ANDY CAGLE: Some Awards You Won't See In Big Apple
This week the NASCAR boys get all cleaned up, wash the rubber from their hair and trade their fire suits for tuxedos as they descend on New York City for the hoopla that is the annual Nextel Cup Awards Banquet.
So, while Nextel, NASCAR and the other money folks are handing out big ol' checks and prestigious awards, I'm going to take the opportunity to get in the mood to give out a bevy of useless awards and recognitions.
For the third consecutive year, these awards come with no money or prestige, but, in most cases, the shame is included.
So, without further ado, here are my best and worst of 2006.
You may notice a theme.
The Wake Forest University "Where The Heck Did They Come From?" Award: This award goes to the driver that, like Wake Forest's football team in 2006, came out of nowhere to have an outstanding season.
Like Wake Forest, this guy didn't win it all (Wake is not going to be playing anyone for a national championship in January), but at the end of the season their races had some meaning. This award was going to be named for the Detroit Tigers, but they sucked badly in the World Series.
The winner is Jeff Burton.
Burton wound up winning his first race since 2001 and was the points leader for several weeks during the Chase before finishing seventh -- a very admirable accomplishment for a guy who had been written off as washed up just a couple of years ago.
The University of Miami Hurricanes "Weren't They Supposed To Be Much Better Than That This Year?" Award: This award is pretty self-explanatory. You have a team/driver that everyone predicted great things from and they end up pooping the bed.
This award could have been named for Florida State, but the Hurricanes pooped the bed (again, I may be immature, but I like that expression) even more than the Seminoles -- the brawl I think tipped the scales in their favor.
There were lots of nominees for this award. Defending champ Tony Stewart didn't make the Chase. Ryan Newman flat out stunk. So did Carl Edwards. Jamie McMurray was an unmitigated disaster in his first year at Roush Racing.
I could go on.
But I won't.
The winner is Greg Biffle.
Biffle was the runner-up to Stewart in 2005, and was my preseason pick to win the Cup this year.
He ends up 13th in points and never really got anything going, despite winning twice.
This may have been symptomatic of problems at Roush Racing. The organization had only two drivers make the Chase (Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin) after putting all five of its drivers in last year, and only two of their drivers won races (Biffle and Kenseth) after all five also visited victory lane in 2005.
Jack Roush and Roush Racing President Geoff Smith have blown up all the teams except Kenseth's for next season in an attempt to rectify the problem.
The University of Southern California "Their Season is Through! Wait a Minute, What the Hell Just Happened?" Award: This award goes to the driver that was written off at some point during the season only to come back and have a chance to win the whole thing.
Now, before any of you college football fans start giving me grief about not knowing what I'm talking about, I do.
When USC lost to Oregon State in October I thought that the wheels were going to come off. That's when I said they were through.
I thought they would lose again -- the one loss wouldn't keep them out of the national championship game because Ohio State still had to play Michigan.
Then the Trojans went on a run of just plain destroying people and, barring an upset by UCLA on Saturday, they will play Ohio State for the national championship.
Very much like this award winner, they got down and then took care of business.
The winner is Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson made one of the most remarkable runs during the last six Chase races to catapult him from ninth in the points to his first Nextel Cup Championship after I had written him off for dead.
The North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina, University of Alabama, University of Miami "That Season Sucked So Bad, Someone Has Got To Lose Their Job" Award: Again, self-explanatory.
This award goes to Robert Yates Racing.
Yates Racing sucked so bad that they decided that someone had to be everyone. They fired crew chiefs Tommy Baldwin and Richard Labbe. Dale Jarrett is gone. Elliott Sadler left mid-season.
Heck, I bet the kid that sweeps the garage floor probably got fired.
I am anxious to see how this is going to work out for them. The only person that has been competently replaced is Baldwin, who was replaced by Todd Parrott, who is reunited with Yates for the 7,000th time in his career. No driver has been named for the 88 car vacated by Jarrett, and the guy that replaced Sadler, David Gilliland, wrecked more cars than a town full of teenaged girls.
Tune in next week for the second half of my 2006 Awards.
I promise to be over my college football obsession by then.
Andy Cagle can be reached at email@example.com.
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