Sam Hornish Jr. of the Indy Racing League, won third quarter Driver of the Year balloting by receiving nine of 17 panel members votes and 115 points.
He beat out Kevin Harvick, who won two NASCAR Nextel Cup races, but scored triple victories in the lower classification Busch Series. Harvick had five first-place votes and 69 points.
Third was A.J. Almendinger with two first-place place votes by panelists and 69 points. Points are awarded each voters top six picks on a 9,6,4,3,2,1 scale. NASCAR's Matt Kenseth (two wins) was next with the other first-place vote and 68 points, Rounding out the top six were World Of Outlaws Donny Schatz (eight wins in that busy series) and CART's Sebastien Bourdais (two wins).
So, you may ask, I thought drag racing, and especially NHRA POWERade competition was included in the voting. Didn't John Force, in his remarkable 13 win season become the first quarter pounder to win the award? And was equally impressive Greg Anderson Driver of the Year two seasons ago?
Yes. That's right on all three counts.
And Top Fuel's Tony Schumacher finished SEVENTH. Now, remember, these quarterly votes are basically just to see how things are going. The real Driver of the Year is decided by secret ballot of the panel after all competition is completed.
Now, this writer has all the respect in the world for the Driver of the Year, especially after being a voting member of the then l0-member panel and finally an associate for years after that.
And I remember that very first year -- and yes, even before Steve Earwood had helped get NHRA onto the ballot -- we were instructed by Ozzie Olsen and Tom Dailey that the emphasis should be on winning races.
Unlike NASCAR, since 1976 gave the winner only five more points. Yeah, until last year, the race winner could wind up a tie with the second finisher
But winning is the thing.
And so, David Pearson won the races, but Cale Yarborough managed to win the title.
David Pearson was Driver of the Year because of wins in '76.
So perhaps with former panelist Dave Despain would have nodded toward NHRA's Schumacher, Certainly, by the DOY's system Schumacher would be in the mix. Some venues have more races than for other, but here aside from that, not counting that very busy World of Outlaws (more on those in a minute), here are the wins:
Hornish Jr. 3 wins. 8 races
Personally, even because they're so busy, we still see them as little more than double-A.
Oh, you don't agree, then who is third behind these two: Donny Schatz with eight wins and Joey Saldana with five. But that's in a total of 24 races. See what we mean?
(Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Summit Drag Race Central, the Busch Series, the World Of Outlaws and the voting panelists of the Driver of the Year).