Hot/Not: Handing Out the Bests and Worsts of NASCAR 2012

Dale Earnhardt Won, Danica Tried to Wreck Someone (and Missed) and a Jet Dryer Blew Up

Yahoo Contributor Network

Well, we've done it again. The 2012 NASCAR season is officially over with only a few awards and bad speeches left to hand out this week in Las Vegas. In honor of another campaign, here are the best and worst moments, fights, doses of luck, races and more from this season.

Best use of Twitter: This is no contest, really. Brad Keselowski's photos from the backstretch of the Daytona 500 delayed by a jet dryer explosion were a bit a popular.

Best fight/conflict: It included pushing, shoving and at least one clothesline, so I'll give this easy nod to the teams of Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon for their Phoenix fun. Extra points next year to the first team who uses a WWE star (you know we'll have at least three to give the starting command) as a secret weapon in a pit road brawl. Honorable mention: David Starr taking on Todd Bodine's crew at New Hampshire deserves some credit, mainly because Starr actually threw some punches. None, however, landed.

Speaking of....

Worst command to start engines: I'd say the Delaware governor who started the spring race at Dover was the least inspiring, but there are other candidates. Note to all NASCAR tracks: most politicians and sponsors are terrible at such an important endeavor. Old people? They're out too.

Best command to start engines: Kevin James nearly had his brain explode at Talladega in the fall, and followed with a bad version of the moonwalk.

Worst fight/conflict: Jacques Villeneuve trying to pay back Justin Allgaier at Montreal - and whiffing - was a low for the driver known for his overaggressivness.

Worst take out attempt: Danica Patrick tried to take out Landon Cassill at Kansas and it ended with her day ruined and Cassill continuing.

Best take out: Jeff Gordon was effective in his second shot at Clint Bowyer at Phoenix, wasn't he? He'll win another category for this, too.

Worst way to lose a race: Danica Patrick ran over a shoe while leading at Montreal, but it didn't really cost her the race (a bad part did). Let's go with Kyle Busch and the oiled track at Watkins Glen that ultimately left him spun out off the nose of Marcos Ambrose.

Dumbest on-track moment: Jeff Gordon at Phoenix. Need I say more? Bowyer may have deserved the payback, but Joey Logano didn't.

Smartest on-track moment: Brad Keselowski's move to win the Talladega race in the spring was a perfectly executed maneuver to hold the lead on the final lap and remove any shot for Kyle Busch to draft by him. It was simple - Keselowski went high in turn three of the final lap and quickly dropped low to uncouple the two cars - and effective.

Worst luck: Denny Hamlin's Martinsville master switch failure takes the cake. Has a Chase run ever been ruined by such a simple part that wasn't a tire? What a heartbreaker. Honorable mention: Juan Pablo Montoya's rear gear locked up at literally the worst spot possible at Daytona, and at the perfect moment, to cause his jet dryer collision.

Best Dale Earnhardt Jr. win: Michigan. (Hey, it's better than last year!)

Best NASCAR TV moment: Brad Keselowski, already feeling the effects of his roughly 1,000-oz Miller Lite glass, was pure gold on SportsCenter after winning the title. Honorable mention: Tony Stewart either 1) getting "goosed" earlier in the season or 2) getting caught "goosing" Delana Harvick.

Worst celebration: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrated his second Nationwide Series title like he had just been told he was losing his house. Cheer up, cowboy.

Best celebration: Denny Hamlin did a burnout amounting to nearly half of the track after his win at New Hampshire in September.

Worst officiating call: Failing to throw a caution on the final lap of the fall Phoenix race was not so much a mistake as an obvious

Best officiating call: Not penalizing Jimmie Johnson at Texas for beating Brad Keselowski to the start/finish line wasn't the popular call or the call in line with precedent from the whole season - but it was the right call.

Worst promise: Tony Stewart proclaimed he was finished with drivers blocking him on the track at Indianapolis, saying "Pretty much from now on, if anyone blocks me, they're not going to like the consequences of it."

Stewart then blocked Michael Waltrip on the final lap of the fall Talladega race, causing a 25-car crash.

Best race of 2012: The fall race at Bristol Motor Speedway proved to be the perfect blend of close racing, roughed up fenders and flared tempers.

Worst race of 2012: Easily, the March race at Auto Club Speedway. There were just nine lead changes and rain forced the race to be shorted to just 258 miles. Only one caution flag waved during the event.

Worst overall moment: There's no question that the fan who died after a lightning strike at Pocono Raceway was the season's lowest point. It shouldn't have happened, and NASCAR better have new policies in place.

Scariest on-track moment: Mark Martin avoided serious injury at Michigan when his car slammed into the edge of the pit wall, sideways. I still get a lump in my throat watching that and pondering what could have happened.

Best trackside taunt: Tony Stewart's helmet toss at Bristol was perfect in all regards: he hit his target, he made his point clear and even swung his arm around to rile up the crowd. 10/10.

Biggest turnaround: Greg Biffle went from a 2011 season with no wins, three Top-5s and Top-10s with an average finish of 16.8, to a 2012 campaign with two wins, 12 Top-5s, 21 Top-10s and a 10.2 average finish. In a non-Chase points system, he finishes the season second in NASCAR's points.

Biggest disappointment: Without a doubt, Carl Edwards led everyone in a disappointing campaign. He led just five races all season and earned just three Top-5s and 13 Top-10s - both lows for his entire full-time Sprint Cup career. Honorable mention: A.J. Allmendinger's NASCAR career will never be the same after his suspension for violation of NASCAR's substance abuse rules.

Worst paint scheme: Jeff Gordon's FarmVille car at Bristol in August was horrible.

Dumbest NASCAR fine: I still shake my head at Brad Keselowski's $25,000 fine for tweeting in the car at Phoenix, when the series is sponsored by a cell phone company.

Best impromptu moment: Monday night racing at Daytona was pretty cool. I probably think that because I remember the feeling of walking through the garage 90 minutes before the actual green flag and seeing the sky clear after basically 36 straight hours of rain, travel disruptions and more.

Most surprising move: Even Jack Roush didn't expect Matt Kenseth would bolt his team for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013, and it happened.

Worst nickname: "Outlaw" for Kurt Busch. Please don't let it stick.

No. 1 thing to remember from 2012: Don't tweet and drive, folks.

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