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NASCAR Driver of the Year vote: Full results
2 January 2012
That's it - here's your 2011 NASCAR Driver of the Year vote in full, with the final averaged ratings (out of ten) for the top ten:
The top ten
Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas Racing) - rated
Carl Edwards (Roush Fenway Racing) - rated
Brad Keselowski (Penske Racing) - rated
Matt Kenseth (Roush Fenway Racing) - rated
Kevin Harvick (Richard Childress Racing) - rated
Jeff Gordon (Hendrick Motorsports) - rated
Marcos Ambrose (Richard Petty Motorsports) - rated
Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) - rated
Kasey Kahne (Red Bull Racing Team) - rated
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick Motorsports) - rated
The rest of the field
Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers Racing)
Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas Racing)
Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing)
Mark Martin (Hendrick Motorsports)
Regan Smith (Furniture Row Racing)
Clint Bowyer (Richard Childress Racing)
Martin Truex Jr. (Michael Waltrip Racing)
Greg Biffle (Roush Fenway Racing)
David Ragan (Roush Fenway Racing)
Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing)
Jamie McMurray (Earnhardt Ganassi Racing)
Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing)
Juan Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Racing()
Joey Logano (Joe Gibbs Racing)
David Reutimann (Michael Waltrip Racing)
Kurt Busch (Penske Racing)
Many thanks for the thousands of votes - we were genuinely surprised and delighted by the level of response and how much interest and enthusiasm it showed the
community really has for NASCAR racing, especially at the end of what many consider to have been one of the best years of competition for US stock car racing in years - a real classic battle that will be remembered for a long time to come.
Given their towering perfomances during the season and that incredible season climax at Homestead-Miami, it's no surprise that Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards came out top of the poll - and thoroughly deserved it is too. But what an astonishing margin Stewart won by in the votes! Given that half his season was pretty anonymous, it's clearly those out-of-the-blue stunning final ten Chase races that caught voters' eyes and propelled him out of sight of the rest of the contenders in the poll. We feel a bit sorry for Edwards by comparison, whose less flashy but incredibly consistent and strong showing throughout the whole season was really quite something in itself. In any other year he would have romped home to a worthy first title, but instead he came up against Stewart in impossibly inspired form.
Brad Keselowski had a wonderful break-out year and for the first time seems a real contender in Cup competition, and it's great to have that confirmed by the
voters - who were also canny enough to spot the quality of Matt Kenseth in fourth place, despite his low-key demeanour that often means he gets overlooked by others. Kasey Kahne also got appropriate recognition for delivering a farewell win for Red Bull Racing. And of course the top ten wouldn't be complete without fan favourites Marcos Ambrose and Dale Earnhardt Jr., would it? Earnhardt slipped in to the top ten at the last minute over Trevor Bayne - it was so close that we really wanted to declare it a tie and slip Bayne in regardless, but the raw figures don't lie and a late rush of pro-Junior votes saw Earnhardt take it by a nose at the line from the 20-year-old Daytona 500 winner. Sorry, Trev.
Another driver who can usually rely on a lot of fan support from his F1 years is Juan Pablo Montoya, but
voters were evidently nonplussed by the Colombian this season and felt that he should have achieved so much more than he did. Paul Menard rated pretty well thanks to his emotional maiden win at Indianapolis, but voters felt that another first time winner David Ragan really should have been doing a lot better given that he shared the same Roush Fenway equipment as Edwards and Kenseth.
Can there be any surprise that the Busch Brothers fared as badly as they did in the poll? A stormy, troubled spirit all season, Kurt ends up dead last in the poll and by quite a long way at that - despite winning two Cup races and two further non-championship races during the season. He has the talent for sure, but few voters were keen on the way he uses it or the personality he shows in the process. It's perhaps worth noting that the poll was held during the period when Kurt split "by mutual agreement" from Penske Racing and just before he signed with Phoenix Racing, so perhaps that back-story also factored in to his support or lack thereof in the poll.
Younger brother Kyle is just as polarising a character, and despite four wins during the season he managed to alienate many with his on-track feud with Kevin Harvick, his dangerous retaliation against Ron Hornaday Jr in the Truck Series that effectively wrecked his own Chase campaign - and perhaps most of all the inexcusable 128mph joy ride he did on public roads in a sports car.
voters were in no mood to reward such behaviour and we can't say we disagree. It's interesting that it appears Kyle's Joe Gibbs Racing team mates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano were also tainted in the poll standings by association with Rowdy, too; although let's be honest, Logano's season really did feel flat - so much so that his own crew chief Greg Zipadelli was keen to call it a day and leave for pastures new.
It will be fascinating to see what happens to our cast of characters in 2012. Can Stewart and Edwards repeat the sort of form they've shown this season? Can the Busch brothers rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of fans? Will the promise shown by Keselowski and Kahne translate into title success? Will old favourites Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. shine anew?
As the old saying goes, keep watching this space to find out how it all turns out!
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