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Stewart picks top driver.

Tony Stewart has a nominee for driver of the year in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, and it's not Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards or Kyle Busch - the three drivers who have combined for 22 victories in 34 events this season.

Stewart's choice didn't even make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but the driver of the #20 Toyota singled out his selection because of the dramatic improvement he's made in two full seasons of Cup racing.

"I would pick David Ragan - just from the standpoint that that kid has impressed me so much from where he started in this series to where he has been at the end of the year this year," said Stewart, who appeared Friday in the media centre at Phoenix International Raceway during the announcement of his appointment as grand marshal of the Fiesta Bowl Parade in January.

"I think he's probably demonstrated the most growth and patience of any of the drivers out there."

Ragan has 13 top-ten finishes this season, ten more than he had last year, and currently is 13th in the Cup standings, tops among drivers who missed the Chase.

Stewart will perform the pregame coin toss at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5. He also indicated that the signing of a crew chief for Ryan Newman, his team-mate at Stewart-Haas Racing next year, and the hiring of a director of competition for Stewart-Haas are imminent and that an announcement could come as early as next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.


by Reid Spencer/Sporting News


Related Pictures

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David Ragan, Roush-Fenway Ford [Pic Credit Ford Media]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his eighth Phoenix win with his crew Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR.  (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to his eighth Phoenix win with Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS who finished in sixth place Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Harvick won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was his 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, takes the chequered flag for his eighth Phoenix win Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his eighth Phoenix win Sunday, March 13, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. He won by a hundredth of a second, closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup History. This was Harvick`s 500th consecutive series start, a feat accomplished only by 14 others throughout the history of NASCAR. (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy / Haas Automation Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, beats Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, to the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, poses with the winner`s decal on his car in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 13, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads Kevin Harvick (driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet) during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 12, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, March 11, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualifies for seventh position Friday, March 11, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, March 11, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Hendrick Motorsports driver Johnson experienced an issue during qualifying.  He will go to a back-up car. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, March 11, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, places the Coors Light Pole Award decal on his car after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 11, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, poses for a photo after winning the pole award during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 11, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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