2007 AUTO RACING ALL-AMERICA TEAM SELECTED
BURBANK, Calif. - With voting completed for the 2007 All-America Auto Racing Team, five drivers emerge as contenders for the Jerry Titus Award -- two from the world of NASCAR and three open-wheel champions although one of them runs more than 100 mph faster than the other two if only for a quarter- mile at a time.
That would be Tony Schumacher, the 2006 Titus winner bidding to be only the third driver ever to win the award in consecutive years, after Mario Andretti in 1977-78 and John Force in 1999-2000. For the second consecutive year Schumacher won the NHRA Top Fuel championship on the final run of the season, claiming his fifth career championship and his fourth in a row.
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. 12 at the Hyatt Regency in Indianapolis, which is open to the public.
Challenging Schumacher, are the champions of both major open-wheel series, four-time Champ Car World Series titlist Sebastien Bourdais and Indianapolis 500 winner/Indy Racing League champion Dario Franchitti. Also in the hunt are Jimmie Johnson, the 2006 and 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, and Ron Hornaday Jr., who won his third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.
Two drivers from each of seven categories are elected to the First Team, two more to the Second Team, and all drivers receiving at least five percent of the vote earn honorable mention. In road racing endurance series, teammates with identical scores are voted as one entity, with the result that 16 drivers are named to both the First Team and Second team this year. In two categories only one vote made the difference between a driver making first team or not.
Bourdais and Franchitti led the vote in the Open Wheel category, far outdistancing Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, who placed second and third in the IRL standings.
Nextel Cup champion Johnson easily led the Stock Car category, with his teammate and Cup runner-up Jeff Gordon easily taking the other First Team slot. NASCAR Busch Series champion Carl Edwards was joined by Clint Bowyer on the second team.
Drag Racing was similarly a runaway for the top two, with Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon joining Schumacher on the first team. NHRA's top two Pro Stock drivers, champ Jeg Coughlin and runner-up Greg Anderson took the Second Team slots. IHRA's champions in Top Fuel and Funny Car, Bruce Litton and Dale Creasy Jr., earned Honorable Mention.
In Touring Series it was NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Hornaday and nine-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel who dominated the category. Young phenom Joey Logano, who won the NASCAR Busch East title at age 17, was joined on the Second Team by USAR Hooters Pro Cup champion Bobby Gill. Taking Honorable Mention were NASCAR West champ Mike David, NASCAR Whelen Modified champ Donny Lia, and ARCA runner-up Michael McDowell who became only the 12th driver to earn All-America status from write-in votes in the team's 38-year history.
Not so dominating were the First Team winners in the Road Racing, Short Track and At Large categories, where much closer contests marked the vote.
Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, co-driving the championship-winning Daytona Prototype entry in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series easily took one First Team slot. The other went to DP runner-up Scott Pruett who tallied just one vote more than the American Le Mans Series' P1 champions Rinaldo Capello/Allan McNish, relegated to Second Team. That pair only had two votes more than the ALMS P2 champions Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas, who rounded out the Second Team. Honorable Mention went to ALMS GT1 champions Olivier Beretta/Oliver Gavin, and Grand-Am DP racer Max Angelelli.
USAC Midget champion Jerry Coons Jr. and World of Outlaws champ Donny Schatz prevailed in Short Track over Second-Teamers Levi Jones, winner of the USAC Sprint Car Series, and WoO runner-up Joey Saldana. Steve Francis, champion of the World of outlaws Late Model series, earned Honorable Mention.
In the At Large category, IRL Indy Pro Series champ Alex Lloyd had a comfortable margin over the rest of the field. Only one vote made the difference between ALMS GT2 champions Jaime Melo/Mika Salo making First Team and SCCA World Challenge GT champ Randy Pobst landing on the Second Team. Joining Pobst was Frank Manzo, who won his 11th NHRA national Alcohol Funny Car title. So close was the At Large category that Honorable Mentions Carl Renezeder, who won 19 off-road races and two championships, and Raphael Matos, the Champ Car Atlantic titlist, were only a dozen votes out of First Team.
OPEN WHEEL: Sebastien Bourdais, Dario Franchitti
STOCK CAR: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson
ROAD RACING: Jon Fogarty/Alex Gurney, Scott Pruett
DRAG RACING: Tony Pedregon, Tony Schumacher
SHORT TRACK: Jerry Coons Jr., Donny Schatz
TOURING SERIES: Ron Hornaday Jr., Frank Kimmel
AT LARGE: Alex Lloyd, Jaime Melo/Mika Salo
OPEN WHEEL: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan
STOCK CAR: Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards
ROAD RACING: Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas, Rinaldo Capello/Allan McNish
DRAG RACING: Greg Anderson, Jeg Coughlin
SHORT TRACK: Levi Jones, Joey Saldana
TOURING SERIES: Joey Logano, Bobby Gill
AT LARGE: Frank Manzo, Randy Pobst
HONORABLE MENTION (At least 5% of the vote)
OPEN WHEEL: none
STOCK CAR: none
ROAD RACING: Max Angelelli, Olivier Beretta/Oliver Gavin
DRAG RACING: Bruce Litton, Dale Creasy Jr.
SHORT TRACK: Steve Francis
TOURING SERIES: Mike David, Donny Lia, Michael McDowell
AT LARGE: Raphael Matos, Carl Renezeder