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Some of 2012's best and biggest

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012

Here’s our take on the best and biggest moments in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series and Trucks in 2012:

NATIONWIDE SERIES

Driver of the year Ricky Stenhouse Jr. certainly was impressive in winning consecutive Nationwide titles, but when it comes to wins and losses nobody was better this year than Joey Logano.

Logano entered 22 races and won nine of them – one short of tying the series record. Only five times did he finish outside the top 10. He was the class of the field.

Race of the year

The spring race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway was remarkable for its finish – which saw Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin battle door-to-door on the final lap with Busch emerging as the winner. It was the first victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports. But the race also marked a magnificent debut for 18-year-old Ryan Blaney, who finished seventh in his first series start.

Story of the year

Not only did Stenhouse replicate his championship of a year ago, he did it by winning more races and having to battle from behind in the series standings most of the year. Elliott Sadler led the points 25 times during the 33-race season and never ranked lower than second. But a costly mistake in the next-to-last race opened the door for Stenshouse and he knocked it down.

Most improved driver

Michael Annett didn’t make it to Victory Lane in 2012, but he did just about everything else. He finished in the top 10 in points for the third time in four years with a career-best fifth-place. He also racked up six top-five and 17 top-10 finishes during the course of the season – both career highs.

TRUCK SERIES

Driver of the year

James Buescher’s favorite number was 1.5 this season – as in 1.5-mile tracks. He won a season-high four races, all on those tracks including a season sweep of both events at Kentucky Speedway. A year ago, Buescher failed to qualify for one race. A year later he is the season champion.

Race of the year (tie)

It was hard to match the season finale at Homestead, Fla., which featured five drivers with a mathematical chance to win the championship. Ty Dillon, a rookie, put on quite a show in an effort to come from behind and win the title, but Buescher’s steady performance eventually paid big dividends.

One of most anticipated races of the season – the Trucks’ debut and NASCAR’s return to Rockingham Speedway – also didn’t disappoint. In front of a near-capacity crowd, Kasey Kahne gave Turner Motorsports one of its seven wins on the season.

Newcomer of the year

Ryan Blaney was never planning on running in the Truck series but joined Brad Keselowski Racing late in the season to replace Parker Kligerman. In this third career start, Blaney became the series’ youngest winner and handed BKR its first win.

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