From the Marbles - NASCAR

Hemingway once said that there are only three real sports: "Bullfighting, mountain climbing, and motor racing." And since there aren't yet any bullfighting or mountain climbing blogs here at Yahoo! Sports, it fell to us here at From the Marbles to uphold Hemingway's sporting tradition.

And we did so by mocking everything in NASCAR we possibly could. Hemingway would be so proud. Kyle Busch's early-season barnstorming, Jimmie Johson's late-season triumphs, Tony Stewart's fights, Jeff Gordon's struggles, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s ongoing sainthood -- we covered it all.  Join us for a crash course -- pun very much intended -- in the year in Yahoo! Sports' From The Marbles:

Interview of the Year: Hey, look who stopped by our place -- three-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. We got a few minutes on the phone with the once and future champ back in June. The interview included this prescient exchange:

Who's poised to break out in the second half of the season?

I really feel like we are. I feel we're on the cusp of doing some great things to get back to where we were in '06 and '07. We've won one this year, but we're sorting out the big tracks and we're right there. We're getting close.

And this absurd one:

Around here, we try to give drivers new nicknames. What's the best nickname you've ever had?

I've been very fortunate to dodge a nickname throughout my entire career. I've never had one.

Anybody ever called you Johnny?

No, I've not heard that one.

Strangely, we haven't heard back from Jimmie since then. Ah, well.

Honorable mentions: A podcast with Kevin Harvick and behind-the-scenes NASCAR talk with New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer.

Video of the Year: This one's going to be on a lot of year-end lists, but it still bears mentioning -- Michael McDowell's hair-raising Texas spinout:

Honorable mentions: Michael Waltrip wonders who "Patrick Carpeteater" is, and Kyle Busch forgets his girlfriend's name at the NASCAR awards banquet. (Worse, he called her the name of his brother's wife. Calling Dr. Freud ... )

And we continue onward. The next category, please ...

Story of the Year, satirical division: One of the recurring series here at The Marbles is Pit Chatter. It began as a set of stories listening in on the "secret driver's channel," but quickly went off the rails. And the best, in our humble opinion, was "5 Is The Loneliest Number," in which poor Casey Mears was cut loose from Hendrick Motorsports and left to survey the available job fair of seats available:

[Casey passes by a lonely guy sitting in a folding chair, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich off a paper plate.]

Robby Gordon: Hey, Casey! Wanna come hang?

Casey Mears: But you don't even have a table!

Robby Gordon: Pfah. Who needs tables? They just get in the way, I tell ya!

Casey Mears: Uh-huh. I'm gonna move on ...

Robby Gordon: You don't know what you're missing!

[Behind Casey, Robby Gordon's chair collapses. Casey comes to the DEI table.]

Martin Truex Jr.: Casey. Thank God you're here. Help me out, brother. Run with me.

Regan Smith: Mr. Truex? Aric pulled my hair!

Aric Almirola: Did not!

Regan Smith: Did so!

[They scuffle, knocking into the table, which begins shaking precariously.]

Casey Mears: Am I missing something, or is that table completely supported by Intimidator bobbleheads?

Martin Truex Jr.: Shhhhh! She'll hear you!

Casey Mears: Who'll hear me?

Who, indeed?

Honorable mentions: Behind the scenes at Mike Helton's meeting with the drivers; hanging at Dale Jr.'s restaurant in the off week.

Photo of the Year: Seriously, could there be a more deserving champion than the Harvick-Edwards fight? Everybody had an opinion as to who won, and we offered up our breakdown of the fight based on the photos. Verdict: insufficient evidence to make a call one way or the other.

Honorable mentions: NASCAR's not-quite-beautiful people; the Kyle Busch / Pee Wee Herman connection; Tony Stewart is a lot shorter out of his firesuit.

Ridiculous Story of the Year: Poor Reed Sorenson. He got nailed to the wall during a phone-in press conference when some mysterious reporters began asking him about ... well, I can't really say what they asked him about, but you can listen right here.

Honorable mentions: Kyle Busch tells a radio station that Carl Edwards is 'roided up; a bullet hits a woman at Texas Motor Speedway, and there's a rather unlikely suspect.

On-site reporting of the year: NASCAR ran in Atlanta twice this year, and the Marbles was there both times. Our dispatch from the March race included the following breakdown:

Here's one thing that everyone reading this who hasn't attended a NASCAR race needs to know: Don't fear the infield. Seriously. You'll assume that it's full of rednecks drinking beer and hollering -- and indeed it is -- but it's also a mini-society, with its own police force, social structure (the higher your viewing platform, the higher your standing), and currency (beers, grilled meat, and propane are all valid forms of money, with varying exchange rates as the day goes on).

Naturally, things are different at night. I've seen infields with everything from stripper poles to ... well, to activities which such poles lead to. The chill in the air today kept everyone pretty much on good behavior; many folks had apparently done their heavy-alcohol-lifting the evenings before, like the young lady near us who didn't wake up until after 1 in the afternoon.

For the October race, we spent time hanging in Jamie McMurray's pit box and learned the horrible secrets of NASCAR media Fridays at the track. (For instance, Junior nearly got buffaloed by a horde of reporters heading for the media-center buffet. You do not get between reporters and their food, no matter who you are.)

Swag of the Year: NASCAR is famous for its astonishing array of souvenir crap memorabilia, and we spotlight a different toy/appliance/keepsake every week in our They Make It ‘Cause We Buy It series. The highlight of the year would have to be Pit Lizard Barbie:

With those tall go-go boots and plunging neckline, Barbie's ready to roam the garages looking to do a little advancing in the points standings, if you get my drift. Pleasure is her business, and business is goooood.

Of course, she falls short of the true Pit Lizard style; she doesn't appear to be wearing yesterday's clothes, there's no cigarette or warm beer in her hand, and her knees are entirely too clean.

On the other hand, her boobs are completely made of plastic, she's got a vacant fifty-yard stare, and she's blissfully unaware that she's a year out of date on Dale Jr.'s affiliation. Oh, and you can have her for thirty-five bucks. So maybe Barbie's more accurate than we thought.

Honorable mention: The Double Dale Wedding Cake Topper; the Intimidator Christmas Fortress/Ornament and the rest of the NASCAR for the holidays collection.

List of the Year: Look, we love Jimmie Johnson, but the guy's a bit lacking in the public personality department. So we called out him and a half-dozen other pro athletes/teams in our "Most Boring Champions" post, a list that included Tim Duncan, Roger Federer and the Detroit Red Wings. And what did we get for our trouble? Thousands of comments, hundreds of hate e-mails, and a public callout Fox Sports Detroit. Sheesh. Did nobody see the "Champions" part of that headline?

Honorable mention: After Dale Earnhardt Jr. opened his restaurant, we considered what other drivers' restaurants might serve; for our audition post to get this gig, we compared NASCAR drivers to NFL players.

Tournament of the Year: We held several "Greatest ____ That Never Was" tournaments, including the "Greatest Car" and "Greatest Driver." The verdict? The Bandit was a runaway winner as Greatest Driver, while Knight Rider's K.I.T.T. and Doc's DeLorean from "Back to the Future" finished in a statistical dead heat for Greatest Car.

(Dis)Honorable mention: In our "Greatest Season In NASCAR History" poll held in July, Kyle Busch's 2008 was a nominee. Whoops. But Jeff Gordon's 1998 walked away with 36 percent of the vote.

Actual News Story of the Year: The grand economic bailout plan included some breaks that seem designed to help NASCAR track developers, a move which many observers viewed with either suspicion or ridicule.

Honorable mentions: Randy Moss joined the NASCAR community (and the comments were unbelievably ridiculous); NASCAR legend Junior Johnson cut right across conventional wisdom and declared his support for Obama; and the president-elect himself apparently even considered sponsoring a car back in July.

And that'll do it for the wrapup of this year! A sincere thanks to all of you who read, commented, and emailed in 2008. If this is your first introduction to The Marbles, by all means, come on back every single day at www.fromthemarbles.com, and be sure to hit us up with tips/links/ideas/rants at jay.busbee@yahoo.com. Daytona's still a month away, but around here, the season never ends!

More Y! Sports year of the blog posts: The Y! Sports Blogs (general), Shutdown Corner (NFL), Big League Stew (MLB), Ball Don't Lie (NBA), Puck Daddy (NHL), Dr. Saturday (NCAAF), The Dagger (NCAAB), Devil Ball (golf) and Cage Writer (MMA)

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