These Were The Best Motorsport Moments Of 2021

These Were The Best Motorsport Moments Of 2021

From Helio Castroneves' fourth victory at the Indy 500 to Max Verstappen's first Championship.

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Photo: Jeff Dean / AFP (Getty Images)

As 2021 wraps up, so does this year’s racing action — and we’ve had some damn good events this year. To celebrate, we’ve compiled some of motorsport’s finest moments of the 2021 season. Some are long, and some are short. Some are funnier than others. But with a year this action-packed, it’s been hard to narrow it down.

I’ve had to leave out plenty, and I’m sure you’ll remind me of all the great moments I’ve forgotten this year — so I’m just going to go ahead and say that you should leave ‘em in the comments so we can all take a trip down memory lane together.

And if you want some more racing detail, look no further than Ryan King’s recap of the biggest news stories in motorsport this year.

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Bubba Wallace Wins His First NASCAR Race

Bubba Wallace Wins His First NASCAR Race

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Photo: Chris Graythen (Getty Images)

Bubba Wallace became the second Black NASCAR driver to win a Cup Series race on October 4, 2021. Two days of intermittent rain showers at Talladega Superspeedway’s fall race saw the event put on hold from Sunday to Monday, and what on-track action there was was punctuated by frequent red flags. Wallace was leading the race at the time of the final red flag after working his way up to the front of the field. It was a massive win for Wallace, and it was also the first win for his new team, 23XI Racing.

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Max Verstappen Wins His First F1 World Championship

Max Verstappen Wins His First F1 World Championship

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Photo: Bryn Lennon (Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton led Max Verstappen into the final-lap restart of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — the one lap that would decide the World Championship. Hamilton had held a comfortable lead until Nicholas Latifi crashed, bringing out a yellow flag with five laps left. Verstappen had pitted for tires while Hamilton stayed out, gambling on the hope that there wouldn’t be a restart.

But there was. Those new tires saw Verstappen launch into the lead, securing both his victory at the race and his first-ever World Championship. It also doubles as the first-ever Championship for a Dutch driver.

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An Actually Competitive F1 Title Fight

An Actually Competitive F1 Title Fight

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Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP (Getty Images)

2021 brought with it one of Formula One’s most exciting World Drivers’ Championship battles in years. It’s been a long time since two drivers from two different teams were so evenly matched in the championship standings all year long, and it may have been one of the closest battles in history because Verstappen and Hamilton finished within ten seconds of each other at every race they finished this year.

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Helio Castroneves Wins His Fourth Indy 500

Helio Castroneves Wins His Fourth Indy 500

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Photo: JEFF DEAN/AFP (Getty Images)

When Hélio Castroneves took the checkered flag at the 2021 Indianapolis 500, the grandstands absolutely erupted. He had become the fourth driver to win the historic event four times, and he’d done it with Meyer Shank Racing, a team that only just found itself capable of competing in IndyCar all season long. He had to battle hard for the position against Alex Palou, making Castroneves’ victory all the sweeter. And yes, the celebrations were well-earned.

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Michael McDowell Wins Rain-Delayed Daytona 500

Michael McDowell Wins Rain-Delayed Daytona 500

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Photo: Jared C. Tilton (Getty Images)

The 2021 Daytona 500 was an absolutely chaotic one that featured a massive 16-car crash on lap 14 and a six-hour weather delay — and it ended in the wee hours of the morning with Michael McDowell taking the checkered flag. Many fans were torn on whether or not it was a good race, but considering that it was McDowell’s first-ever win in the NASCAR Cup Series, it certainly made for a compelling storyline.

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IndyCar’s Rookie of the Year Battle

IndyCar’s Rookie of the Year Battle

A seven-time NASCAR Champion, a three-time Supercars Champion, and a Formula One driver step onto a race track. No, this isn’t the setup for a Race of Champions event — this was IndyCar’s 2021 rookie class, composed of Jimmie Johnson, Scott McLaughlin, and Romain Grosjean. Out of the three drivers, McLaughlin took home official Rookie of the Year honors, since he was the only driver to have competed in every race. Grosjean, though, had some damn good finishes that included three podiums and one pole position.

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Esteban Ocon Wins Hungarian Grand Prix

Esteban Ocon Wins Hungarian Grand Prix

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Photo: Peter Fox (Getty Images)

The 2021 F1 season was full of surprises, but one of the biggest was Alpine driver Esteban Ocon’s win at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The race started in damp conditions, and several drivers were knocked out of contention on the first lap. Variable conditions and pit strategy left Hamilton playing chase to Ocon, who ultimately came home with a victory.

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Formula E Runs Out Of Power

Formula E Runs Out Of Power

Oh, Formula E. The series headed to Valencia for its first-ever outing on a traditional race circuit, and it ended in chaos. When a safety car came out, the FIA subtracted a preset amount of energy from every driver’s battery, but it appeared that the FIA calculated incorrectly. As the white flag flew, almost every driver on the grid ran out of power, leaving just a few to cross the finish line. It was an absolute disaster of an event, but it remains one of the most memorable moments of the year for the electric open-wheel series.

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Kyle Larson’s Dominant Comeback Season

Kyle Larson’s Dominant Comeback Season

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Photo: Brett Carlsen (Getty Images)

When Kyle Larson was suspended from NASCAR for saying the N-word on an iRacing stream, few expected him to return to the series. And when he did, few expected him to be as competitive as he was. His 10 wins of the season saw him take both the overall Cup Series Championship as well as the regular season Championship. And when he wasn’t competing on the NASCAR circuit, he was absolutely dominating at dirt tracks around the country.

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Mazda’s Last IMSA Victory

Mazda’s Last IMSA Victory

Mazda is waving goodbye to the IMSA sports car series’ DPi program, but it didn’t go out on a low. Instead, the team took victory at the 10-hour season finale, Petit Le Mans. It was a great way to end a prototype campaign that hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

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Brad Binder’s Slick Rain-Soaked Victory

Brad Binder’s Slick Rain-Soaked Victory

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Photo: Mirco Lazzari gp (Getty Images)

While Brad Binder has been a fairly solid MotoGP rider, his first victory came this year at the Austrian Grand Prix. Rain began to fall with five laps to go, and thus came a difficult decision: Do you switch to a bike with wet-weather tires, or do you stay on your slicks? Most riders opted for wet. Binder, though, stayed on his slicks. The end of the race was absolutely nerve-wracking as Binder’s brakes began to fail, the track grew wetter, and Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia began a rapid approach. Binder held out, though, and took a well-earned victory.

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Jamie Chadwick’s Second W Series Championship

Jamie Chadwick’s Second W Series Championship

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Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

Jamie Chadwick is undoubtedly one of the most promising female racers in the world right now, and her second W Series Championship only served to secure her reputation as a massively competitive driver. While she was undefeatable in her first season, this second outing saw her embark on a season-long battle with Alice Powell. Chadwick’s victories at the final two races in America gave her the overall victory she needed while Powell had a tough weekend, scoring a third and then a sixth place.

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Marc Marquez Wins At Sachsenring

Marc Marquez Wins At Sachsenring

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Photo: RONNY HARTMANN/AFP (Getty Images)

Few believed MotoGP rider Marc Marquez would be ready to compete in 2021. The year before, he’d undergone a reconstructive surgery in his shoulder that agitated him at the start of the 2020 season. At Jerez, the post-COVID season opener, Marquez fell and was struck by his bike. He underwent reconstructive surgery on a broken arm and tried to get back on his bike just five days later. Thus followed a year of surgeries and recovery that left Marquez starting on the back foot in 2021. But the iconic rider proved he still has a fire in his soul when he took another victory at the Sachsenring, who dominated the race despite pressure from Miguel Oliveira. It was an absolutely stunning ride for the Spanish rider, and a very welcome comeback.

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Kody Swanson Takes USAC Silver Crown Title

Kody Swanson Takes USAC Silver Crown Title

33-year-old Kody Swanson didn’t plan on competing on dirt tracks in 2021, but when he found himself sitting at the top of the USAC Silver Crown Championship standings after two wins at Lucas Oil Raceway Park and a second place at Winchester Speedway, he decided he might as well stick it out. It seemed the change in plans worked out for the best, because Swanson battled it out to yet another championship victory.

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Brandon Sheppard Is The First Person To Take Three World Of Outlaws Titles In A Row

Brandon Sheppard Is The First Person To Take Three World Of Outlaws Titles In A Row

Brandon Sheppard ended the 2021 World of Outlaws Late Model season with some records to his name. It’s the first time a driver has won three consecutive titles, and he’s now tied with Josh Richard for most Late Model titles of all time. Of the 49 events he entered, Sheppard took eight wins, 34 top fives, and 43 top-1o finishes. His winningest competition only took five victories.

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