As the checkered flag falls on another year of motor racing, one wonders how the 2009 season will be remembered.
Perhaps it will be for the standard of dominance set by competitors such as Jimmie Johnson, who won his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title; Sébastien Loeb, who has two more in his streak of World Rally championships; and Valentino Rossi, who fought off teammate Jorge Lorenzo to win his sixth MotoGP crown in eight seasons. All three names will certainly come up frequently in the "greatest of all-time" discussions in their respective disciplines.
Maybe it will be the unbelievable stories that highlight the human element of our sport, like Ross Brawn saving what was once the Honda team and Jenson Button taking a 62.5% pay cut to race for them, taking the Brackley-based squad from off the grid to the top step of the podium to the world championship, or Peugeot Sport finally taking victory in the 24 Heures du Man after three frustrating season.
Surely a case can be made for the quality of the action itself, from the wild finishes of Daytona and Talladega to the heavily-plotted battles on the rolling hills of Spa-Francorchamps and Autódromo José Carlos Pace. There were moments of absolute amazement, such as the thrilling battle between Rossi and Lorenzo at Cicuit de Catalunya, where the former used experience to nab the latter in the last corner of the race. The late-race duels for the overall and GT2 triumphs in the American Le Mans
What about the resurgence of wily veterans defying their age in a young man's sport and finding victory lane? Mark Martin's records suggest he's anything but 50, bridesmaid again on the strength of 5 wins. David Brabham, age 43 and 44 during the past season, finally took the overall win in the 24 Heures du Man in his fifteenth attempt, and claimed his first ALMS title with Highcroft Racing. Even Rubens Barrichello, seemingly at the end of his career, found his old winning ways and stayed in championship contention until the penultimate event.
The surprises certainly added to the season, with names like Juan Pablo Montoya moving from the middle of the pack to championship contention. The aforementioned Button can easily be included in this category, as can fellow F1 competitor Mark Webber, who won his first two races and was an excellent darkhorse for the title during the mid-to-late-season stretch. IndyCar's Mario Moraes improved massively over the course of the season, ending the year on a stretch of four finishes ranging from third to seventh, while another IRL racer, Ed Carpenter, narrowly lost to Ryan Briscoe in the Kentucky event, coming .0162 seconds from glory.
Of course, Kyle Busch not making the Chase for the Sprint Cup certainly tops the list for many NASCAR fans.
Kidding aside, Kyle's season was not one to be scoffed at, and watching the young talent amass 20 victories over the three premier divisions of the NASCAR ranks was nothing short of incredible.
There were the new stars of the sport, too, in 2009. Kamui Kobayashi made quite the impact in just two grands prix, besting veteran teammate Jarno Trulli in both and scoring points in Abu Dhabi. Most impressively, Kobayashi was absolutely unafraid to battle wheel-to-wheel with World Champion-to-be Jenson Button in Brazil, and let the world know just how skilled he was at overtaking. NASCAR Sprint Cup newcomers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski each scored a win, while Parker Kligerman won nine races in his first full-season of ARCA RE/MAX competition. World Superbike rookie Ben Spies was arguably best of all newcomers, winning 14 of 28 races and the championship.
So, then, how will the 2009 motor racing season be remembered?
Just as the last 114 were: another year's worth of reasons why autosport is the greatest competition there is.
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