Wednesday
Dec162009

Giving thanks for another great racing season, and the Autoextremist Driver of the Year

Yes, it confounds us with its archaic stupidities, the rampant egos - the people who go out of their way to throw the sport as a whole under the bus as long as their personal bank accounts are full - and the unrelenting consequences of their actions, the infuriating decisions and non-decisions of the various sanctioning bodies, the lack of technical progress (at least in terms of advancing vehicle technology that we can all benefit from), the abject refusal  to fix things that are wrong with the sport by the very people who could actually affect change, and on, and on, and on. But at the end of the day we keep coming back for more because racing and motorsport intrigues us, consumes us and stirs passions in us like no other human endeavor.

Peter M. De Lorenzo is a national columnist who founded Autoextremist.com, a highly-regarded website devoted to news, commentary and analysis of the auto industry. He is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.And let me stress that human aspect of the sport, because without the people and the personalities - and yes, even the egos - motor racing wouldn’t nearly be as much fun. Not even close, as a matter of fact. We revel in the myriad challenges, we love watching the players go through the sturm und drang in their pursuit of lofty and at times unobtainable goals, we love the drama and the urgency, and the right now aspect of the sport that few other sports can match. We love it all, which is exactly why we keep coming back for more, year after year and season after season.

As we close out this year, I am reminded of all that goes into presenting the sport we love. And I am reminded that without the devotion of corner workers, administration and media people at the various tracks, the organizers, the technical and logistical people, and of course the countless volunteers, none of this would be possible. So thank you, everyone, for helping to keep the sport alive.

And finally, I’m going to discuss my Driver of the Year. I don’t always do it, but I felt the need to do it this year. I bet you’re thinking it’s four-time NASCAR Jimmie Johnson, and you’d be wrong. Don’t misunderstand, I have gone on record as saying that Jimmie’s achievement - as well as Chad Knaus and his crew - is simply all-time great, there’s no question about it. He’s the obvious choice, and he deserves all of the recognition and accolades he has received. The other driver who I feel deserves mention is of course Jenson Button, whose persistence, dedication and relentless will to succeed in Formula 1 finally came good. And Dario Franchitti, who explored the NASCAR circus and found it lacking, for any number of reasons, but who then came back to win in his first love - high-powered open-wheel racing cars - to capture the 2009 IndyCar championship. Well done to all of these gentlemen.

But there’s a driver out there who has held my interest ever since he stepped on the world racing stage. A steely-eyed, iron-willed competitor driven by an unrelenting will to win while displaying an uncanny, almost other-worldly level of car control, he has won in everything he has tried, from Indy-style cars and Formula 1 machines to the weighty American “stock” cars. As a matter of fact he walked away from F1 to try his hand at NASCAR, and three years later he is a force to be reckoned with in every race he starts. For his take-no-prisoners style, his tough as nails on-track demeanor, his joy for what he does and his staggering ability behind the wheel, Juan Pablo Montoya is our Autoextremist Driver of the Year.

Peace and happiness to all, see you next year.

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