After a year marked by limited fan attendance and schedule changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 marked a return normalcy for NASCAR. As the sport went back to business as usual, we were all able to truly soak in the things that we love about the highest level of stock car racing. This past year had it all: crazy crashes, unforgettable finishes, and even a few never-before-seen accomplishments for good measure.
From Kyle Larson’s storybook season to the heated feud between Chase Elliot and Kevin Harvick, we’re here to look at a few of the top moments from the 2021 NASCAR season. Here’s hoping that 2022 has more exciting racing in store!
Best Truck Series Moment: Tate Fogleman’s Upset Win at Talladega
We all love a good upset win in NASCAR, and Tate Fogelman’s October win at Dega was exactly that.
Earning his first Truck Series win after 46 starts, Fogelman secured the victory in epic fashion, by turning then-race-leader John Hunter Nemechek sideways.
Fogelman himself slid sideway across the finish line and slammed into the inside wall, so before he could celebrate in Victory Lane, he had to visit the infield care center. Talk about putting it all on the line!
Best Xfinity Series Moment: Daniel Hemric Wins Title With First Career Win
Winning a championship in any of NASCAR’s premier series is a feat in and of itself. But winning a championship while also winning your first race? Now that’s something special.
Daniel Hemric had gone 207 races across the three series without a single win, but 208 would be his lucky number. On the last lap of overtime at Phoenix Raceway, Hemric made contact with Austin Cendric and edged out the thrilling W.
Hemric celebrated like most racers would after pulling off the improbable — more on that a little further down the list. In any case, it was clear that the 30-year-old racer was truly soaking in the best moment of his professional racing career.
“People doubted me,” Hemric said in the post-race interview. “I would do it all over again for a night like this.”
Best Cup Series Moment: Kyle Larson Wins the Championship
Kyle Larson’s 2021 season was the stuff of movies.
After being fired by Chip Ganassi Racing and missing most of the 2020 season following the use of a racial slur during an online racing event, Larson was signed by Hendrick Motorsports on October 28, 2020. A year and some change after the signing, and Larson would have his first Cup title.
The driver of the No. 5 secured his 10th win of the season at the title race in Phoenix, capping off a dominant year that will no doubt go down as one of the best in NASCAR history.
Wildest Finish: Alex Bowman Spins Out Denny Hamlin at Martinsville
The playoff race at Martinsville Speedway was the final elimination race for the NASCAR playoffs ahead of the ultimate race in Phoenix. Every racer was fighting for a newsworthy end to their 2021 season. Chief among these racers? Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin patiently and methodically fought his way from the back of the pack to the front. By the end of stage two, he was sitting in fifth place with a decent shot of winning the race. But then Alex Bowman decided to throw a wrench into things.
With just seven laps to go, Bowman spun out Hamlin to secure the lead position. Bowman would later say the contact was unintentional, but Bowman saw it differently. While Bowman attempted to rip a celebratory burnout, Hamlin prevented him by physically blocking the Hendrick Motorsports driver with his car.
In the post-race interview, with boos raining down on his, Hamlin proceeded to call Bowman “a hack” for his actions during the race.
Most Emotional Post-Race Interview: Bubba Wallace Wins at Talladega
Bubba Wallace’s rain delay win at Talladega was memorable for a couple reasons. Not only did it mark the first Cup win of his career, but it also made him the first Black driver to win in the Cup Series since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott on December 1, 1963. On top of that, just a year earlier, Wallace made headlines of a different sort at Dega, after NASCAR officials discovered a noose in the garage stall that was assigned to Wallace.
Given all these factors, Wallace’s historic day at Talladega culminated in an incredibly emotional post-race interview.
“This is for all the kids out there that want to have an opportunity and whatever they want to achieve, and be the best at what they want to do,” Wallace said, choking back tears. “You’re going to go through a lot of (BS). But you always got to stick true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you.”
“Stay strong. Stay humble. Stay hungry. Been plenty of times when I wanted to give up.”
Fieriest Feud: Chase Elliott vs. Kevin Harvick
Chase Elliott vs. Kevin Harvick wasn’t just the fieriest feud of the season, but it was also probably the most memorable NASCAR moment of 2021.
It all start at September’s night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, where some aggressive racing resulted in a heated pit road confrontation with Elliott and Harvick getting right in each other’s faces.
The beef continued into Charlotte. Harvick sent Elliott into the Roval wall, while moments later, Harvick locked up his tires and plowed into the Turn 1 tire barrier due to pressure from Elliott.
When it was all said and done, Harvick was eliminated from the playoffs. To send off his nemesis, Elliott wished him a “Merry offseason and a happy Christmas.”
Craziest Celebration: Daniel Hemric’s Backflip
We’ve already covered Daniel Hemric’s title-winning race at Phoenix, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on his epic post-win celebration. Channeling Carl Edwards, Hemric did a backflip off his No. 16 car.
As cool as the celebratory move was, Hemric actually expressed some regret (albeit tongue-in-cheek) for not turning things up a notch.
“Someone said they were surprised I did it off the (car) roof,” Hemric remarked in a post-flip interview. “I said, ‘Hell, as long as it took me to win I should have did it off the flag stand.”
Angriest Radio Outburst: Kyle Busch Rages at Bubba Wallace
Kyle Busch is known for his heated team radio outbursts, and at the Cup Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway, he launched into one for the books.
It really wasn’t Rowdy’s day at Kansas, and his frustration reached a boiling point on lap 108, when Bubba Wallace raced him a little too close for comfort during their battle for 10th place. A couple F-bombs and some textbook screaming later, and we had ourselves another classic Kyle Busch radio moment for the folks at home.
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