The season wasn’t even two days old before Christopher Bell provided one of its best quotes.

“This is fun,” Bell said, very tongue in cheek. “We’re having fun.”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was not having fun. Bell had just been spun during his heat race for the Busch Light Clash inside the L.A. Coliseum. A few weeks later, he would use the same line, this time with a big smile, while standing in the snow that was coming down at Auto Club Speedway.

With the 2023 calendar coming to the end of its final page, so too does NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season. Plenty did indeed have fun, the last of which being Ryan Blaney earning his first Cup Series championship. On the other hand, Hendrick Motorsports didn’t have as much fun as it would have liked after seeing two of its drivers suffer injuries early in the year.

There were good races and bad races. Fines? Oh, NASCAR levied plenty. Penalties were distributed like Christmas presents at times, and there were enough drivers mad at each other to fill the family dinner table.

NASCAR didn’t miss a step with marketing around its 75th anniversary season. Some of the most popular merchandise throughout the year was the anniversary-logoed apparel and accessories. Fans were treated to special coverage with ad campaigns and films, and in late spring, additional drivers were added to the Greatest Drivers list to bring the total, of course, from 50 to 75.

If we want to get personal, then here is a shameless plug for ‘NASCAR 75 Years,’ a coffee table book released in early April. Among the four authors was yours truly.

It was another long but rewarding year of covering the sport in what will stand as one of its milestone seasons.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JTG Daugherty Racing were first-time winners in the Daytona 500. It is special trying to capture the emotion and the meaning of winning the sport’s biggest race.

North Wilkesboro returned. It’s a place that just won’t go away. The enthusiasm around the weekend was refreshing, even with the stomping Kyle Larson put on the field. It seems rare for positivity to outweigh all else, but during the week and weekend when cars and trucks were on track at North Wilkesboro, it was hard to find someone unhappy or not enjoying themselves.

In a reflection column afterward, it felt fitting to share a story of seeing the track in 2016 when it was beat up and left for dead. The hope of a community (and one dedicated gatekeeper) kept the place from completely falling down and disappearing.

By the time the circuit entered the summer months, there were great stories emerging. NASCAR was a big hit in France with the Garage 56 entry, and seeing the project go the distance made it even better. Plus, the next time someone says NASCAR is nothing more than big old stock cars, you can prove the point by pulling up the Getty Images photo of the car largely standing out – and tall – in the field. If you haven’t seen it, it’s hard not to find. It’ll be iconic for years to come.

There was a ton of coverage around Garage 56, and it was clear how much fans were enjoying seeing the car, whether it was those in France or in the United States, when NASCAR put the car on display at NASCAR races late in the year. When it was brought out for some laps around the Charlotte Roval, Rick Hendrick and Jim France looked like proud parents who didn’t want to let it out of their sight.

International flavor was the story of the summer, in fact. Shane van Gisbergen burst onto the scene in Chicago and provided one of the best stories in recent memory. van Gisbergen’s victory with Trackhouse Racing wasn’t just popular within the United States, but around the world. It didn’t take long for him to return to the car (at Indianapolis) and make it known he wanted to be here on a more permanent basis.

Chicago (main image) was a tremendous success – the decision to shortened the race aside. The weather did nothing to dampen the mood, and it was one of the most fun race weekends many have been a part of, not only because it was new but also so different.

van Gisbergen was just the start. Brodie Kostecki joined the fun on the Indianapolis road course, as did Kamui Kobayashi, while Mike Rockenfeller returned to the series, as did Jenson Button. There were six international drivers in the Cup Series field at Indianapolis.

A lot happens over the course of a nine-month season. Ross Chastain rubbed (seemingly) everyone the wrong way, which led to months of conversation around whether his performance was suffering because he was being tamed.

Denny Hamlin felt it was “our year” to win a championship but failed to make the Championship 4. He did, however, go viral with his “I beat your favorite driver” quip after winning at Bristol Motor Speedway in the fall.

Hamlin, whether you love him or hate him, makes people pay attention. That will never be a bad thing. As a driver, he knows how to push buttons but he’s also quite insightful if you give a listen to his podcast. Hamlin is one of the best at talking about racing and breaking down what happened on Sunday afternoon – for himself and others. And he wasn’t afraid to admit crashing Chastain in the spring Phoenix race and be fined for it. Although I think he still wants his money back.

Ryan Preece had one of the worst tumbles in recent memory during the summer Daytona race. The speed with which his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford barrel rolled was jarring.

On and on it goes. For an anniversary season, NASCAR had a little bit of everything from the highs and lows, to dealing with a race car that still needs some work on the short tracks. Granted, not every race will be a barn burner but those races have certainly been lacking.

We also can’t leave out that the sport also bid adieu to one of the best it’s ever seen. Kevin Harvick didn’t go out with one last win but he was the center of attention all year long with a well-done marketing campaign that helped relieve moments from throughout his career. Harvick will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, and fortunately for the sport, he’s going to bring tremendous insight into the Fox Sports booth.

And on that note, let’s bid so long to another NASCAR season. An anniversary season, no less. There were highs and lows, the good and bad, and of course fun.