Mini 2008: Rookie of the Year

Posted by Iannucci | 9/23/2008 | 7 comments »
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With the influx of refugee drivers from Champ Car, the IndyCar series chose to pick and choose it's rookies this year based on some random formula relating to oval racing experience. Wait, Justin Wilson is a rookie and Oriol Servia is not? Whatever.

Friends, the Mini Award qualifications have decided to cancel most those "transition" folks out of the balloting. The fact is that other series was largely a parallel of the IndyCar series, but with turbo chargers, standing starts and Michelle Beisner. Beyond that, they even ran on some of the same tracks, so when we say "rookie" around here we mean "rookie" in the rookiest sense of the word. Sorry, Graham.

Being a rookie means this: (1) fretting over forgetting where your pit box is, (2) soiling yourself in Turn Four at Indy, and (3) trying in vain all year to get Danica Patrick to recognize you as a fellow competitor. With those parameters defined, here are your 2008 nominees:

Jamie Camara - This is more of a sympathetic nod to the driver who toiled away in Indy Pro obscurity for three years. Camara's finest hour in 2008 came at Richmond where he led a whopping 44 laps. However, like so many races throughout his career he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by crashing out. And by "victory" I mean a Top 10 finish, something that eluded him all season.

Mario Moraes - His greatest claim to fame this year was that he led 3 laps at Indianapolis, which is amazing considering he was going about as fast the trucks that helped dry the track. Moraes was practically invisible all year, which is both good and bad. He placed higher than 10th just once but still managing to finish all but four races. Hanging close in the standings to his far more experienced teammate (Bruno Junqueira) is a good sign for a kid who's only two weeks older than the Son of 'Stache.

Hideki Mutoh - After a 2007 season that included a runner-up finish in the Indy Pro series and an astonishing 8th place debut at Chicagoland, Mutoh landed in one of what was considered to be the best 8 rides in the league. Sadly, he finished in 10th. To Mutoh's credit he usually kept the car clean, finishing all but four races and garnering eight Top 10 finishes. His highlight was a second place finish in Iowa, along with the fact that Danica! actually knows who he is. But again, 10th place in basically the car that Dario Franchitti drove the championship last year.

EJ Viso - Viso was without a doubt the most exciting driver in the IndyCar series. He's honest, he's fresh (I sound like Gordon Ramsay), and he drives like he's in a video game. Mash gas, turn occasionally, and bounce of other cars on your way through the field. He would be a runaway winner in this category by leading at least 9 laps in two different races for a one-car transition team, but unfortunately he wrecked in his last two races. I realize the Chicagoland incident was probably equipment related, but clearly Dallaras are not yet completely Viso-proof. Plus he contracted the mumps in the middle of the season, setting off an embarrassing league-wide hazmat warning.

And the winner is...


Franck Perera - Call his season "To Hell and Back". Fronkensteen started off the year with a respectable 14th place finish at Homestead, registering the second highest result for a driver on a transition team. He then went on to run solidly in the Top 3 at St Pete before colliding with Vitor Meira. Perera's excuse? "I was faster." He shrugged off Meira's "Look how fast you are now, dude" and hopped into a DP-01 at Long Beach for a 6th place finish ... where he was promptly FIRED and replaced by Jamie Camara and his big fat wad of cash.

So what did a Frenchman like Perera do? Surrender? No, monsieur! He swallowed his pride and took his skills to Indy Lights. In 9 races he scored 2 pole positions, 3 Top 5s and even won one of the races at Infineon. Perera was impressive enough to do what no one else could - come back to the IndyCar series - where he took a last minute ride in a 2nd Foyt car from 24th to 15th in the season finale.

Congratulations to Franck, for showing a combination of budding ability and quiet fortitude. IndyCar fans are looking forward to your future, and we hope to high heaven you are NOT the next Laurent Redon.

(Photo by TrackSide Online)

7 comments

  1. Too Much Racing // September 23, 2008 4:37 PM  

    Like all awards shows, you wish someone else woulda won, so here's my pick: Moraes
    This is based on experience more than anything. To come from British Formula 3 and do that well in a Coyne car on all types of tracks... that's impressive.
    I agree that Perera has a bright future ahead of him and is probably a better driver as a whole.

  2. Iannucci // September 23, 2008 4:51 PM  

    I know how ya feel. I'm not ashamed to say I was hoping Viso would win but I got outvoted by myself.

  3. Dale Nixon // September 23, 2008 5:20 PM  

    Did you really just pick the guy that FINISHED BEHIND MILKA in Chicago as your Rookie of the Year?

    Wait, upon further review, he didn't just FINISH BEHIND MILKA, he FINISHED A FREAKIN' LAP DOWN TO MILKA.

    So, I'd vote for him as second-best-driver-whose-agent-bought-him-a-last-minute-ride to Jamie Camara for the year.

    (But I am happy this awards-pondering is taking time away from your pre-draft hockey rankings...)

  4. mmack // September 24, 2008 5:58 AM  

    (2) soiling yourself in Turn Four at Indy

    Jeff,

    Based on your criteria, Son of 'Stache is a rookie, as I'm pretty sure he needed fresh undies after whalloping T4 in this year's 500.

    Far be it for me to disagree with our humble host, but I'm just sayin'.

    Since Mr. Viso was so unfairly slighted in voting, one hopes a special Most Exciting Newcomer award is coming his way, hint hint.

    :^P

  5. ASpeed // September 24, 2008 8:48 AM  

    No way. Most exciting newcomer has to be this new fellow who's going to be driving alongside Dixon at Ganassi next season. Or do we have to wait until next year to give out that award? Anyway, I haven't heard much about that guy, but he sure is dreamy, isn't he?

  6. Gnome // September 24, 2008 10:30 AM  

    My pick would have been EJ Viso, who has shown that he's not only very aggressive and boarderline reckless, but fast as hell. Still, I like the reasons you listed for picking Perera, so I don't have any problems.

  7. Katie // September 24, 2008 8:09 PM  

    Loved who you chose for RoY. Being a Perera girl myself, it was heartbreaking to see him get replaced by "Gamara." I was more than happy for him when he rebounded, and took a step back to FIL, and I am hoping that his run with Foyt at Chicagoland will give him an opportunity to run in IndyCar, where he belongs. And, the Meira-Perera crash put me on the fence as well. Had to support my #1 guy, Vitor, in that battle, but hilarious none the less.