The problem with popularity contests is not that they’re usually wrong but that they’re completely cockeyed, particularly when it comes to sports.
In NASCAR, for instance, the fans get to vote on the most popular driver and they always pick that loser, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
But in a recent poll of Sprint Cup owners, drivers and crew chiefs, the question was: who is the best driver?
The winner was Denny Hamlin.
Now, I ask you: How can any group of people in their right mind pick anybody over the driver who has won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship the last five times, Jimmie Johnson?
If Denny Hamlin was the best driver, he’d have won the championship this year. He didn’t. He couldn’t handle the pressure. Johnson did.
Johnson is the best driver in the Sprint Cup series and will be until somebody beats him, at which time the new guy will be the best.
That might very well turn out to be Denny Hamlin, but until that happens, he’s not No. 1.
Now Formula One has done the same thing. Autosport magazine asked the 12 team principals to rank their top 10 drivers and they picked Fernando Alonso as the best.
If Fernando Alonso is the best driver, why isn’t he world champion?
He had a Ferrari, which makes it even worse.
If he is the best driver, why couldn’t he at least have gotten past rookie pay driver Vitaly Petrov at the last race in Abu Dhabi?
They also voted the current world champion, Sebastien Vettel, second-best in F1.
The team principals also picked Nico Hulkenberg as the eighth best driver (out of what? Twenty four?).
If that’s the case, how come he’s unemployed?
Briscoe job safe at Penske
Roger Penske said during the 2010 season that he was unlikely to run three cars in the IZOD INDYCAR Series in 2011 and when you counted noses it looked like Ryan Briscoe would be the odd man out.
But Thursday’s press release announcing the official partnership between Penske Racing, Shell and Penzzoil — Kurt Busch will drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series — said that the gas and oil companies had signed on as associate sponsors of the Penske Indy cars driven by Helio Castroneves, Will Power and — ta-da — Ryan Briscoe.
The press release also said that the companies would be the primary sponsors of Castroneves’s No. 3 Shell V-Power-Pennzoil Ultra Dallara/Honda in next May’s Indianapolis 500.
Butt to manage Mosport Speedway
Glenn Butt, who left Mosport in 2007 to launch the Canadian Motorsports Expo, is returning to the fold as manager of Mosport Speedway and will be responsible for all on-track aspects of competition, rules and race events, along with sales, marketing and promotions at the paved, half-mile oval.
Butt has been involved in motorsports for more than 30 years as a racer, track announcer, broadcaster and businessman.
He was director of marketing for Mosport International Raceway going back to 1999 before leaving to start the Expo, which will be held this year at the International Centre in Mississauga Jan. 21-23.
Mr. Kennington goes to Charlotte
NASCAR Canadian Tire Series 2010 champion D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas will be honoured in Charlotte, N.C. next Saturday (Dec. 11) when NASCAR presents its Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala in the ballroom of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Fans in Canada will be able to watch the festivities via a live webcast on nascarhometracks.com.
Then, the 2011 NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown will return to the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.) on Jan. 28-29.
The eighth running of the event, which brings together the top racers from across North America and has grown into the "Daytona 500 of short-track racing," will be highlighted by the 225-lap NASCAR K&N Pro Series All-Star Race.
Kennington has a guaranteed starting position in that event, which is broken up into three sections — two 100-lap segments preceding a 25-lap dash to the finish.