The Writer’s Roundtable is the weekly column to where our writers discuss one of the trending topics right now in the sport.
When any season is always complete, there’s always time where you can reflect and find certain things that surprised you more than others. Whether it’s a single race, or an overall experience at a track, they become something you will carry with you forever.
This week gave our writer’s a chance to share their most memorable moment of 2021.
Mitchell Breuer: I’m going to go two ways with this answer. First, I’m going to go with the fall Cup Series race at Martinsville. I don’t know who decided that needed to be the cutoff race for the playoffs, but they deserve a yearly raise just for that decision.
I mean, every, single, year, that race proves to be one of the best of the season and that didn’t change this season. You had the drama of everything going with the cutoff, PLUS, the unpredictability of Alex Bowman forcing his way by Denny Hamlin to get the win. Throw in everything that happened post-race and it is just everything you could ever want from a race.
On a personal note, my favorite race that I actually got to cover this season was the ARCA Menards Series race at Elko. I think that ARCA in general didn’t get enough love this season, especially the National series and this race showed why it deserved more credit. Fans have longed for more short track racing, and I think any of those fans that would’ve watched this race would’ve loved it.
Ty Gibbs lead most of the race but it wasn’t just about him. The entire race was short track racing to its finest with the cherry on top being Corey Heim’s bump and run to win the race and continue the ongoing rivalry between him and Gibbs.
Cole Cusumano: I’ll be honest, given all of the historical and memorable occurrences between all three NASCAR National Series in 2021, I thought this question would be nearly impossible to answer, but one moment popped in my head almost instantaneously: Daniel Hemric’s championship performance at Phoenix Raceway.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series has been heralded as arguably the most entertaining form of racing across the sport and the season finale at Phoenix put a fitting exclamation point on that statement for 2021. Everyone knows Hemric’s troubled past. Marred by misfortune, he lost his ride in NASCAR’s premier series after winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award, then went on to make sporadic starts for different teams and always ending up second-best (precisely 10 times). Touted as a great driver, but not clutch enough to seal the deal and end up in victory lane.
Entering the Championship 4 event as the definite underdog, Hemric put on one of the gutsiest performances in the series’ history and ruffed up defending champion, Austin Cindric, at the line for his first NASCAR sanctioned win and the title.
Being there firsthand, this felt like a monumental moment in the sport’s history. The blend of heightened emotions, camaraderie and team-wide execution on display were a blaring reminder of what makes sports so special. It felt like the ultimate Cinderella story was playing in slow motion right before our eyes.
Being in attendance for the event may have skewed my opinion, but this seriously felt like one of the greatest moments across all professional sports in modern history.
Ashley McCubbin: Let’s face it, watching events in person is always more exciting. I got the opportunity to do that this year with the NASCAR Pinty’s Series on a couple occasions, and the event at Sunset Speedway was the highlight.
Sure, it started off crappy as who wants to sit around in rainy weather all day long? It makes you cold, damp, and wishing you could be anywhere else. But was it worth the wait? Absolutely.
The racing on-track was great, with battles throughout the races. It wasn’t like they ever got strung out, with something always catching your eye. Then you add in the excitement with Pete Shepherd vs Treyten Lapcevich vs Raphael Lessard, and you’re definitely in for a show as a fan. It kept you on the edge of your seat right to the checkered flag in both 125-lap events.
Outside of my own short track adventures, I admit that I did not get to watch a ton of NASCAR or IndyCar racing this season, unfortunately. As a result, it’s hard to judge. But one race that nobody will be forgetting soon – the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dead on Tools 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
Everybody was expecting this event to be a total disaster – after all, it’s the last race that sets who makes the Championship 4, and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was a mess earlier in the day. There was also Noah Gragson, who was set on being aggressive, sharing a snow shovel-esque tweet during the week and saying pre-race, “We’re going to be in victory lane. We’re going to do what it takes. No prisoners today.”
Instead, though, we got treated to one of the best late-race moves that we’ve seen in a long time. He could have started behind Daniel Hemric on a late-race restart, and shoved him out of the way going into corner. However, he chose to start on the outside, put together one of the best, textbook restarts we have seen, and drive around him for the lead. He also could have shoved Austin Cindric up on the last lap, but gave his fellow competitor a lane to battle to the line.
Electing to win the race this way will earn more cheers, followers, and perhaps an opportunity down the road in the NASCAR Cup Series in seeing how he can drive with talent and fairly. It also gives a refreshing take after seeing essentially a demolition derby at times in the Truck Series.
I grew up loving the short tracks due to close confine racing, side-by-side close quarters, with maybe a little bumper action. It was nice to see those same principles executed on the big stage.