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Armijo: Here Is One Vote For John, Not Jimmie

Mark Armijo | Senior Correspondent, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 27 2010

John Force won his 15th Funny Car championship this year. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

Yes, we know. Jimmie Johnson continues to perform in crunch time just as smoothly as an ex-NBA superstar with the initials MJ used to do for umpteen years for the Chicago Bulls.

All of sport’s greats are like that. Somehow, some way, they always seem to know how to come through when it counts most. Remember when Muhammad Ali rose off his back to beat Joe Frazier?

Although Johnson didn’t rise off his back just in time to collar a fifth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, he did rise to the occasion.

By finishing runner-up in Sunday’s Chase season finale at Homestead, Fla., Johnson managed to overtake Denny Hamlin and secure another piece of championship hardware for his living room mantle.

What Johnson didn’t manage to do, however, was convince this corner that he is this season’s Driver of the Year.

No, the winner in our humble opinion goes to… drum roll, please.

John Force

OK, how many diehard Johnson fans did we just alienate? That many, huh?

Still, how can anyone overlook Force’s year. Sure, he’s had drag racing seasons where he’s been a dominant, uh, force, and also won significantly more races.

But has Force delivered a more memorable year to his legion of fans? He turned 61 (that’s not a typo) in May and still had enough fire in his belly to win six Funny Car races in a difficult class and also an NHRA-record 15th pro-category championship.

It was Force’s most wins since 2002, when he won eight, and the title made him NHRA’s oldest pro-category champion in history.

Remember, this is the same guy who suffered multiple, serious injuries in a wicked 2007 crash at the Texas Motorplex, an accident that went a long way in Force winning just once in 2008 and none in 2009, a winless season that ended a streak in which he’d won at least one national event in 22 consecutive seasons.

No. 2

Kyle Busch

What, no Johnson? Sorry, folks.

While Busch didn’t even snare a title this season, he did win a trunk load of NASCAR races in its top three divisions.

Count ‘em. Three Cup wins, a record 13 in Nationwide and eight in the Camping World Truck series (in only 16 starts) for a grand total of 24 trips into victory lane.

Busch led 1,271 laps in 36 Cup races, second only to Johnson’s 1,315, and finished eighth in the final Chase standings.

Busch finished third in the Nationwide standings despite making only 29 starts in 35 races.

No. 3

Larry Dixon

Almost there, Johnson fans.

A convincing argument could be made for Dixon receiving the DOTY nod. And, no, we wouldn’t argue. At least, not very much.

Not only did Dixon end Tony Schumacher’s six-year championship reign, he won his first title in seven seasons and was a perfect 12-for-12 in final rounds (an NHRA record for final rounds without a loss).

Among Dixon’s career-high 12 wins was a fourth U.S. Nationals victory.

No. 4

Jimmie Johnson

Finally.

Johnson again proved unstoppable. He won six races, posted a series-high 17 top-five finishes and led more laps than anyone.

But Johnson wasn’t the circuit’s top winner (Denny Hamlin had a series-high eight wins) nor was he more consistent than Kevin Harvick, who led throughout most of the regular season.

Johnson, however, was the best when it counted most. Really, is there anything more you can ask of someone?

No. 5

Dario Franchitti

As much as we secretly maintain a school-boy crush on Mrs. Franchitti, it had nothing to do with making Mr. Franchitti the choice ahead of such talented wheelmen as Hamlin, Harvick, Scott Pruett, Mike Edwards, Greg Anderson, LE Tonglet or Tony Schumacher.

Franchitti won three races, including the Indianapolis 500 for a second time, and also collared a second-straight IZOD IndyCar Series championship and third overall.

Give that man a Kewpie Doll. Wait a minute. He already has one.

– Mark Armijo is the veteran auto racing beat writer for the Arizona Republic and a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com

Mark Armijo | Senior Correspondent, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 27 2010
8 Comments

8 Comments »

  • Jim says:

    John Force. No one in motorsports/sports has more love and/or passion for his/her sport and what he does than John Force. As you said; Who else at age 61, after suffering the worst injuries of his career would climb back into the cockpit to race again? And after 2 very atypical John Force seasons, come back in 2010 to come from behind on the very last day of racing, to beat out 27 year old Matt Hagan by 40 some odd points.

    John has given his life and so much more to drag racing. It’s wonderful to see him get the recognition he so rightfully deserves.

  • lisa harris says:

    John worked really hard for this year’s title, He deserves every bit of recognition that comes his way. He proved he still has it.
    The vote goes his way! no question.

  • Andrew says:

    This whole thing with John Force has got me all interested in funny cars and stuff. So, cool.

    In Sprint Cup, until I see otherwise, I really don’t see much delineation between drivers. People say “this guys is better than that guy” but honestly it all comes down to equipment maintenance and team interaction. Every driver is competent, and every driver at the elite level can pretty much do the same thing. It is only now that I make that statement, because the gap has truly closed on places like short tracks and road courses.

    So, there’s nothing special about Kyle. Plus, honestly people make minor deals about his Nationwide garbage but it truly is like playing video games with cheat codes. The counter-argument is that the series needs high profile names to survive but…the races would be so much cooler if they were Nationwide only, with Cup drivers maybe occasionally at marquee events.

    I’d like to see some X-games rally drivers in here maybe.

    Thank you.

  • pAUL DESTACKELBERG says:

    John force is the cinderella story this year! making his comback from 2007 has been long and hard, but his determination, along with his teams support, gained him his 15th national championship! At age 61, who else in racing history has ever accomplished such a feat???? God bless John and Ashley Force for their driving excellence, their family for putting up with it, and the entire Force team for their awsome commitment!!! MY VOTE FOR DRIVER OF THE YEAR IS JOHN FORCE!!!!!!!!!

  • Kathy says:

    Definitely John Force! Glad to see him get some recognition for an awesome year. I hope others agree with your vote!

  • Mr. Tony Geinzer says:

    I’d say Force or Dixon, if not Jason Meyers, Big Scott Bloomquist, Jimmy Owens, Bryan Clauson or Tim Shaffer for differing reasons, but NO Kyle because his Dirty Bird means he can’t race the Minors No More unless he is one again and NO JJ because my Montra for 2010 is “ALL HAMLIN DOES IS WHINE!” to play off DJ Khaled and I want in Cup McMurray or 00 Reutimann

  • Vicki says:

    I’ll give you John Force but Kyle above Jimmie? Please. There’s no way going down to the minors to pad his win column counts for the same as Cup. That’s the big boy league and that’s where you have to make it to prove yourself.

  • Terry says:

    I am in agreement with you. John Force gets my vote. Not just sentimental but deservedly so…..and I am not a huge drag fan.
    He has shown real courage and desire to win this when others would have just retired. I am pround that FORD continued to back him like they did.
    THAT SAID…..just a brief aside…..Ali was only down in 1 Frazier fight ….the first FIGHT of the CENTURY in the 15th round and he lost to Smokin Joe in an unanamous decision….
    You might be thinking of the third fight THRILLA in MANILLA….in which he was on the ropes in the 10th 11th and 12th where he wanted to quit but came back to when in the 14th.
    Good article and an enjoyable read.