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Armijo: Jimmie Is No. 1

Contributing Writer | , RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 24 2009
Jimmie Johnson, a four-time champion, gives 10-time champion Yogi Berra a new car during visit to New York on Monday. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jimmie Johnson, a four-time champion, gives 10-time champion Yogi Berra a new car during visit to New York on Monday. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mark Armijo | Senior Correspondent
RacinToday.com

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greatest of them all?

At least, who was the greatest in 2009? Which driver impressed me most, drove the best and ultimately deserves my vote for Driver of the Year?

The envelope, please….

Yes, Jimmie Johnson.

How can you pick against him? Johnson did something no driver in NASCAR’s 61-year history did before, which was motor to an unprecedented fourth straight driving title.

Historians can argue until the end of time the merits of such a feat, but this is what Johnson teammate Jeff Gordon said following the season finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway:

“I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime,” he said.

Quite frankly, neither did I.

Thrown in seven wins, including an impressive score at Phoenix International Raceway following a week in which he sputtered to a 38th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway and lost a trunk load of points in the championship standings, and it should  be a no-brainer, shouldn’t it?

This corner thinks so.

As for the remainder of my top five picks for DOTY, here they are:

NO. 2

Tony Schumacher

Although with five wins Schumacher didn’t come close to matching last year’s astonishing mark of 15 victories, it still was a tremendous season.

Schumacher snapped his own mark with a sixth straight NHRA Top Fuel crown, including a record-tying eighth U.S. Nationals title, the sport’s Super Bowl.

NO. 3

Mark Martin

Old Man River drank from the Hendrick Racing Fountain of Youth and posted a season for the ages.

At age 50, Martin drove like someone 20 years younger, winning five races after no wins the previous three seasons and finishing series runner-up to Hendrick teammate Johnson.

Martin isn’t the DOTY, but he certainly rivals Johnson for Story of the Year.

NO. 4

Kyle Busch

Yes, yes, we know. Busch didn’t race well enough to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But how can you argue against a season in which this immensely talented wheelman posted 20 wins (four Cup; nine Nationwide, including the series title; and seven truck)?

You can’t. Not really.

Forget about his brash behavior at times (OK, a lot of the time). The kid can motor. And he’s fun to watch, fan or not.

NO. 5

Dario Fanchitti

So what did this Scotsman do for fun after exiting the Sprint Cup circuit following last season?

Oh, he just returned to the Indy Racing League and won five races, including the driving title.

While Franchitti didn’t make the Indianapolis 500 a signature win, he did become only the third driver to win more than one IRL crown.

That should count for something. In this corner’s eyes, it does.

– Mark Armijo is the former long-time auto-racing beat writer for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix and a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com

Contributing Writer | , RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 24 2009
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