With 2012 coming to a close, here is a look back at the best and worst moments in racing this year.
There were many to choose from and some worthy candidates such as three-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel and Sébastien Loeb, who won his seventh consecutive World Rally title, did not make the list despite stellar seasons.
Here are the ones who did:
Awesomeness Award – Alex Zanardi
There may be no better role model on the planet than former Formula One and IndyCar driver Alex Zanardi. After losing his legs in a devastating racing accident in 2001, Zanardi not only showed courage in the face of massive adversity, but he also humbled the world with his selflessness and determination.
He returned to racing in the world touring car championship and won four times behind the wheel of a hand-controlled BMW. He became the first person with a disability to drive an F1 car.
This year, he amazed again, excelling in a new sport and taking two gold and one silver medal for Italy in handcycling at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He is inspiration personified.
Best final lap of the year – NASCAR Sprint Cup at Watkins Glen
The last lap of the Sprint Cup race at the famed Watkins Glen International road course will not only go down as the best of the season but also one of the most intense and entertaining single laps in NASCAR history.
Three drivers – Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and eventual winner Marcos Ambrose – jealously battled over every inch of the track in August’s Finger Lakes 355, driving on a fender banging tightrope on the final lap as everyone held their breath to see who would come out on top.
Busch led as the last lap began with Keselowski and Ambrose in hot pursuit. Keselowski went inside Busch at Turn 2 and tapped his right rear fender, sending the leader into the Armco and leaving only two cars to fight for the win. Both cars went onto the grass in the next corner as Keselowski tried to keep Ambrose at bay.
Ambrose got ahead as they drag raced down the straight to the final two corners, only to have Keselowski nudge him from behind and push him wide in the penultimate corner. He recovered and the pair went sliding side-by-side into the last turn with Ambrose gaining the upper hand and edging his rival at the line by 0.571 seconds.
Crash of the year– Juan Pablo Montoya, NASCAR
The Sprint Cup season opener started with a bang – literally – when Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car exiting the pitlane under caution and drove directly into a jet dryer.
Essentially jet engines strapped onto the back of a truck, NASCAR uses these air blowing contraptions to quicken the drying process of race tracks following rain. The impact caused a massive fireball as about 750 litres of blazing jet fuel streamed down the banking.
Both Montoya and the truck driver escaped with minor injuries. The race was red-flagged for more than two hours as crews worked to fix the pavement incinerated by the heat from the blast.
Disaster of the year – IndyCar’s firing chief executive Randy Bernard
When communications students need a case study on how not to handle a delicate public relations situation, they may just look to IndyCar’s botching Randy Bernard’s exit as the best example in recent memory.
A crescendo of late October rumours that the series chief executive was on his way out were met by a lukewarm statement of support from the IndyCar board of directors that his employment status had not changed. The ink had hardly dried on the “Randy still has a job” release when another was issued saying Bernard had been removed as IndyCar boss in an emergency board meeting.