By admin | December 21, 2008
By Richard Allen
The end of the year seems to always bring about a myriad of awards and honors in sports as well as all other fields. RacingWithRich.com has decided to join the fray by declaring the 2008 Driver of the Year.
Hard to believe as it may be, the winner of three consecutive Sprint Cup championships is not the Driver of the Year. Jimmie Johnson won his third title in NASCAR’s top division to go along with seven race wins.
In almost any year those feats would have been good enough to have any and all season honors bestowed upon a driver. However, in 2008 Johnson’s historic season was not quite good enough despite the fact that he won the ultimate prize.
Johnson’s win total actually left him third in the total number of Sprint Cup victories in a season in which three drivers accounted for two-thirds of all race wins. And, another factor to contribute to Johnson not taking the Driver of the Year honor is the fact that he did not achieve the highest point total for the overall season. Although he did do what was necessary to take the Chase for the Championship, he actually only had the second highest point total over the course of the entire season.
What’s more, Johnson did not win a single Nationwide or Craftsman Truck Series event.
Carl Edwards back flipped his way across the country by taking win after win in 2008. Edwards’ hard charging style certainly made for some interesting late race drama, particularly in Kansas where he drove very hard into the final corner and bounced off the wall in an attempt to pass eventual winner Jimmie Johnson.
Troubles in Talladega and Charlotte derailed his Chase chances but Edwards made Johnson work to the very end of the final race none the less.
Edwards won a season high nine Sprint Cup races and had the highest overall point total. He also won seven Nationwide Series races and finished in second place of the overall standings in that division. By any standard that is a great season. For that matter it would be a great season just to have had the type of success Edwards had in only one division, much less both.
However, as great as Edwards’ season was in 2008, it was not good enough to make him the Driver of the Year.
The Driver of the Year in 2008 is…Kyle Busch.
Between his efforts in the Sprint Cup Series, the Nationwide Series and the Craftsman Truck Series, Busch won 21 races. Again, that is 21 races! Eight wins in the Sprint Cup Series, ten Nationwide wins and three CTS victories added up to the young driver’s incredible win total.
Granted, Busch’s Chase for the Championship effort was a disaster. However, in the first 26 Sprint Cup races of 2008 Busch was a dominator. All of his eight wins came in that first two-thirds of the year. Crashes and mechanical problems left Busch a disappointing 10th in the final Chase standings.
Even with that lackluster ending, many will consider 2008 as a breakout for both Busch and his manufacturer, Toyota in NASCAR top series.
However, Busch’s Sprint Cup efforts only tell a part of the story. He won ten of the 30 races he entered on the Nationwide Series. That’s one-third of all his starts. Even after missing five races entirely, he was able to finish 6th in the standings. Perhaps most impressive of all, he won Nationwide races in three different rides(#18, #20 and #32).
And that’s not all. Busch also took home three Craftsman Truck series races in 2008. In his 25 starts in the CTS, Busch finished in the Top 10 an incredible 23 times.
Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards each had incredible seasons. Johnson won the championship while Edwards won the most races in the Sprint Cup division. Edwards also won four races in the Nationwide Series and finished second in the standings of both Sprint Cup and Nationwide. However, at various points throughout 2008 Kyle Busch was the name on everyone’s lips.
There were times when he was the dominate driver in all of NASCAR’s divisions. Many considered him the favorite in virtually every race he entered, even during his disastrous Chase run.
So, for his dominance in three separate divisions, Kyle Busch is the 2008 RacingWithRich.com Driver of the Year.
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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