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A Look Back At The Top Performances Of 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008

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Top Drivers (in alphabetical order)

Clint Bowyer – Clint Bowyer captured his first NASCAR national series title, holding off a strong late-season comeback by fellow Midwestern dirt racer Carl Edwards. Bowyer took over first place in the standings after the sixth race of the season and never relinquished his lead. He won just once – the rain-shortened spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway – but had 14 top fives and led the series with 29 top 10s.

Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch put together arguably one of the greatest seasons in series history with 10 wins, 18 top fives and 20 top 10s in 30 races. The win total tied the legendary Sam Ard’s 25-year-old record for victories in a season. Busch won for two different teams in three different cars and conquered all types of tracks other than the restrictor plate superspeedways – though he did finish second at both races at Daytona International Speedway.

Carl Edwards – Carl Edwards, the 2007 champion, struggled during the first half of the season but found his mojo following a crew chief change. Drew Blickensderfer joined Edwards prior to the July 21 race at The Milwaukee Mile. There, the duo produced the first of seven wins – a career-best for Edwards. More than 200 points out with eight races left, he took the title chase down to the final race and finished 21 points behind Bowyer, the fourth-closest championship margin in series history.
           
Raybestos Rookie of the Year

Landon Cassill – Landon Cassill is just the second Raybestos Rookie of the Year in series history to not run a full schedule. Sharing the No. 5 Chevrolet with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ron Fellows, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin – and having 1994 series champion David Green as his spotter – Cassill, 19, proved to be a quick learner with five top fives in 19 starts. He won his first career pole in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Top Team Owner of the Year

Joe Gibbs – Joe Gibbs Racing fielded two Toyota teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2008. Its No. 20 team won nine races and an owner championship – JGR’s first series title – while the No. 18 team won 10 more times. Four different drivers – Kyle Busch (1), Denny Hamlin (2), Joey Logano (1) and Tony Stewart (5) – posted wins in the No. 20 while Busch led the No. 18 car with eight of its 10 total wins. The two cars combined for 19 wins, 32 top fives, 44 top 10s and nine poles

Top Breakthrough Performers of the Year

Brad Keselowski – In his first full-time season in the series, Brad Keselowski earned top finishes – and respect. He posted his first two career wins (Nashville Superspeedway in June and at Bristol in August) along with his first pole (Milwaukee). He was second in the standings for seven weeks and ended up third, the highest-ranking series-only regular in the final championship rankings. He was also voted the series’ Most Popular Driver; 2008 was the first season the balloting was turned over to the fans.

Joey Logano – One week after turning 18, Joey Logano started his first series race and finished sixth at Dover International Speedway. He was frustrated at his result, feeling he should have won. Shortly thereafter, he became the youngest driver (18 years, 21 days) in series history to win when he did so from the pole June 14 at Kentucky Speedway. In 19 starts, he registered one win, five top fives, 14 top 10s and three poles.

Comeback Driver of the Year

Mike Bliss – After returning to full-time series competition for the first time since 2004, Mike Bliss finished fifth in the standings driving for two single-owner teams. He started the first six races of the year for Fitz Motorsports then moved to Phoenix Racing for the remainder of the year. His 15 top 10s – including four in a row at one point – were a career best. His finish at Dover Sept. 20 was the second runner-up result of his 143-race career.

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