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Memo: Jimmie Was Best Driver In Best Series

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 23 2009
Jimmie Johnson went out and earned his 2009 championship. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Jimmie Johnson went out and earned his 2009 championship. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Let’s see what’s in the Morning Memo for today:

Voting for the Driver of the Year Award is done by way of a secret ballot. And that’s good and necessary. But at the same time, whenever I have voted for all-star teams, most valuable players, plays or players of the year, I have felt obligated to explain my choices.

So, here goes.

I voted for Jimmie Johnson for the 2009 DOTY.

I voted for Johnson, who won the prestigious award after post-season balloting by a panel of 20 motorsports writers and broadcasters, for a variety of reasons.

And while the final results of the balloting were not close – Johnson received 13 votes while nobody else got more than two – 2009 was a year of worthy candidates. As such, it was a tough decision. Anything but a slam dunk for me.

The reasoning for my vote:

I gave some weight to the fact that his 2009 Sprint Cup championship was his fourth in row. That, folks, is big history and it simply cannot be overlooked even when the DOTY award, by definition, is supposed to go to the driver who had the best 2009 season.

I gave considerable weight to how he did what he did. As has become standard practice for Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team, they assembled their season part by part. They identified what they needed to do and when they needed to do it.

It wasn’t really points racing, it was more just developing a plan and being able to execute it at junctures while other teams seemed to succumb to the chaos of a very chaotic sport. I like that. It’s cool efficiency at its best.

But the biggest reason I voted for Johnson was the venue in which he won his championship. The Sprint Cup series is simply the most competitive in all of major auto racing.

Fourteen different drivers won Cup races in 2009. Thirty different drivers had top-five finishes and as such, could be considered contenders to win a race. That is major competition.

I think you also have to consider Johnson’s ability to avoid trouble on the race track. He had just one DNF in 36 races. In total, there were 254 DNFs in Cup last season. Just one by the champion cannot be explained away as being due to simple luck.

Does that mean that the winner of the Sprint Cup championship should always be honored with the DOTY? Absolutely not. It is just one consideration.

In all fairness, the DOTY should be called the TOTY because racing is as much a team sport as football or baseball or hockey. But, for some reason, drivers have been tabbed to get the credit in the sport so Jimmie Johnson is the personal choice for Driver of The Year and he got my vote.

Memo to self: Sure hope the champ can contain himself after getting this news. If he gets this news.

The Morning Memo best story of the year award will not be going to Johnson. It will be going to the NHRA’s Tony Schumacher.

Schumacher won his sixth-straight Top Fuel championship this year. But numbers have little to do with good stories. Hey, the Might Casey struck out in his big at-bat.

Schumacher 2009 is a great one because of the Hollywood-like back story of his championship: He loses his crew chief, who is given part ownership of a new team. The crew chief, Alan Johnson, takes all of Schumacher’s guys with him. Schumacher uses it for motivation, as does his new crew chief and crew.

Schumacher and Johnson, who hires Larry Dixon to drive his car, duke it out all season. They trade points leads again and again. They head into the final event at historic Pomona with just a point separating them.

Schumacher wins by two points.

Memo to self: What a story.

And Finally…

…Why is it so hard to find a good television racing announcer? You know, a play-by-play guy who knows the sport and cares about the sport. Somebody who knows the nuances and catches the small things. Somebody who does not practice the ugly art of condescension.

Against that backdrop, I think ESPN made a good choice in Marty Reid. Here’s hoping The Worldwide Leader got their world-class voice…

…You’ve got to wonder how the morale is down at the USF1 shops in North Carolina this Christmas. A couple days ago, Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said in a magazine article that he thinks there is no way the American team will have a car on the starting grid when the season opens. This from a guy who has ran F1 into the dirt. Happy Holidays to you too, Bernie.

RacinToday writer Jonathan Ingram recently spent a day at the USF1 shop. Initially a skeptic, Ingram now says America’s return to the sport is a go…

…G’day, Tony Stewart, and good luck down there. We expect full report on that thing about toilets flushing backwards in Australia…

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 23 2009
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