Four years and 143 races had passed since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points race. Fresh pavement in Michigan made the surface extremely fast and Junior's team was dialed in.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked up the win in the 2012 Quicken Loans 400 to end his long winless streak and make Junior Nation extremely happy.
Media sensation Danica Patrick made her NASCAR Sprint Cup series debut in 2012 while running full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Danica had a rough go of it in Sprint Cup. She made ten starts, cracked the top thirty in qualifying twice and only managed one finish in the top twenty when she finished up her Sprint Cup season with a seventeenth place finish in Phoenix.
Unfortunately Danica's biggest Sprint Cup headline came when she lost her temper in Kansas and wrecked herself.
Danica will run the Sprint Cup series full-time in 2013. It will be interesting to see how well she continues to navigate the learning curve.
Brad Keselowski made headlines outside of NASCAR circles when he tweeted from inside his racecar during the Daytona 500. Keselowski's red flag photo of the flames shooting into the air instantly went viral and attracted thousands of new eyeballs to the sport.
Months later Brad Keselowski again had his phone in the car with him during the Phoenix Chase race. He was tweeting during another red flag when he was spotted with his phone in the car by the in-car camera. NASCAR had reevaluated its position on having portable computers in the car and decided that they were a potential breach of fair competition.
Keselowski was fined $25,000 for having a portable computer in the car during the race but not before he single-handedly brought social media into focus in NASCAR.
Allmendinger immediately enrolled and completed the program to NASCAR's satisfaction and he was reinstated by NASCAR in September. Allmendinger lost his ride with Penske Racing during the suspension but finished off the year with a few races for James Finch's Phoenix Racing.
A.J. Allmendinger has not announced his 2013 plans as of yet but he is rumored to be in one of the BK Racing entries.
The 2013 Silly Season came to life earlier than ever this year. Matt Kenseth won the 2012 Daytona 500 and was leading the points when he announced in June that he would not be returning to Roush-Fenway Racing in 2013.
Kenseth finished out the season knowing that he would be leaving at the end of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth replaces Joey Logano who will be moving to Penske Racing next season.
Early in the 2012 NASCAR season Roger Penske announced that he would switch from Dodge to Ford for the 2013 NASCAR season. Since he was the only marquis team running for Dodge this put them in a jam.
Not long after that Dodge announced that it would not return to compete in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup series. This leaves only Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota to compete next season.
Dodge wasn't giving up on NASCAR though. They went out on top of the sport helping Roger Penske win his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup title with Brad Keselowski.
Unfortunately 2012 wasn't all good news for Junior. After picking up his first win in a long time and qualifying for the Chase Junior was poised for a solid points finish.
Talladega reminded everyone as to why it is considered the Wild Card race in the Chase. "The Big One" struck on the final lap wiping out 25 cars including just about all of the lead pack. Matt Kenseth picked his way through the mess for the win but there was a big mess behind him.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. received a concussion during that incident and was forced to miss the Chase races in Charlotte and Kansas. Junior was 51 points off the lead at that point and unlikely to win the championship but he was still within striking distance of a top five points finish.
This incident also brought the issue of head injuries into focus. This is an issue that other sports have been dealing with for a long time.
As the Chase was winding down in Phoenix Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer set off some fireworks on the track which then continued in the pits. Gordon and Bowyer got together while battling for position which cut one of Jeff Gordon's tires and caused Gordon to hit the wall. Gordon was limping around a lap down when Clint Bowyer came back past. Gordon totally turned left into Bowyer and wrecked both cars. In addition Joey Logano and Aric Almirola were collected in the crash.
Jeff Gordon was jumped in the garage area by Bowyer's team and then Clint Bowyer himself ran from his car to express his displeasure with Gordon. There was mayhem in the garage area as the two teams fought it out over this on track payback.
Gordon was fined $100,000 and docked 25 points for his part in the melee. Clint Bowyer's crew chief was fined $25,000 for failing to control his team.
This year Brad Keselowski was battling with Jimmie Johnson for the cup when Jimmie cut a tire and crashed in Phoenix. This left the crown for a first-time Champion, a first time Championship team and a departing manufacturer.
I think most NASCAR fans were happy to see a fresh face at the head table during the banquet.
After a 30 hour rain delay the Daytona 500 finally went green in primetime on Monday night for the first time ever. The darkness just made the flames all that much more dramatic when Juan Montoya lit up the night.
Under caution NASCAR had the jet dryers out to blow the track clean. Unfortunately Juan Montoya had his car break while he was racing to catch up with the back of the pack under caution. Montoya spun up the track into the jet dryer and punctured the fuel tank on the jet dryer. The flames shot into the air and ran down the track with the leaking jet fuel.
Fortunately everyone got out and away from the flames safely but not before putting on a fiery show that put NASCAR on every news outlet in America. Much like the famous fight in 1979 Juan Montoya's accident put NASCAR into America's consciousness.
Matt Kenseth won the race but everyone was talking about the fire.