Mini 2008: Driver of the Year

Posted by Iannucci | 12/31/2008 | 5 comments »
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Well, here we are, the grand finale of the longest running awards show since the 1998 Academy Awards, which I think are still going on. Oh wait, you said that's over? ... "Saving Private Ryan" didn't win? Well what did? ... "Shakespeare In Bed"??? You gotta be kidding me!

OK, with that in mind we now get to the "Driver of the Year" award, for which whe have many worthy candidates from which to choose. Will it be Danica Patrick, who finally won and got to use the word "finally" a lot? How about the youthful Graham Rahal, the well-shaved and youngest winner in series history? Perhaps it was Ryan-Hunter Reay, who with his comprehensive ethanol training helped the beleaguered RLR team return to the winners circle?

Nope, nope and nope. This is a tough category, people, and winning alone won't get you nominated. A driver has to do something special get into this elite group, and by special I mean in some cases not winning (although the totally un-winning Vitor Meira isn't in here either.) Here are the happy few, the nominees for 2008.

Scott Dixon - Winning a race won't get you nominated, but winning SIX will. Sure he had the best car and the best pit stall for most of the season, but the fact is he took care of business and won Indy as well as his second series title. Now if he'd just start doing something attention-grabbing like climbing fences are riding a unicycle we'd be getting somewhere.

Paul Tracy - It may seem ridiculous to nominate a guy who raced in just one event all year, but even without having a ride Tracy was talked about as much as any other driver. For crying out loud, they called a press conference just to announce the one ride he got. He later advanced from 15th to 4th in that event, garnering more air time for his efforts than the entire Dale Coyne Racing team did all season.

Oriol Servia - There are no flashy stats to back this up, as Oriol only had 6 Top 10 finishes in 16 starts. But since I'm doing the nominating I'm picking the guy, because it seems every time I looked up Servia was highest among the "transition" drivers as well as a few other IRL regulars. If a guy can go all year and make just one mistake at Texas, well that man deserves this nod. Oh, and the groovy helmet design didn't hurt either.

AJ Foyt IV - The 24-year-old Texan had some unspectacular results on the track (although he did somehow lead a road race for a few laps), but this acknowledgment isn't for the racing. It's for surviving a team that lit him on fire TWICE at Indy, which is more than all other teams combined. It's also for giving the best interview of the year.

And the winner is...



Helio Castroneves - Thanks to the banana suit above, for the first time ever the Indy Racing League had two drivers your friends and neighbors actually knew. The difference between the drivers is that one of them actually won lots of things, like races and dancing competitions.

On the track Helio tried valiantly to do what no other driver could, and that was to keep up with the juggernaut that was Scott Dixon. In July all hope of a series championship seemed gone as Helio trailed Iceman by a staggering 8,549,176,230 points our dancing champion did not buckle. Instead he responded by finishing 1st or 2nd in every one of the remaining six races.

Let me say that again: 1st or 2nd in 6 consecutive races. That's clutch.

As a result Helio ended the season having led 13 of the 17 points-related races, something even Dixon could not claim. This year Helio did not win the IndyCar series championship, did not win the Indianapolis 500, and actually won less races than his teammate, but he did win over a bunch of new fans who even though they probably don't watch IndyCar races can recognize him for what he is.

A dancing champion and a race car driver, and a man who may or may not be deported for felonies related to tax evasion. Congratulations to Helio, who fortunately has to declare absolutely nothing to the I.R.S. for receiving this award.

5 comments

  1. meeshbeer // December 31, 2008 5:47 PM  

    well bless your heart for nominating my PT! LOL! Hopefully next year there will be more than one race to base the nod on.

    Had LOL at the A.J. "are ya TRYING to kill me?" Foyt nod.

    Oriol certainly was the stand out of the transitioning drivers consistent and clean all season.

    I probably would have thrown Briscoe in this group too.

  2. Bill // December 31, 2008 9:18 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  3. pressdog // December 31, 2008 9:20 PM  

    Dixon. Easy call.

  4. tbrunn1979 // January 02, 2009 10:25 AM  

    Kudos for picking Helio! Scott Dixon had a great year, but Helio kept the season exciting.

    I'd add that Helio also deserves this honor for his consistency: he had top five finishes in 15 of the 17 points races! WOW!

  5. Tim // January 02, 2009 4:43 PM  

    It's great for Helio to win this honor in possibly his last year of eligibility.