By admin | October 28, 2008
By Richard Allen
Chase for the Championship aside, ask almost any NASCAR fan what driver has had the most impressive season and they would be likely to say Kyle Busch. After all, Busch amassed eight wins as he dominated the first 26 races of 2008.
However, Carl Edwards is making a bid to surpass Busch in number of wins as he makes a bid for title of most dominate driver of the year. His win the Pep Boys Auto 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was his 7th of 2008. Edwards has 16 Top 5s and 24 Top 10s to go along with those wins.
Busch has 17 Top 5s and 19 Top 10s to go along with his eight wins. The lower number of Top 10s indicates he has not been as consistent as Edwards. However, the high number of wins and Top 5s indicates that when Busch makes to the finish unscathed he is a prime contender for a victory.
Unfortunately for Busch, even with all the wins and dominating performances over the first two-thirds of the season, his year may be most remembered for his collapse down the stretch. Since the 26th in Richmond, a span of eight races, Busch has had no wins and only two Top 5 finishes. Every other finish during that stretch has been 15th or worse, including a last place 43rd in Dover.
While Edwards has not been good enough during the latter one-third of the season to stay with Jimmie Johnson, he has continued to add to his win total. Since the 21st race of the season in Pocono he has had four wins. Within the Chase itself Edwards has finished in the Top 3 five times.
Edwards’ Chase was ruined by consecutive poor runs in Talladega and Charlotte. In Talladega, he finished 29th after being caught up in a crash that was of his own making. In Charlotte, mechanical issues dropped him to a 33rd place result.
Busch was clearly the dominate driver over the first part of the year. Edwards, on the other hand, has made a strong case for himself as driver of the year to this point by maintaining his strength over the latter part of the year.
Also in Edwards’ favor is the fact that the Sprint Cup Series ends its season on tracks he is likely to do very well on. Texas and Homestead in particular are the type of venues his Roush Fenway Racing team have excelled on in 2008.
Granted, it is impossible to have a discussion about the driver of the year without a mention of the champion. Barring a complete disaster, Jimmie Johnson will be the title holder for the third consecutive year. And, Johnson’s six wins to go along with the title are cause for considerable consideration as driver of the year.
Johnson’s 14 Top 5s indicate that over the length of the entire season he has not been in contention to win quite as often as Busch or Edwards. But, kudos have to be given for his ability to get it done when it matters most.
However, the splash made by Busch and Toyota were the stories grabbing the most headlines during the early part of the season. Edwards’ back flips and all out approach have earned him a great deal of notoriety over the closing stages of the year. It is almost as if Johnson’s third consecutive title run will go down as somewhat of an after thought, especially if he does not win another race and his two rivals have scored more checkered flags than he at season’s end.
Driver of the year is a subjective matter. Much like beauty being in the eye of the beholder, the top driver of 2008 may very well depend on the perspective of the person deciding the issue.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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