2006 AUTO RACING ALL-AMERICA TEAM SELECTED
BURBANK, Calif. - The 2006 All-America Auto Racing Team has been chosen, and now the question turns to: Who will win the Jerry Titus Award?
The Titus, given in remembrance of the late racer/journalist, signifies the top vote-getter on the All-America team regardless of category, and is not announced until the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's banquet Jan. 13 at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis.
For the past two years the Titus winner has been the Indy Racing League champion and this year's IRL champion, Indy-winner Sam Hornish Jr. is among the contenders. Also in contention are NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson and Todd Bodine, NHRA's John Force (already a 4-time Titus winner) and Tony Schumacher, and ARCA's Frank Kimmel.
Hornish led the vote in the Open Wheel category, joined by Champ Car champion and 7-time winner Sebastien Bourdais on the First Team. Not far behind Bourdais was A.J. Allmendinger, five-time winner on the Champ Car circuit, joined by IRL runner-up Dan Wheldon on the Second Team.
Nextel Cup champion Johnson easily led the Stock Car category, but the other First Team slot turned into a four-driver battle, eventually taken by Tony Stewart whose five Cup wins included three during the Chase for the Championship, even through he did not qualify for the Chase. Second Team honors went to rookie Denny Hamlin and Busch Series champion Kevin Harvick, separated by just one vote.
An unusual situation in the Road Racing category resulted in five drivers being accorded First Team status. In Road Racing, endurance racing teammates with identical records are voted on as one. Jorg Bergmeister, who won both the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype title and the American Le Mans Series GT2 crown with a variety of co-drivers, led the category. But only three votes behind was a tie between Rinaldo Capello/Alan McNish, the ALMS P1 champions, and Scott Pruett/Luis Diaz, the Grand-Am DP runners-up. And then to further compound matters, another tie resulted in three road racers on the Second Team, Grand-Am's Max Angelelli and "The Ollies" from ALMS, GT1 champs Olivier Beretta/Oliver Gavin.
After all that, the Drag Racing and Touring Series categories were easy, both taken by two drivers who raced away from the field to win by more than 50 votes over the Second Team drivers.
In Drag Racing it was NHRA Funny Car champion John Force and Top Fuel Champion Tony Schumacher who took nearly all the votes. Barely receiving enough to qualify for Second Team were NHRA Pro Stock champ Jason Line, and a tie between Top Fuel racers Clay Millican, the IHRA champ, and Doug Kalitta, NHRA runner-up.
In Touring Series it was NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Todd Bodine and eight-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel who dominated the category. Far behind but taking Second Team honors were USAR Pro Cup champion Clay Rogers and NASCAR East titlist Mike Olsen.
Not so dominating were the First Team winners in the Short Track and At Large categories, where much closer contests marked the vote.
USAC Sprint Car champion Josh Wise and World of Outlaws champ Donny Schatz prevailed in Short Track over Danny Lasoski, winner of the National Sprint Tour. USAC's Jerry Coons Jr., the Midget titlist, and Bud Kaeding, the Silver Crown leader, tied to join Lasoski on Second Team.
In the At Large category, only one vote separated J.R. Hildebrand and Travis Pastrana. Hildebrand dominated the Formula Ford 2000 championship, winning 12 of 14 races, while Pastrana took the Rally America championship as well as the X Games Rally. On the Second team were Andy Lally/Marc Bunting, the Grand-Am GT champions, and Frank Manzo, winner of NHRA's top alcohol funny car category.
Honorable Mentions go to any driver receiving 5 percent of the vote, but some HMs very nearly made Second Team.
In Short Track, Tim McCreadie, the World of Outlaws Late Model champ, missed by one vote. A single vote also separated NASCAR West champ Eric Holmes from his NASCAR East counterpart, and USAR Northern Champ Benny Gordon was only one vote behind Holmes. Also missing Second Team by just two votes were IRL's Helio Castroneves in Open Wheel and NASCAR's Kasey Kahne in Stock Car. SCORE champion Troy Herbst missed by just three in At Large.
Others earning Honorable Mention were Justin Wilson in Open Wheel, Matt Kenseth in Stock Car, and Colin Braun in Road Racing.
Information on the All-America Banquet, which is open to the public, is available from AARWBA at 818-842-7005 or email@example.com.
OPEN WHEEL: Sébastien Bourdais, Sam Hornish Jr.
STOCK CAR: Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart
ROAD RACING: Jorg Bergmeister, Rinaldo Capello/Allan McNish and Scott
Pruett/Luis Diaz (tie)
DRAG RACING: John Force, Tony Schumacher
SHORT TRACK: Donny Schatz, Josh Wise
TOURING SERIES: Todd Bodine, Frank Kimmel
AT LARGE: J.R. Hildebrand, Travis Pastrana
OPEN WHEEL: A.J. Allmendinger, Dan Wheldon
STOCK CAR: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick
ROAD RACING: Max Angelelli, Olivier Beretta/Oliver Gavin
DRAG RACING: Doug Kalitta, Jason Line and Clay Millican (tie)
SHORT TRACK: Danny Lasoski, Jerry Coons Jr. and Bud Kaeding (tie)
TOURING SERIES: Clay Rogers, Mike Olsen
AT LARGE: Andy Lally/Marc Bunting, Frank Manzo
(At least 5% of the vote)
OPEN WHEEL: Helio Castroneves, Justin Wilson
STOCK CAR: Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth
ROAD RACING: Colin Braun
DRAG RACING: none
SHORT TRACK: Tim McCreadie
TOURING SERIES: Eric Holmes, Benny Gordon
AT LARGE: Troy Herbst