Sadly, barren trees and the return of ski reports signify another racing season has come to an end. Nobody can complain that 2012 was not an interesting year. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull won both F1 titles for the third consecutive year. Roger Penske won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended his four year winless streak then stepped out of the car in the middle of the chase to deal with concussion issues. IndyCar struggled for relevance while annoying their remaining fans by firing Randy Bernard. Formula 1 returned to the US for the first time since 2007.
Some races were outstanding: the inaugural US Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas exceeded all expectations. Some races lacked excitement: IndyCar street races and both NASCAR races at Bristol and Martinsville. At times off track issues, namely NASCAR’s continual attendance and TV ratings declines, trumped the racing. Nobody lacked material for a good story.
But the year is officially over so in the spirit of the season, here are my season end awards
Race of the year
Kimi Räikkönen- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
As the YouTube videos show, Kimi was in complete control. Glad to see Kimi overcame his introverted personality to clearly express his thoughts and desires during the race and post-race interviews. Winning is all about great communication. It was Kimi’s first win since he returned to F1 after his Ferrari imposed vacation
Celebration of the year
Brad Keselowski- NASCAR Homestead
You got to love a driver that promotes his sponsor like Brad did after he secured the NASCAR Sprint cup championship. To all those people complaining about Brad’s excessive celebration, lighten up! He did nothing wrong! He is 28 years old, accomplished a lifelong goal what only a handful of people have accomplished, and didn’t break any laws. Was he drunk? Of course he was! That is what made it so much fun!! But he showed good judgment. At any time during the party did you ever see him drive? Nope! Not even a golf cart. Celebrating is not a crime, drunk driving is!
Kimi Räikkönen at Abu Dhabi
The look on Kimi’s face when he drank the Rosewater on the Abu Dhabi podium was priceless. I can only imagine what thoughts ran through his head when he realized that he won a race in a country that prohibits alcoholic beverages.
Driver of the year
No driver extracted more performance out of their car than Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Experts and journalists all agreed that this year’s Ferrari was a bad car and the fact that Fernando remained in contention for the world driving title into the last race is a testament to his driving ability.
Team of the year
Red Bull F1
With apologies to Roger Penske, congratulations on winning your first NASCAR Sprint cup title, I still point to Red Bull F1 as the team of the year. Red Bull has evolved from F1’s “party team” to arguably the most feared team on the Formula 1 grid. Amazing how much fear a balding technophobe named Adrian Newey instills in the opposition. How much reward money would a team pay for Adrian’s sketch pad? Not only is Red Bull winning, three constructors titles in a row is a feat, but in many cases they are dominating their more storied and better financed McLaren and Ferrari competitors.
Disaster of the year
If the IndyCar board could sell what they were drinking when they fired Randy Bernard, IndyCar’s money woes would disappear overnight. Randy inherited a series that outside of the Indy 500, was so far off the radar that it needed JPL to communicate with fans and sponsors. Last year, IndyCar lost its biggest draw, Danica Patrick, a lucrative race date in China to a beer festival, and was forced to run on second-rate tracks and street courses as major promoters shied away from the series. Loud rumors persist that title sponsor Izod will not renew their contract when it expires after 2014. Yet, with all those challenges, Randy Bernard was able to stem the losses and returned IndyCar to break even status.
And for that he was fired.
While I agree a CEO must be accountable, a leader needs more that couple of years to fix a mess of this magnitude. How long did Tony George get? Sucks not to be family when dealing with IndyCar.
Now, I doubt any reputable leader will accept the challenge of righting the IndyCar ship. Why accept the headaches knowing you are a political pawn in a family struggle.
One thought: If IndyCar goes bust, what happens to the Indy 500? Can it stand alone without a championship series? Fans might soon find out.
Randy, you are better off.
Well that is it for now. As always, I am ready to defend my awards!!