric to take the title.

Hemric had to finish in second place or higher in the All-American to be able to win the championship, as finishing third would result in a tiebreaker won by Pollard, and that is exactly what Hemric did. Not only was the race itself captivating, but the tallying and formalizing of the final championship points standings occurred for minutes after the drivers had left their cars, leaving everyone -- competitors and spectators -- waiting to see which driver would become the official Southern Super Series champion.

Best overall tour or league:

Weaver: It should come to no one's surprise that I would pick the Southern Super Series. The start-up Southeastern based Super Late Model tour was the most fun I've ever had in racing. Every single event was competitive with seven different winners crowned in 13 events. The championship was decided by a single point and the tour also contained three of the most prestigious short track events in the Alabama 200, World Crown 300 and All-American 400. The potential for this tour is truly limitless.

Creed: The Spears SRL Southwest Tour is doing many things right in that part of the country. A longtime racing supporter as title sponsor, a unique "frequent flyer" incentive program for ongoing team support, and a successful return of stock car racing to Pikes Peak International Raceway are just the surface for a series that seems to keep improving and launching some top names from the region such as Derek Thorn.

King: The tour that seldom fails to provide entertainment and good racing is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Unlike the Nationwide Series, the Trucks aren't overwhelmed by Sprint Cup Series dominance -- though Cup drivers participate in the series.

NASCAR also has a significant amount of wiggle room with the Trucks, hence the 2013 trip to Eldora Speedway, return to Rockingham Speedway and 2014's planned return to Gateway. What more could anyone ask from a series?

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