Monday, December 21, 2009

Johnson voted driver of the decade, AP male athlete of the year

It looks like not only did the NASCAR media get it right, but the Associated Press as well. Jimmie Johnson was voted the NASCAR driver of the decade by the media and the AP male athlete of the year. No race car driver has ever been named AP male athlete of the year in the 78 years of the award.
“We’d been wondering the last few years, ‘When is this going to hit?’” Johnson told the Associated Press. “It seems like the answer is now. The wave is finally peaking and we don’t know where it’s going to take us. The fourth-straight title takes it out of our sport and makes it a point of discussion like, ‘Wow, a race car driver won this thing.’”
To think of all the great drivers who have not won the AP male athlete of the year award. AJ Foyt, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Rick Mears all have the credentials. Johnson has the benefit of great timing.
He beat out tennis star Roger Federer and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt for the honor. Federer has been and is clearly on the decline. If it was an Olympic year, Bolt might have had a chance.
In all honesty, who else could have challenged Johnson this year? Tiger Woods? Tim Tebow? LeBron James? Athletes clouded in scandal or underachievement, at least this year.
It’s been a great year for Johnson and his four straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships are a testament to how great his latest streak has been.
It was a no-brainer to select him as the NASCAR driver of the decade. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Associated Press honor him as athlete of the year.
Here is how the media ranked the top NASCAR drivers of the decade:

1. Jimmie Johnson: Four straight Cup championships, 47 Cup wins in the decade and the only driver to make the Chase is all six years of its existence.
2. Tony Stewart: Two Cup championships, one in the Chase format, one in the old format.
3. Jeff Gordon: Only one of his four Cup championships came in the past decade. Although an argument can be made if not for the Chase, he might have two more Cup championships.
4. Kurt Busch: He won the first Chase, by the narrowest of margins, and has been almost a lock to make the Chase every year.
5. Matt Kenseth: Still being blamed for creating the Chase. Too bad this wasn’t a poll for the most infamous driver of the decade.

Photo: Jimmie Johnson was voted as the NASCAR driver of the decade and the Associated Press male athlete of the year. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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