Thoughts on 2011 With 2012 Coming Up Fast

Brandon Reed

Brandon Reed

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Columns 12/30/11

With the New Year now upon us, it’s time to take a moment and thing back to some of the things that occurred during the 2011 racing season.

It was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting seasons in recent memory.  From the short tracks to the super speedways, it was certainly one to remember.

Let’s start with NASCAR.  Nobody knew what to expect in Daytona when a rookie scored his first win in his first start in the biggest race of the year.  Piloting the famed Wood Brothers’ Ford, Trevor Bayne shocked the racing world by putting the No. 21 in victory lane.

But for just a few more car lengths, however, it could have been different.  A mistake by Unadilla, Georgia’s David Ragan in switching lanes to early cost him the lead and an almost sure victory in the Great American Race.  The question of “what if” would dog him until the series returned to Daytona in July, when he scored his first career Sprint Cup win at the 2.5 mile super speedway.  He would also scored two poles, 12 top fives and 20 top tens, cementing himself as a driver to be dealt with.

Fate, however, has dealt him a different hand in another of the big stories of the year.

It was triggered by comments made by Kurt Busch when he didn’t know a fan’s camera was on him.  Those comments led to his ultimate firing from Penske Racing, leading to a land rush for potential drivers.

With his sponsor gone from the No. 6, Ragan asked for a release from Jack Roush, giving him the opportunity to vie for the coveted No. 22 seat.  But that seat ended up going to former open wheel ace A.J. Allmendinger instead.

Allmendinger’s departure from Richard Petty Motorsports meant the seat in the famous No. 43 was now open.  With the laid back, respectful manners that Ragan possesses, it seemed like the perfect match up.

But word came late in the going that Aric Almirola, armed with a sponsor, was the front runner for the Petty ride.  That leaves Ragan as the odd man out in the scenario, though rumor has it he may be heading for a Nationwide Series ride with Jr. Motorsports.  News is expected on that front shortly after the New Year.

For the open wheel folks, the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the IndyCar Series was meant to be a major event.  It ended up being an unfortunate disaster.

A multi-car crash just 13 laps in sent four cars airborne, and ended with the death of defending Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon.

It proved to be one of the darkest days in racing in many years.  Hopefully, IndyCar can learn something from the tragedy and make such an occurrence a rarity for the racing world.

On the home front, Senoia, Georgia’s Bubba Pollard went on a tear this season, scoring a total of 19 wins in 43 Super and Pro Late Model starts while driving for Georgia Racing Hall of Famer Ronnie Sanders.  It was one of the best seasons we’ve seen somebody have in a long time, and hopefully, Pollard and Sanders will see a lot more success in 2012.

It was a great year for the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, as we saw unprecedented growth at the facility in the first full year under the control of the new Hall of Fame Board of Directors and all of our volunteers.

Unfortunately, we also saw great sadness in the Georgia Racing community, with the loss of young driver Beau Slocumb, along with Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Jimmy Summerour, Gary Brantley, Garland Glaze, Red Langford, John Henry Maddox, Geneva Milam, Betty Mosteller, David Pritchett, Shorty Tanner and Hubert Platt.

But now, the green flag is set to drop on a new year, with new challenges and lots of new memories to see.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get started!

Brandon Reed is the editor and publisher of Georgia Racing

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