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2009: THE YEAR THAT WAS
Richard O'Brien
December 24, 2009
NO OTHER SPORT IS AS THOROUGHLY DOCUMENTED AS NASCAR. Turn on the TV on race weekend and you'll be treated to an array of camera angles that put you smack in the middle of the action from the first practice laps to the smoke-filled victory burnouts. Tune in a scanner at the track and capture the driver-crew exchanges or log on to NASCAR.com at home for real-time data on every car. If it happens on the track, you're there. Of course, that's just half the story. The other half happens off the track, where the action's just as compelling. The following is a quick spin through the highlights and lowlights (and Kylelights) of the season that didn't make the stats.
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December 24, 2009

2009: The Year That Was

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KYLE II: GUITAR ZERO

AFTER WINNING the Federated Auto Parts 300 Nationwide race at Nashville Superspeedway on June 6, Kyle Busch arrived in Victory Lane, where he was presented with the race trophy, a one-of-a-kind hand-painted Gibson guitar. Apparently channeling his inner Pete Townshend, Busch immediately slammed the guitar on the ground, breaking it into pieces. Said the would-be rock star in a fire suit, "Everybody's [smashed a guitar] except race car drivers. Those sorry saps take it home in one piece. I'll break it up and share it with the team." Said Sam Bass, the artist who painted the guitar and was on hand in Victory Lane, "It was stunning, absolutely stunning to see that thing destroyed within seconds of him getting it."

SO RICKY BOBBY GETS IN NEXT YEAR?

ON OCT. 14 the NASCAR Hall of Fame panel met at the Charlotte Convention Center to select the Hall's Charter Class. The five who will be installed shortly after the Hall opens on May 11 are NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.; his son Bill France Jr., who led the sport to national prominence; Junior Johnson (above), the larger-than-life driver who went on to win six Cup titles as an owner; the King, Richard Petty, who won a record 200 races; and seven-time champion driver Dale Earnhardt.

A REAL OLD PRO

ON JULY 19 at Portland International Raceway, Hershel McGriff drove to a 13th-place finish in the Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125, a Camping World West Series race. Hardly notable, you say, given that in his last outing on that track McGriff won the race. Of course that was in 1986, back when McGriff was a youngster of 58. McGriff's latest run at Portland came at age 81, making him the oldest driver in NASCAR history (surpassing his own benchmark, set when he last raced, at Fontana in 2002).

ONE LESS FOR THE ROAD

ON SEPT. 21, citing the downturn in the economy, whiskey maker Jack Daniel's announced that it would terminate its five-year sponsorship of the Richard Childress Racing team's number 07 car at the end of the 2009 season. Let's hope that doesn't leave RCR on the rocks in 2010.

FOR THAT YOU NEEDED A LIE DETECTOR?

AS A promotion for his sponsor, Burger King, Tony Stewart took part in a 50-minute Web show entitled The Truth About Tony, in which the driver was hooked up to a lie detector and asked a variety of questions, many of them submitted by fans. In the process it was scientifically established that Tony has done doughnuts on public property, does not like musical theater and has "gone commando" under his fire suit. And oh, yes, shockingly enough, he loves the Whopper. And that's no whopper.

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