A Baker's Dozen for the 2001 All-America Racing Team
BURBANK, Calif. - The dozen drivers comprising the 2001 All-America Auto Racing Team are, for only the third time in 32 years, a baker's dozen.
Meanwhile, the three drivers contending for the team's top honor - the Jerry Titus Trophy - are in the closest vote count in 25 years.
Four votes cover the top three drivers in the overall voting - alphabetically they are Kenny Bernstein, John Force and Jeff Gordon. Not since 1976 when the top three were spread by only seven votes has the tussle for the Titus been this close. The winner will be announced Jan. 12 at the annual AARWBA banquet in Pomona, Calif.
Bernstein and Force have been running neck and neck, running away with the Drag Racing category on the All-America First Team. They so dominated, few ballots were left for the rest of the nominees. Bernstein won the NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship - his sixth nitro crown and his second in Top Fuel. Force took an unprecedented 11th Funny Car championship and ran his lifetime victory total to a record 98. It is Bernstein's seventh's First-Team selection, and Force's 10th. It is the 11th career All-America selection for both men.
Gordon, on the heels of his fourth NASCAR Winston Cup championship, similarly dominated the Stock Car category. But behind him series runner-up Tony Stewart and rookie of the year Kevin Harvick received an identical vote tally to create a 13-driver First Team once again. It had happened before in 1984 and 1996. Gordon was chosen First Team for the eighth time. Stewart has won six times in three different categories. It is Harvick's first.
Series champions took the two Open Wheel places on the team - IRL king Sam Hornish Jr. and CART champ Gil de Ferran. Hornish won three times in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, while de Ferran scored twice in the FedEx Championship Series. De Ferran was also first team last year. Hornish is on for the first time.
Paul Gentilozzi became only the third three-time Trans-Am champion (after Mark Donohue and Tommy Kendall), and claimed Road Racing honors for a third time. Joining him was Grand-Am Rolex SportsRacer Prototype champ James Weaver, who had been Honorable Mention four times previously but now making First Team for the first time.
Open-wheel drivers claimed both slots in the Short Track category - Pennzoil World of Outlaws champion Danny "The Dude" Lasoski, and USAC WorldCom Midget champion Dave Darland, who also missed the USAC Sprint Car crown only after being sidelined with a late-season injury. Both are first-time honorees.
Indy Lights champ Townsend Bell and off-road king Rob MacCachren were only one vote apart to lead the At Large category. Bell, in the final season of the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship won half the series' dozen races. MacCachren won an incredible six off-road titles this season. He took class and overall championships in the SCORE Duralast Desert Series as well as the SNORE off-road championship. To that he added class wins in the CORR Exxon Superflo Championship and the Best in the Desert series. Never out of the class points lead in all four series, he won more than 20 races this year. It is the first selection for both.
Second Team honors have gone to Helio Castroneves and Kenny Brack in Open Wheel, Ricky Rudd in Stock Car, Terry Borcheller and Emmanuele Pirro in Road Racing, Warren Johnson and Larry Dixon in Drag Racing, Jack Sprague and Johnny Sauter in Short Track, Hoover Orsi and Doug Goad in At Large.
<pre> The 2001 All-America Team:
FIRST TEAM Open Wheel: Gil de Ferran, Sam Hornish Stock Car: Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart Road Racing: Paul Gentilozzi, James Weaver Drag Racing: Kenny Bernstein, John Force Short Track: Dave Darland, Danny Lasoski At Large: Townsend Bell, Rob MacCachren
SECOND TEAM Open Wheel: Kenny Brack, Helio Castroneves Stock Car: Ricky Rudd Road Racing: Terry Borcheller, Emmanuele Pirro Drag Racing: Warren Johnson, Larry Dixon Short Track: Johnny Sauter, Jack Sprague At Large: Doug Goad, Hoover Orsi
HONORABLE MENTION Open Wheel: Buddy Lazier, Scott Sharp Stock Car: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett Road Racing: Chris Bingham, Larry Oberto Drag Racing: Clay Millican Short Track: Brendan Gaughan, Frank Kimmel At Large: Mike Janis, Scott Taylor </pre> -aarwba-