BURBANK, Calif. - Six of the dozen drivers named First Team on the Millennium All-America Auto Racing Team are rising to the top step for the first time, but of the other six one has reached an historic level and another is poised to do the ...
BURBANK, Calif. - Six of the dozen drivers named First Team on the Millennium All-America Auto Racing Team are rising to the top step for the first time, but of the other six one has reached an historic level and another is poised to do the same. The team is selected annually by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. The 12 honorees will be feted at the annual AARWBA banquet Jan. 13 at the Sheraton Suites Fairplex, Pomona, Calif. At that time the Jerry Titus Award given annually to the driver of the year - the team member receiving the highest vote - will be announced. Another 13 drivers were named to the Second Team, while eight more earned Honorable Mention. Five drivers are in the running for the Titus - John Force, Steve Kinser, Bobby Labonte, Buddy Lazier and Gary Scelzi. Kinser was named to the First Team for the 14th time, four more than any other driver. But until this year he was tied with Mario Andretti for the most times being voted in as an All-America. His 19th selection this year now stands him alone as the most oft-honored racing driver. The "King of the Outlaws," chosen in the Short Track category, raced to his 16th Pennzoil World of Outlaws championship this year. Force won the Titus Award in 1996 and 1999. If he wins again he would tie Andretti in two categories - only the second man to win it three times, and only the second to win it back to back. Andretti was the Titus winner in 1977, 1978 and 1984. Force made the team in the Drag Racing category after winning his 10th NHRA Winston Funny Car championship after 11 victories which raised his career record to 92 and carried him past Bob Glidden as the winningest professional driver in NHRA history. Force was elected to the First Team for the ninth time. Scelzi, also named in the Drag Racing category, is making his fourth All-America appearance, his third as a First Team member. He won his third NHRA Winston Top Fuel crown in four seasons after winning nine races, a season record for Top Fuel. Lazier, the Indy Racing Northern Lights champion, is making his second appearance on the First Team after also winning in 1996, the year he won the Indianapolis 500. He was elected in the Open Wheel category. Lazier was the only IRL driver to win as many as two races this year. Labonte, the NASCAR Winston Cup champion, earned his initial First Team selection in the Stock Car category on the strength of a four-win season that included the Brickyard 400. Both Labonte and Lazier were named to the All-America Team for a third time. Joining Lazier in the Open Wheel category was Gil de Ferran, winner of the CART FedEx Championship. De Ferran also gave team owner Roger Penske his 100th CART victory. It is de Ferran's second All-America, his first First Team. Labonte's teammate in the Stock Car category is also his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate in Winston Cup, Tony Stewart. Stewart was the series' top winner in 2000, taking the checkered flag six times. Stewart is an All-American for the fifth time, every time on the First Team. He also has made the team in the Short track and Open Wheel categories. The Road Racing category is represented by SCCA BFGoodrich Trans-Am champion Brian Simo and American Le Mans Series Prototype champion-apparent Allan McNish, both on the First Team for their first time. Simo, who has been an All-American twice before, won three of the first four Trans-Am races, then came back from a 15-point deficit to win the title. McNish shared the ALMS podium nine times, five of them on the top step. Jeff Green, the NASCAR Busch Grand National champion, shares Short Track laurels with Kinser. Green's 616-point championship margin was the largest since the series took the Grand National name in 1982. It was his first All-America selection. Chosen to the team in the At Large category were CART Dayton Indy Lights champion S cott Dixon, and CART Toyota Atlantic champion Buddy Rice. Dixon won six of the dozen Indy Lights 12 races, while Rice won five of 12 in Atlantic. Both were elected All-America for their first time. A baker's dozen were named to the second team after Baja 2000 class winner Troy Herbst and IHRA Pro Outlaw champion Laurie Cannister tied in the voting. Notable among the Honorable Mentions was Jay Drake, runner-up in two USAC series - Sprint cars and Midgets - who earned enough write-in votes to easily meet the minimum requirement to be named to the All-America team. The 2000 All-America Team: <pre> FIRST TEAM Open Wheel: Buddy Lazier, Gil de Ferran Stock Car: Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart Road Racing: Brian Simo, Allan McNish Drag Racing: John Force, Gary Scelzi Short Track: Steve Kinser, Jeff Green At Large: Scott Dixon, Buddy Rice
SECOND TEAM Open Wheel: Juan Montoya, Eddie Cheever Jr. Stock Car: Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin Road Racing: Olivier Beretta, Paul Gentilozzi Drag Racing: Jeg Coughlin Jr., Paul Romine Short Track: Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle At Large: Aaron Justus, Laurie Cannister, Troy Herbst
HONORABLE MENTION Open Wheel: Roberto Moreno Stock Car: Jeff Burton, Rusty Wallace Road Racing: James Weaver Drag Racing: none Short Track: Jay Drake, Gary St.Amant, Frank Kimmel At Large: Jeff Kincaid