Dale Jr.'s Daytona 500 win kicked off season of amazing moments

BY Jeff Hammond • November 25, 2014

I felt like we went into the 2014 season with a lot of changes, a lot of opportunity while at the same time, a lot of unknowns. As you all know, when there is the unknown, there are pretty good odds that something will go wrong. I mean, let's face it, NASCAR made some pretty big changes going into this season, and until we got into it, no one really knew what we had.

They changed the Chase format both in how you qualify for it as well as how the Chase was structured. They implemented knockout qualifying at the tracks, which blew a ton of much-needed life and excitement into the qualifying rounds. They also made changes to the car itself, most notably the no ride-height rule.

While the opportunity was there for something to go wrong, I would say all of these changes had a positive affect on our 2014 season. We saw a ton of new track records again. We saw some very intense moments -- on and off the track -- during the year. We saw a different style of driving from our Chase drivers with the elimination rounds that were introduced for 2014.

At the end of the day and end of the season I think these changes did everything everyone had dreamed of and then some. I realize that's a bold statement, but let's be honest, in years past some of the changes that were made didn't help. This year the changes helped all across the board. I'd wager this was one of the most positive seasons we've ever been a part of in the entire history of the sport. I was simply elated about the overall impact and end result these changes had on our sport.

There were so many high points this season that it's hard for me to point to any particular one as the highest. I think we'd all agree that the race at Homestead was the final stroke of a beautiful picture called the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. I think the stage was also set for an incredible year clear back on the other end of the season with the Daytona 500 kicking things off. I simply couldn't get over Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s enthusiasm. We saw the intensity of Jeff Gordon trying to get that elusive fifth championship.

We saw the rise in power of Team Penske as Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano combined to win 11 out of the 36 races run this season. We saw the emergence of a bright new superstar in rookie Kyle Larson. It simply was a year of don't-miss-moments if you are a true race fan. Just think, it was a veteran driver with a new team, new crew chief and new organization in their first year together who had to win the last two races of the year to win the championship -- and DID! Does it get any better than that in professional sports?

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