Thirty-six weeks ago, the Daytona International Speedway welcomed in the newest season for NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. It welcomed in a new car, a couple new starts, and a new chance to see who could compete for a title.
Through 26 weeks, the top-12 drivers were determined, or so it looked. One driver was taken out, then added, followed by another.
The 13-driver Chase meant the final 10 races would not only be interesting, but exciting.
It all built up to one final moment, one last race. The battle was on between three drivers, which no matter what would overshadow the race winner. But in this case, the winner finally got something he needed after a long season...a highlight. Denny Hamlin had a year where he was looked at as a Chase contender, but an injury after California put him out for a month. Since then, nothing but heartache, and struggles.
But things turned around, and he looked to make it a fitting end to a year to get momentum into the break in action. He managed to do that as he would take the final win of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Still, in the end, the night was all about one driver, and one moment. When that checkered flag waved, it was exactly as predicted by the crew chief. On this night, it was all about the 48. This year marked a decade of the Chase for the Cup, and in that decade there have only been four drivers to win the championship. Kurt Busch won the first, Tony Stewart won the second and another in 2011. Brad Keselowski took the title one year ago.
Every other championship belonged to one team, one car, and one driver. This year, it meant a six-pack of titles. The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion is Jimmie Johnson, quite possibly the most dominant driver in this era.
There was another championship to be decided, the 2013 Fan Vs. Fan Victory Pool. No writer came up with a win this week, but with eight within reach of a championship, everything was up for grabs.
Here's a look at the final standings in the pool, following the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400:
Dustin Parks (2382) Carl Edwards finished 12th (1)
Ryan O'Hara (2371) Kevin Harvick finished 10th (1)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2367) Greg Biffle finished 24th (2)
Rob Tiongson (2368) Clint Bowyer finished 5th (3)
Kelly Crandall (2368) Joey Logano finished 8th (1)
Patti Rodisch (2361) Matt Kenseth finished 2nd (0)
Billy Fellin (2353) Brad Keselowski finished 6th (3)
Rob Blount (2353) Greg Biffle finished 24th (3)
Misan Akuya (2333) Kyle Busch finished 7th (3)
James Broomhead (2310) Kyle Busch finished 7th (2)
Kara Martin (2305) Greg Biffle finished 24th (1)
Michael Hirshbein (2235) Sal Sigala Jr. DID NOT RACE (3)
It's amazing what can happen in the Chase, and this year was no exception, especially in this pool. It seemed like things were going all wrong, but your winner of this year's Fan Vs. Fan Victory Pool is the one that writes it, yours truly.
With that this year is a special prize of $100, which I have elected to have split. I am asking to have half of those winnings be a donation to not just a charity, but a sponsor. That donation is going to the sponsor of the No. 24 Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon, AARP's Drive to End Hunger.
What an incredible year it has been for the sport. New changes to cars, new faces to the sport, and a new era in competition.
Before you know it, a new season will begin. For now, everyone enjoy your time away from the track, because come February, the pool will be back, and I'll be asking for picks for the Daytona 500.