Earlier this week, television sports network ESPN announced its nominees for its annual ESPY Awards to be handed out on July 16. Among the categories is Best Driver. Nominees in that category include Verizon IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay, NHRA drag racer John Force, and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is also nominated in the Best Championship Performance category and Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel is nominated in the Best International Athlete category.
I’m not saying that one of the two NASCAR drivers — Johnson or Earnhardt — will take the award in the Best Driver Award, but, just for fun, let’s talk hypotheticals, here. Let’s say that one of the NASCAR drivers will win the award. If that be the case, would it go to the driver who has put up the best stats or would be it a contest of Most Popular Driver? Did I mention that the ESPYs are fan voted awards?
I’m not saying that Earnhardt isn’t deserving of the award. He’s won twice in the first 16 races, including claiming a victory in one of, if not the, highest profile races of the year — the Daytona 500. And something else worth bringing up, had the current championship points system been in place in 2013, Earnhardt would have been the Sprint Cup champion, even though the new system was set up to give wins more weight and Earnhardt actually went winless last year.
Okay, now, let’s consider Johnson’s performance. Earnhardt may have two wins, so far, in 2014, but Johnson has three. Earnhardt may have won the title last year had the current points system been in place, but it wasn’t. Last year’s champion was determined by last year’s points system, making Johnson the champ. There is a reason Johnson’s among the nominees in the Championship Performance category, after all.
Love him or hate him, and a lot of NASCAR fans hate him, that is unless the haters are just that much louder than the Johnson lovers, it’s hard to dispute stats.
Stats aside, when it comes to voting for anything positive that’s NASCAR-related, be it on TV or online, and Earnhardt’s an option, Junior Nation turns out in droves to vote for its leader. Even if the question is something like, “Who is going to win today’s race at insert track name here?” and Earnhardt has never even finished in the top-20 at the track, but he’s one of the choices, chances are, he’s going to get the most votes. I wasn’t born yesterday, folks. You know, there’s a reason he’s voted NASCAR’s Most Popular driver year in and year out.
I’m not sure what period of time the 2014 ESPYs cover — 2014 to this point, last July to this July, the most recent completed season? Either way, stats don’t lie. Johnson’s are better. Still don’t be surprised if Earnhardt takes this one, if either do. Again, it could go to one of the other guys, but if NASCAR fans make their votes known, will it be a vote for Earnhardt just because he’s nominated? Just saying.
What do you think? Here’s an online fan vote. We’ll see how this one turns out.