Friday, December 17, 2010

Johnson wins fourth Driver of the Year Award

Just a few weeks after celebrating his unprecedented five titles during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas, Jimmie Johnson has received another distinguished honor: Driver of the Year.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver edged out NHRA Funny Car champion John Force to collect his fourth DOTY Award, voted on by a panel of motorsports journalists and broadcasters from across the country.

"It’s an honor to win the award again,” Johnson said after Wednesday’s announcement. “Among such tough competition, with the voting panel, who it is and how well versed they are in motorsports. It’s a huge, huge honor.”

Johnson received 10 votes to Force’s seven. In their respective series, Johnson and Force came from behind in the standings to claim the championship in the season’s final race. Johnson, with six Sprint Cup victories in 2010, made NASCAR history by winning his fifth consecutive title, while Force, the 1996 DOTY winner, won a record-setting 15th NHRA championship.

Kyle Busch was the only other driver under consideration for the award, receiving one vote. Busch won 24 races across NASCAR’s top three series and became the first driver to sweep in all three during a single race weekend, which he did at Bristol in the fall.

Facing the enormity of the accomplishments before them, the panel had a difficult decision on their hands.

“This year’s pre-vote teleconference was one of the most spirited debates that I can recall,” said Barry Schmoyer, president of the Driver of the Year Foundation.

“As many people have said already, it will be a long time before anyone will set the bar as high as Jimmie Johnson,” Schmoyer said.

Johnson’s four DOTY Awards tie him with teammate Jeff Gordon for the most wins in the 44 years the award has been bestowed. Johnson has received the honor four of the five years of his title reign: 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, as well as for the first quarter of 2010.

Two weeks ago, at the end-of-the-year banquet in Las Vegas, Gordon spoke of the magnitude of Johnson’s championship feat and its place in NASCAR history.

“This is something that will – I think everybody will agree – never, ever will be done in this sport,” Gordon said onstage at the Wyn Las Vegas.

After the ceremony, Gordon elaborated in an interview with Sporting News: “There are so many factors that weigh in to what it takes to win a championship. There are so many things that can go wrong. To win two or three – even four, I thought was amazing. (But) to … win five? I don’t think anyone else will ever do that. I really don’t.”

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