Jimmie Johnson named 2013 Driver of the Year

2 Comments

A panel of American motorsports broadcasters and journalists have chosen Jimmie Johnson as the 2013 Driver of the Year, marking the fifth time that he’s been recognized as the top driver in a North American racing series.

Johnson, who claimed his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship last fall after a nip-and-tuck battle through the Chase with Matt Kenseth, broke a tie with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for the most DOTY victories all-time.

“It’s a great honor to receive the Driver of the Year Award,” Johnson said in a statement released today. “2013 was an incredible season and I’m really proud at how hard everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and Team Lowe’s Racing worked to win races and ultimately the championship. It’s awesome to be recognized for our effort.”

The DOTY award was founded in 1967 and has honored some of the greatest names in auto racing, including legends like Mario Andretti (its very first winner), A.J. Foyt, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and John Force.

Johnson was given this year’s award after he received 12 votes from the panel. Force, who enters 2014 after winning his 16th NHRA Funny Car championship, was second with six votes. 2013 World of Outlaws champion Daryn Pittman, who drives for Sprint Cup star Kasey Kahne’s short-track team, got one vote.

“Between Jimmie Johnson and the ageless John Force, panelists had to choose between some historic achievements,” DOTY Foundation president Barry Schmoyer said in his own thoughts.

“As we noted the last time Jimmie won Driver of the Year Award [2010], it will be a long time before anyone will set the bar as high he does.”

This year marks the fifth consecutive year that a NASCAR competitor has won the DOTY award. Johnson has won it three times in that span (2009, 2010, 2013), while Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski won in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

The last non-NASCAR driver to win it was the NHRA’s Tony Schumacher in 2008.

Valiant efforts from Hunter-Reay, Dixon come up just short at Road America

Leave a comment

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon drove about as hard as they possibly could during Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, and they both drove nearly perfect races.

Hunter-Reay took advantage of Will Power’s engine issues on the start to immediately jump into second, and stalked pole sitter and leader Josef Newgarden from there, often staying within only a couple car lengths of his gearbox.

Dixon, meanwhile, had a tougher chore after qualifying a disappointing 12th. Further, he was starting in the same lane as Will Power, and when Power had engine issues when the green flag waved, Dixon was one of several drivers who was swamped in the aftermath.

Scott Dixon had to come from deep in the field on Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

However, as is his style, he quietly worked his way forward, running sixth after the opening round of pit stops, and then working his way up to third after the second round of stops.

It all meant that, after Lap 30, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon were nose-to-tail at the front, with the latter two in position to challenge for the win.

Yet, neither was able to do so. Hunter-Reay never got close enough to try to pass Newgarden, while Dixon couldn’t do so on either Hunter-Reay or Newgarden. And, neither driver went longer in their final stint – Dixon was actually the first of that group to pit, doing so on Lap 43, with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden pitting together one lap later.

And Newgarden pulled away in the final stint, winning by over three seconds, leaving Hunter-Reay and Dixon to finish second and third.

It was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, with Hunter-Reay noting that he felt like he had enough to challenge for a win.

“I felt like we had the pace for (Newgarden), especially in the first two stints,” he asserted. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint – I didn’t know when it was going to come.”

He added that, if he could do it over again, he would have been more aggressive and tried to pass Newgarden in the opening stint.

“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”

Dixon, meanwhile, expressed more disappointment in the result, asserting that qualifying better would have put him in a possibly race-winning position.

“I think had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today,” he expressed.

The disappointment for Dixon also stems from the knowledge that his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda had the pace to win, especially longer into a run.

“The car was pretty good on the long stint,” he asserted. “I think for us the saving grace was probably the black tire stint two. We closed a hefty gap there. We were able to save fuel early in the first stint, which enabled us to go a lap longer than everybody, had the overcut for the rest of the race.

“I think speed-wise we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn 14), got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.”

Dixon remains in the championship lead, however, by 45 points, while Hunter-Reay moved up to second, tied with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.

Follow@KyleMLavigne