1. Jimmie Johnson: Was there any doubt? How could I not pick the guy who became the first man in history to win four consecutive Sprint Cup championships?
Now Johnson can take aim at Michael Schumacher, who won five consecutive championships in F1. Like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt in Cup, Schumacher won seven titles in his career, but he’s the only man in either series to win five in a row.
Schumacher was 35 when he earned his fifth consecutive F1 crown, the last of his seven titles. Johnson will be 35 when he attempts to equal the 5-for-5 accomplishment.
2. Lewis Hamilton: Jenson Button had the best car in F1 this year. Hamilton remains the best driver.
McLaren-Mercedes was a little off as a team in 2009, but Hamilton still managed to win two races and finish ahead of where he started in nine events.
Hamilton was a remarkable plus-19 in positions gained for the season, an extremely difficult thing to do in F1 racing where the starting spot often reflects how you finish.
3. Tony Stewart: Is there anyone else in racing who could have done what Stewart did this season with Stewart-Haas Racing? I think not.
Stewart took over a terrible team and made it a serious contender immediately. He did it by hiring the right people and using Hendrick engines (Haas Racing also had Hendrick engines), but mainly he did it because Stewart is a helluva race car driver.
Stewart is one of only two drivers today (the other also made this list) who have shown they can race competitively in NASCAR and a major open-wheel series.
4. Jenson Button: He won his first F1 title and a series-best six races for a Brawn-Mercedes team that surprised almost everyone.
Many people who follow the sport have known for years that Benson had the talent to win a championship, but he didn’t have the equipment to do it. That finally happened this season and Button made the most of it.
Button’s six victories came in the first seven races of the season before a few of the other teams caught up to Brawn, but he still finished in a points-paying spot in nine of the last 10 events, including five top-5s.
5. Juan Pablo Montoya: This is the first time I’ve ever listed anyone in the top 10 who didn’t win a race that season, but Montoya didn’t need a victory to prove he was a serious contender in 2009.
After finishing 25th in the standings last year in his second NASCAR season, some people wondered if JPM ever would compete with the best in Cup. Jeff Gordon wasn’t one of them.
“I always recognized his talents,” Gordon said last week in Las Vegas. “I knew as he learned he would get better. He got to that point, but the team needed to step up. That’s what I saw happen midway through this season. All the ingredients really started to show themselves.” Montoya made the Chase and finished eighth overall. He has won a title in CART, has raced competitively and won in F1 and now is a serious championship contender in Cup.
6. Tony Schumacher: He hasn’t made a left or right turn yet. So what? Schumacher won his sixth consecutive NHRA Top Fuel championship this season and his seventh overall.
He now has won championships with three different crew chiefs, but this is the one that sealed his legacy. Schumacher won five straight titles with renowned tuner Alan Johnson. When Johnson left after last season to form his own team, plenty of people doubted Tony could get it done without him.
Schumacher did it in dramatic fashion, edging Johnson’s driver (longtime rival Larry Dixon) by two points for the title in the final event.
Interesting side note: John Force won 10 consecutive Funny Car championships (1992 to 2002). The sixth title in that string came when he was 49. Schumacher turns 40 on Christmas day.
Schumacher, who has the Army as his sponsor, is going to Fort Hood, Texas, on Friday to give his championship trophy to the troops. The presentation is part of an overall day of healing at Fort Hood.
7. Dario Franchitti: The NASCAR loyalists will howl over this one. How can he be a top-10 driver when he stunk in Cup in 2008?
Here’s how: Franchitti won the 2007 IndyCar Series championship, the year before the league merged with Champ Car. He didn’t come near an Indy car for a year, returned in 2009 and won it again a year after the merger.
Three new races were on the schedule, one of which (Edmonton) he never had raced. And four races from the 2007 season were not on the 2009 circuit.
None of that mattered in the end when Franchitti won a three-man battle for the title in the final race at Homestead, Fla., edging Ryan Briscoe and Target Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon. Franchitti had five victories, including the last race when the pressure was on.
8. Mark Martin: Anyone who can finish second in the Cup standings at age 50, no matter what team he drives for, is worthy of a top-10 selection, no questions asked. He was the feel-good story of the season.
Martin said he came out of semiretirement just to have fun and win a race or two with a competitive team. He won five races and a season-best seven poles, falling one spot short of the title for a team that never had done that well with the two previous drivers — Kyle Busch and Casey Mears.
9. Scott Dixon: He needed 12 more points to earn a third IndyCar Series championship and beat his teammate for the title, but Dixon now has finished first or second in the standings the past three seasons.
Since the start of the 2007 season, the quiet Kiwi has won 15 races and posted 33 podium finishes in 52 events.
10. Mark Webber: My surprise pick for 2009, but he has the stats to back it up. Webber finished fourth overall in the F1 standings, two spots lower than his Red Bull Renault teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Webber had two victories and Vettel had four, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Webber finished better than where he started nine times. Vettel did so only six times. That stat balances out because Vettel won four poles to Webber’s one.
But Webber finished worse than he started only four times; Vettel was worse off at the end eight times. Webber was a plus-15 in positions gained for the season; Vettel was a plus-3.
So that’s it. The surprises who didn’t make this list?
Probably Kyle Busch is the biggest surprise, but I don’t count minor league victories. He didn’t make the Chase and Kyle was a minus-7 on improving his starting position in Cup races.
[Terry Blount Espn]
Classic NHRA video dating back to the beginning of the sport will remind viewers of the early days of straight-line racing, while stirring images from the 1980s, ’90s, and ’00s will show in detail how the Coughlin clan has put together one of the most successful racing teams and businesses in America.
Heading indoors: A number of World of Outlaws drivers will again compete in the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals this off-season in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which will run from January 12-16. Among those are Jason Meyers, who finished second in the World of Outlaws championship standings this past season, who will team up with long-time midget owner Steve Lewis and the Nine Racing team. It will be the fifth appearance for Meyers in his career at the event, where he finished sixth in the A-Feature in 2003.
Joey Saldana who won 20 A-Feature events and 21 times overall in 2009 with the World of Outlaws, will also be in action, piloting a Kasey Kahne Racing machine, as a teammate to his car owner and also Brad Sweet. For the native of Brownsburg, Indiana it will be the third appearance of his career in the event.
Danny Lasoski, the 2001 World of Outlaws champion, will also compete in the Chili Bowl for the Loyet Motorsports team. The 2010 edition of the event will mark the 19th appearance for Lasoski at the Tulsa Expo Center, where he has finished second three times in his career.
Cody Darrah, who will be a contender for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award with the World of Outlaws in 2010, will make his second appearance in the event wheeling a car owned by his father Joe.
Tune in: With snow covering the ground in a large portion of the country and the 2010 season opening Florida DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park still over a month away, fans can take in some sprint car action from Springs Speedway in New Zealand via The Dirt Track Channel Webcast. This past weekend’s event which featured three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell as well as Californian Jonathan Allard can be heard by visiting The Dirt Track Channel at http://thedirttrackchannel.com/Webcast.html.
Up close and personal: A FREE Fan Pit Pass is available to every ticket buyer who comes through the main gates every night during the 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park beginning on February 2. All fan have to do once they arrive at the track is take their grandstand ticket and head toward the pits, where a table will be set up to sign-in for an up-close look at the cars and stars who will be racing that night. To purchase tickets call Volusia Speedway Park at 386-985-4402 and for more information visit www.DIRTcarNationals.com.
Back in Victory Lane: Donny Schatz returned to action on Sunday at Parramatta City Raceway in Australia and won a duel over Garry Brazier in the annual $10,000 to-win Valvoline Sprint Car Grand Prix, which was postponed a day by rain. For Schatz the win was the 32nd of his career at the track. He has won at least one race at Parramatta every year since 2000. Schatz began the event on Sunday by turning in the fastest lap in time trials of the 43 cars that took to the track. He followed that up with a second-place finish in the first heat race and also finished second in the dash. He lined up sixth for the A-Feature quickly getting to the front in the scheduled 30-lap race which wound up running 27 laps due to time constraints and impending weather.
Also competing at Parramatta City Raceway on Sunday was Schatz’s car owner, Tony Stewart, who finished seventh after lining up 25th. Schatz, the four-time and defending World of Outlaws champion, will be back in action at the track on Tuesday as well as Friday and Saturday in the annual $50,000 to-win Scott Darley Memorial, which he has won a record seven times in his career. Stewart will also be in action in all of those events.
“I’m glad to be back, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate last night and we’re here tonight, we got a great race in and are glad to get the win,” said Schatz, following the victory. “This is a terrific track, one of the best I’ve raced on and Garry (Rush-car owner) always makes us feel at home.”
Racing Down Under: Craig Dollansky began an extended tour of Australia on Monday competing with the World Series Sprintcars at Borderline Speedway in the sixth round of their season during their annual Speedweek. The native of Elk River, Minnesota will be back in action on Wednesday at Avalon Raceway with the World Series and then will race at Sungold Premier Stadium Speedway on New Year’s Day also with the World Series.
Fan of February: Every fan that purchases a ticket for the 2010 season opening 39th Annual Florida DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park before January 15 will be entered in the “Fan of February” contest presented by Hoseheads.com which is currently being held. The winner will be announced on January 16 and will receive two tickets for the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series portion of the DIRTcar Nationals, February 5-7, as well as a free hotel stay during that time. Winners will also be selected for the World of Outlaws Late Models Series potion of the event, as well as the Super DIRTcar Series and UMP DIRTcar Modifieds portions. For more information visit: www.fanoffebruary.com.
They will indeed be on next year’s grid, USF1 sporting director and former SPEED commentator Peter Windsor has broken the team’s silence and says the team is coming along.
Last week USF1 sporting director, and former SPEED commentator, Peter Windsor was forced to defend F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone’s claim then the team would not be ready to contest the 2010 world championship
Second, since August, we have been building our “house”. Literally. We gutted the ex-Hall of Fame Racing/Joe Gibbs NASCAR shop, re-painted it, re-floored it, re-wired it, re-lit it and re-designed it. In three weeks. That’s what you can do in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the economic impact of the motorsports industry approaches $6 billion per year.
And then, once we had a building (and even before we had one), we began to design parts and to hire our team.
As for team’s new European base in Spain, the MotorLand complex in Alcaniz, Windsor said it is nearly complete and added that it, “boasts a beautiful new F1 circuit, a moto-cross layout, a world championship kart track, rally Tarmac and dirt stages.”
Windsor reiterated that the team will be ready for 2010
“Very soon we’ll be announcing our driver line-up for 2010 plus a whole lot more besides,” Windsor wrote. “I can’t wait.”
There web site USF1.COM
Inaugural World of Outlaws Event at Junction Motor Speedway Set for June 25
Concord, NC—December 24, 2009—The World of Outlaws have visited countless tracks over the last 32 years, though one missing from that list is Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb. That is set to change on Friday, June 25 as the series is tentatively scheduled to visit the state-of-the-art 3/8-mile in the Cornhusker State for the first time.
Junction Motor Speedway was built in 2003 and hosted its first races the following year with sprint car among the machines powering around the track. The racing surface was formed from nearly 500,000 yards of dirt, with 34 feet of fill at its deepest point. A Musco Lighting System illuminates the track which is 90 feet wide in the turns with 12 degrees of banking, with the straightaways 80 feet in width and banked at six degrees.“It will be nice for something this big to come into rural Nebraska, especially for the nearby communities of Junction Motor Speedway,” said Track Owner and Promoter Delmar Friesen.
The World of Outlaws have a storied history in the state of Nebraska dating back to 1979, with Tim Green and Doug Wolfgang splitting wins that season. Several drivers that will be competing full-time with the World of Outlaws in 2010 have won in the state with the series including: 20-time series champion Steve Kinser, who leads all drivers with nearly 30 wins in Nebraska in his legendary career, four-time and defending title winner Donny Schatz, 2001 titlist Danny Lasoski, Craig Dollansky, Jac Haudenschild and Joey Saldana, who has a number of relatives near the Lincoln area.
2010 season changes
The biggest change for the 2010 season is the banning of refuelling during races for the first time since 1993. Pit stops will not become a thing of the past, however, as drivers still have to use both dry-weather tyre compounds during a Grand Prix. Of course, those stops will now be much quicker, quite possibly under four seconds.
The change requires cars to possess a much larger fuel tank – up from around 80 litres to something nearer 250 – and has a major effect on race strategy, with drivers having to pay more attention to tyre and brake conservation. To accommodate the bigger tank, the cars are likely to feature wider rear bodywork and a longer wheelbase. As a result, the weight distribution will be quite different to that of a 2009 car.
In place of the previous structure, which saw the top eight drivers scoring 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point respectively, from 2010 the top ten finishers in a Grand Prix score points. The change has been introduced as a result of the expanded grid of 13 teams. Under the new system, the race winner takes 25 points, with 20 and 15 being awarded for second and third places respectively. The next seven finishers will score 10, 8, 6, 5, 3, 2 and 1 point respectively.
The minimum weight of the car has been raised from 605kg to 620kg. The initial thinking behind this was to offset the disadvantage faced by taller, heavier drivers in KERS-equipped cars (the additional weight of the KERS system meant they were left with less flexibility in terms of weight distribution than their lighter rivals). By mutual agreement, however, teams are now not expected to run KERS in 2010.
Narrower front tyres
When slick tyres returned to Formula One racing in 2009, the tyre size remained unchanged. In terms of contact area, this meant that the fronts gained proportionally more grip than the rears. This has been addressed for 2010, with front tyre width reduced from 270mm to 245mm, thus helping to bring back a better grip balance. Also, the ban on refuelling means cars will be around 100kg heavier at the start of a race than in 2009, so Bridgestone will use slightly harder tyre compounds to compensate.
No wheel fairings
Teams are no longer allowed to use the wheel rim covers that became so commonplace in 2009. Their removal means one less thing to go wrong when pit crews are trying to change of set of tyres in less than four seconds, and could also aid overtaking by making the airflow immediately behind cars less turbulent.
Thirteen teams – 26 cars – will feature on the grid in 2010. This means a slight alteration to the knockout qualifying session, which will now see eight drivers (as opposed to five) eliminated in Q1 and Q2, leaving ten to fight it out for pole in Q3. The ban on refuelling means that cars will qualify on low fuel in all three phases of the session.
If a team declares that one of their current race drivers is to be substituted by a driver who has not participated in an F1 race in the two previous calendar years, one day of track testing will now be permitted, on an approved circuit not being used for a Grand Prix in the current season. This is to avoid scenarios such as that seen in 2009 when Jaime Alguersuari made his Formula One debut with Toro Rosso having only previously driven an F1 car in straight-line testing.
In another minor change, teams will be allowed six rather than eight days of straight-line aero testing per season. They will also have the option of substituting any of these days for four hours of wind tunnel testing with a full-scale (rather than the normal 60 percent-scale) model.
Seven-time Formula One World champion Michael Schumacher has joined Mercedes GP and will return to competition in 2010.
According to reports by the BBC and German newspaper Bild, Schumacher has signed a deal and an announcement is ‘imminent’.
Schumacher will be reunited with Ross Brawn who worked with Schumacher for all of his seven titles won over a span of ten years and who is currently the team principal at Mercedes GP, the team he led to both drivers and constructors championship this past season under the Brawn GP banner.
The rumors and speculation concerning the return of Schumacher were fueled after a false start this past summer when the German agreed to return in a substitute role for injured Ferraridriver Felipe Massa. The comeback attempt was thwarted after doctors said Schumacher had not fully recovered from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident earlier in the year.
This past week however, his manager Willi Weber said that a recent medical check with his sports doctor Johannes Peil showed Schumacher to be in a high state of health and in fact he called Schumacher ‘super-fit’.
Schumacher will partner with fellow German Nico Rosberg. The speculation has been that Schumacher will drive for the team for at least one year, perhaps longer