The polls have closed for voters choosing 2008 All-America Auto Racing Team and five drivers with landslides of more than 70 percent of the vote are contenders for the Jerry Titus Award -- the team's Driver of the Year.
Who those five are is not revealed until the All-America ceremonies in Ontario, Calif., on Jan. 10 but they will come from among the 17 drivers named to the First Team by the voting members of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association.
Three former Titus winners are on the team this year -- Indy Car champions Tony Kanaan (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005), and NHRA Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher (2006) but only Schumacher bids to repeat this year.
The Titus, given in remembrance of the late racer/journalist, signifies the top vote-getter on the All-America team regardless of category, is announced at the conclusion of the annual AARWBA banquet Jan. 10 at the Hilton Hotel in Ontario, Calif., which is open to the public. Two drivers from each of seven categories are elected to the First Team, two more to the Second Team, and all drivers receiving at least five percent of the vote earn honorable mention.
Schumacher won his sixth NHRA Powerade Top Fuel championship this year, his fifth in a row. With a dominating 15-victory season he won his sixth selection as an All-America in the Drag Racing category, every one of them First Team. He is joined by NHRA Funny Car champ Cruz Pedregon in only his second All-America appearance -- his previous being on the Second Team 16 years ago when he interrupted John Force's streak of championships in 1992.
Jeg Coughlin and Tim Wilkerson were voted to represent Drag Racing on the Second Team while Frank Manzo recieved a Second Team At Large vote. Greg Anderson and Spencer Massey represented the Honorable Mention Drag Racers while Laurie Cannister recieved At Large vote.
Jimmy Johnson won his third straight NASCAR Sprint Cup but he and Carl Edwards -- runner-up in both of NASCAR's top two championships, Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series -- raced figuratively wheel-to-wheel through the vote tally in the Stock Car category. While Johnson achieved a three-peat only accomplished once before in Cup history, Edwards posted the most victories (9) on the season in addition to another seven in the Nationwide Series. Johnson makes his seventh All-America team, five in a row on First Team. Edwards is First Team for the first time after two earlier appearances on the Second Team.
Donny Schatz also scored a championship three-peat this year in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car series, becoming only the second driver in WoO history to win as many as three in a row. It was not his only hat trick as he also won the prestigious Knoxville Nationals for a third consecutive year in addition to 18 wins on the WoO circuit. Joining Schatz in the Short Track category is U.S. Auto Club double champion Jerry Coons Jr., who won both the Silver Crown and Sprint series. Added to his USAC Midget championships in 2006 and 2007, he is only the fifth driver in USAC history to win all three championships. Both drivers are now three-time All-Americans from the past three seasons, Schatz First Team each time and Coons the past two years.
Scott Dixon, the Indianapolis 500 winner and champion of the Indy Racing League, added another five victories for his championship season. Yet he was still only 17 points ahead of series runner-up and two-time winner Helio Castroneves who set a series record with eight second-place finishes. The two of them easily outdistanced the other nominees in the Open Wheel category. Both are now four-time All-Americans, the third time for Dixon on First Team but the first time Castroneves has achieved the top rung.
In the Road Racing category, drivers racing as teammates in the same car are voted on as a single entity resulting in pairs from both the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series being chosen to the team. From Grand-Am comes the Daytona Prototype champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, whose six victories included the 24 Hours of Daytona. From ALMS came the runners-up in the P2 category, David Brabham and Scott Sharp, whose four-win season included an overall victory at Lime Rock outrunning the supposedly faster P1 cars.
Pruett, with his 10th First-Team selection and 12th overall, is now tied with drag racing legend Don Garlits for the third-most times on the First Team, and behind only Steve Kinser and John Force. He is also the 15th driver to be voted an All-American as many as 12 times. His teammate Rojas is an All-American for the first time ever. Sharp makes the team for a fifth time, three as First Team, while Brabham is First Team for his first time in three appearances.
In Touring Series it was NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Johnny Benson and young ARCA champion Justin Allgaier who dominated the category. Both achieved nail-biter finishes to their seasons, Benson winning by just 7 points in the final Truck Series race while Allgaier's come-from-behind title was a result of winning the final three races of the ARCA season. It is Allgaier's first time as an All-American and Benson's second -- his first coming 15 years ago when he was ASA champion.
The tight vote in the At Large category finally produced IRL Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos and ALMS GT2 champions Jorg Bergmeister/Wolf Henzler for the First Team. Matos not only won three times in the IRL junior series but also twice in sports car races. He was an honorable mention last year when he won the Atlantic Series championship. Bergmeister is First Team for a third time, while his teammate Henzler makes his first appearance.
Information on the All-America Banquet, presented by the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, is available at www.AARWBA.org. The banquet and ceremony is open to the public.
Honorable Mention (at least 5 percent of the vote)
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