Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NASCAR driver of the year? I vote for ...

On the way home from Homestead the other day, I started thinking about two votes I had to cast this week.

One was for the Driver of the Year Award, which is picked by a panel of media members that I am on. The other was for the Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award, which is chosen by the members of the National Motorsports Press Association.

The first award includes all forms of motorsports that compete in North America. The second is basically the NASCAR driver of the year honor.

My problem was this. I knew that the top candidate for the overall award from the National Hot Rod Association was record-setting Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher. Scott Dixon, the Indy Racing League champion, was the clear choice from open wheel.

But then came NASCAR and the vote for the NMPA award. I couldn't compare NASCAR's top driver with Schumacher and Dixon until I decided who to vote for in the award named after Richard Petty.

Jimmie Johnson won his third championship and seven races this year. Say what you will about the system, but Johnson won the title with the one that's in place. He also beat Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, the other two candidates, for top honors in the sport's premiere series.

Edwards won 16 times in the Cup and Nationwide Series and finished with more top fives (19) and top 10s (27) in Cup than anyone else. He also finished second in the Cup and Nationwide standings and was closing fast at the end in both series.

Then there was Busch. In 84 total races in Cup, Nationwide and Trucks this year he won a remarkable 21 times. His bid to win the Cup title fizzled when he got off to a slow start in the Chase, but he tied Sam Ard's record with 10 Nationwide wins and had 57 top-10 finishes all year -- 36 in 48 starts in Nationwide and Cup.

You can't flip a three-sided coin, as far as I know, so what I decided to do was to ask listeners to the Sirius NASCAR Radio show, "The Morning Drive," that I co-host each weekday.

Between the calls and e-mails, we probably had 50 or 60 votes. It was pretty close, but the pick was Busch because of his overall excellence this year. It's the same rationale that made sense to me in 2001 when Kevin Harvick won the Busch Series title and did so well after being called on to replace the late Dale Earnhardt in Cup.

Harvick got the award in 2001 and Busch got my vote in the NMPA balloting this year. We'll see in January how the rest of the NMPA voted and who gets the award.

As for the broader Driver of the Year contest, I went with Schumacher. Nobody dominated his sport like Schumacher did this year. The driver of the Top Fuel car owned by his father, Don, won 15 NHRA races and had 76 round wins. He became the No. 1 Top Fuel winner of all-time in the process and, unlike Busch, he did win his championship.


Monkeesfan said...

DOY has to be Kyle Busch, by winning 21 of 84 races in three touring classes, and before the Chase collapse he controlled the Winston Cup tour as few others had before, taking Toyota to victory and displaying all the muscle people associated with the Toyotas from the Truck series. Also worth noting in relation to Kyle Busch is what happened to the organization he left - while Hendrick Motorsports won the 2008 driver title, the depth they had when Busch drove for them disappeared as Jeff Gordon and Casey Mears went winless and Dale Junior (Busch's replacement) proved to be a poor fit with the Hendrick way of doing things.

Anonymous said...

As usual Poole you already know my thoughts about you!!! Go ahead and give the award to the media fav cause its what everyone expects. Why not go out and find those drivers that did wonders with nothing. Opps sorry Poole I forgot those ideas and awards dont sell papers. Do you job and find the real Drivers That do amazing things with little or no resources

Anonymous said...

I have to agree 100% that Kyle Busch earns the vote for Richard Petty Driver of the Year. He really did do some amazing things this year. Even if you hate him, you have to respect his accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

Jimmie Johnson.

If Kevin Harvick didn't win driver of the year in 2006 with his then record 14 wins, a year in which he not only won a dominating title, but also ran well in the Chase, then Kyle Busch and his wins, none of which came with any pressure on him, doesn't deserve driver of the year this year. Part of driver of the year should be performing under pressure. Busch didn't - he fell apart. And, he once again quit the Nationwide points race in the middle, when he thought he couldn't win the title. I still remember his snippy interview that night.

DOY belongs to someone who can perform when it's all on the line.

Jimmie Johnson, hands down.

Anonymous said...

DOY to me is all about how a driver (team) performed ALL year, right thru all 36 races. i have to say that, altho' young mr busch's stats are impressive, that team faltered at the worst possible time. yes, some of it was just flat-out bad luck but that's part of racing. not saying, tho', that i would have chosen johnson, for much the same reason: he got hot late in the season but wasn't necessarily there for the first 2/3 of the season.

in addition, is DOY about cup drivers only? b/c i think what benson and hornaday did in trucks was pretty impressive as well. if i had to choose a nascar DOY, i'd go with one of the truck guys, hands down. for me, they were the best show in town, week in and week out. take away the "ringers" and just look at the truck regulars, especially the top 2 finishers. these racers/teams do more each week with far less than what is available to cup drivers. i say one of these guys deserves the honor, not a cup driver. my personal choice? probably hornaday, although benson surely could be DOY as well.

just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Last I checked Richard Petty never ran anything but Winston and has mocked the efforts of a Sprint Driver running in the minor leagues. So listening to the man after which the DOY award is named there is only one answer: JIMMIE JOHNSON

Anonymous said...

What no love for Dario Franchitti???

Anonymous said...

its all in the hands of the car owners they give the best of each team to promote who they want.Yuor not telling me that the best motors and the besttire changers as Jimmie Johnson. How can you be so far back in a race and come back up to finish 2nd. If everybody the same it just couldn't happen unless something funny is happening

Anonymous said...

In the series that should have been his priority Busch choked at the end and like someone else said he quit NW partway through when he couldn't win. Part of being the best is taking the bad with the good, adapting and dealing with the pressue and being a good sport as well as a winner. Jimmie Johnson, the 3 TIME CHAMPION wins hands down in all catagories. And that is 3 Championships in 3 years; that's a long time to be at the top of his game and he very well could do it again next year.

Anonymous said...

If it says David Poole at the top I don't even bother reading it.