The year 2012 brought the 64th season for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, the 63rd for the modern F1 circus and the 58th since the National Hot Rod Association held its first national championship drag race.
It was the 111th season since the American Automobile Association first organized a Contest Board to sanction the fledgling sport of track auto racing in the United States and the dawn of a new century for the world’s preeminent auto race, the Indianapolis 500, first held in 1911.
One of the biggest ongoing melodramas was over Formula One races slated for new venues in the U.S. The return of the U.S. Grand Prix, to Circuit of the Americas, survived numerous stumbling blocks and reports that the race would not be held, and a second race scheduled for 2013 on a street circuit in New Jersey was indeed postponed until 2014.
That action took place before the events of Superstorm Sandy later in the year, which surely added to the construction and organizational woes of organizers of that event.
Last week in this space, events – on and off the tracks – was recapped for the first six months of the year. This week, we pick up with events from July to the end of the calendar year:
JULY: Penske Racing driver A.J. Allmendinger was suspended by NASCAR because he tested positive for a prohibited substance. He was reinstated after completing a rehabilitation program offered by NASCAR, but was released from his ride.
Chevrolet announced it will race its new Camaro – or, at least, a purpose-built car intended to resemble a Camaro – in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Ford and Dodge are already competing in that series with bodies that feature some styling cues of the Mustang and Challenger.
AUGUST: After months of experimentation and design work, Tony Schumacher drove the first NHRA Top Fuel dragster to be equipped with a canopy enclosing the cockpit. IndyCar and F1 have also been considering canopy designs to protect drivers from head injuries.
Confirming speculation that was triggered by the announcement in March that Penske Racing will switch to Ford in 2013, Dodge announced its withdrawal from NASCAR, ending a 12-year stint.
A Pennsylvania race fan was fatally injured at Pocono Raceway when a severe thunderstorm struck the racetrack during the Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR race.
Courtney Force and Erica Enders made NHRA history at Kent, Wash., when they won titles in Funny Car and Pro Stock, respectively, in the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways. Despite the success of women drivers over past decades in drag racing, there had never been two women class winners at any national event.
SEPTEMBER: The dean of American motor sports journalists, Chris Economaki, died at age 91 on Sept. 28. Economaki rose from teen-aged “cub reporter” to publisher of National Speed Sport News and fame as a television announcer, starting with ABC’s Wide World of Sports and ending with ESPN.
Ryan Hunter-Reay denied Will Power the IndyCar title, giving the series its first American champion since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.
Rival sports car racing series Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series announced plans to merge into a united series in 2014.
In Formula One, Lewis Hamilton revealed that he will leave McLaren for Mercedes at season’s end.
OCTOBER: An agreement awarding U.S. television rights to Formula One beginning in 2013 to NBC was announced. NBC will replace Speed, which held the rights for 17 years.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. reported effects of a concussion, stemming from a crash during a tire test six weeks earlier and a last-lap crash at Talladega more recently. NASCAR’s most popular driver had to to miss two races and then get medical clearance to continue racing.
Michael Schumacher revealed that his three-year comeback will end and the seven-time F1 champion will return to retirement after this season.
NOVEMBER: Rumors that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series might race on a dirt track were confirmed with release of the 2013 schedule. The trucks will race at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in northwestern Ohio.
Formula One’s return to the United States at the new Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas, was a monumental success, with a highly competitive and entertaining race won by Lewis Hamilton.
Brad Keselowski gave legendary race team owner Roger Penske one of the few prizes in racing that “The Captain” had not already won – a Sprint Cup championship.
In drag racing, Antron Brown made NHRA history by becoming the sport’s first black champion in a top national series when he won the Top Fuel title.
DECEMBER: Test sessions continued, moving the new NASCAR models toward final preseason form.