The readers of RACER have spoken, and their decisions were decisive. While not producing quite the landslide margins seen in the RACER of the Year and Drag Racer of the Year categories, the winners also were clear across the board in the balloting for the Road Racer, Oval Racer, Drag Racer, Rookie Racer and Club Racer of the Year for 2014, as the associated voting tallies illustrate:
LEWIS HAMILTON – ROAD RACER OF THE YEAR
It’s very humbling to look back and see how many of us questioned Lewis Hamilton’s move from McLaren to Mercedes two years ago. Since then, McLaren has scored just two podium finishes. Using the same Mercedes power sources, Hamilton has taken 12 wins and stood on the podium nine other times.
More significantly, 11 of those wins came last year, from 19 races, and they brought Hamilton his second Formula 1 World Championship. Yes, of course the Mercedes-Benz W05 was 2014’s dominant F1 car, but if you think he had it easy, his teammate Nico Rosberg’s 11 pole positions prove Lewis was up against it in the intra-team battle. Besides, no one accused Ayrton Senna of having it easy when he won the 1988 championship with the most dominant F1 car of all time…
The most impressive aspect of Hamilton’s 2014 campaign was that he didn’t let the frustrations of losing qualifying wars with Rosberg, nor the tension caused by reliability issues, affect his approach to the races themselves. His singular purpose was to win the World Championship, but he never allowed himself to cruise. Unless he was leading, he was in attack mode. The Mercedes AMG team was fine with that, only stepping into the silver brawl when it resulted in that collision at Spa, in which Hamilton was pretty much blameless.
Gone, it seems, are the days when Lewis used to make life difficult for himself by overdriving or letting his heart rule his head. Which is why we suspect 2014 won’t be the last time he wins the World Championship, nor the last time he earns your votes as Road Racer of the Year.
WORDS FROM THE WINNER
“There have been a lot of awards since last November, but an award voted for by fans has special meaning, especially this one as it’s from American fans and real racing connoisseurs. Every year we go to the U.S., I’m blown away by the welcome, especially so in Austin: one of my 2014 highlights was becoming a three-time USGP winner. Taking the title with Mercedes-Benz was an unbelievable thrill and it was humbling to see the team’s efforts to make it happen. I still feel young and hungry, and I’ll push as hard as I can in 2015. Thank you.”
KEVIN HARVICK – OVAL RACER OF THE YEAR
For a while, Jimmie Johnson virtually owned this award like he virtually owned the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. But with Kevin Harvick’s long-awaited first Cup title and IndyCar’s five oval races being split between five different drivers – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Carpenter, Juan Montoya, Will Power and Tony Kanaan – your vote for 2014 Oval Racer of the Year made total sense.
There were so many feelgood qualities to Kevin Harvick’s title, as he turned his 13 seasons of experience at Richard Childress Racing to excellent use in his first year with Stewart Haas Racing. He didn’t lose his head as he went through a winless streak that stretched from mid-April to mid-October, didn’t moan about his bad luck (which at times was appalling), but instead projected a positive outlook, pointing out that at Stewart Haas, he at least felt he arrived at each race with a good shot at winning. Staying in contention, being consistent in a season which would eventually see 13 different winners, was Harvick’s aim, because getting into the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, was his overwhelming priority. To prove that point, he clocked up six top-three finishes through the summer.
But that was just the appetizer; he and the No. 4 crew had something else cooking and it was ready just in time for the Chase. With an extraordinary kick that caught most of his rivals off-guard, Harvick won three of the final seven races, to take a grand total of five victories – the most he’d achieved in a single season since 2006.
Incidentally, he also becomes the eighth consecutive Chevrolet-powered winner of RACER‘s Oval Racer of the Year award.
WORDS FROM THE WINNER
“In the racing world everybody knows RACER, so to be named 2014 Oval Racer of the Year is awesome, but I couldn’t have won it without my Budweiser/Jimmy John’s team. The racers who have won the award in the past are some of the greatest the sport has ever seen and to be included on that list is a special honor.
Thank you to all who voted for me. It’s humbling and I appreciate the support. I hope to represent the award well and I’ll go out and try to accomplish big things again in 2015. Thank you.”
RICHIE CRAMPTON – ROOKIE RACER OF THE YEAR
It seemed hard to believe this was Richie Crampton’s first season in NHRA Top Fuel, and that’s because it wasn’t. But it was his first time driving the flexing 10,000hp beasts. The Australian used to be the clutch-builder on the Morgan Lucas Racing dragster, but like Robert Hight and Mike Dunn before him, he was also a crew member willing to step up, strap into the cockpit and feel the 5Gs in all their stomach-tightening, eye-popping glory.
And boy, the guy was good! Taking over from owner Morgan Lucas, who stepped back from a full schedule to concentrate on the operational side of the team, the Adelaide, Australia-born Crampton was scintillating in his inaugural year of driving. The first of two victories came at Englishtown, N.J., only his ninth start, and he followed this up with victory at the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indy in August.
Those two wins helped the newbie get into the NHRA’s Countdown playoffs, where he went on to finish ninth in the final points.
And now, with a full season of Top Fuel experience under his belt, who knows what your 2014 RACER Rookie of the Year winner might achieve this time around?
WORDS FROM THE WINNER
“I’m over the moon to receive this award. It puts the cherry on top of what was an amazing year for me.
“I’d like to give my appreciation to Morgan Lucas and the entire Lucas family for the chance to drive such a potent racecar. And I’ve got to thank my parents back in Australia, Alan and June, for the opportunities they gave me over the years. Thanks to the team, crew guys and my crew chief, Aaron Brooks; they’re the ones behind this award. And thank you, of course, to all those who voted for me!”
KYLE KEENAN – CLUB RACER OF THE YEAR
The 2014 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca marked Kyle Keenan’s first Runoffs attempt. Driving a Kia Rio 5 in B-Spec and racing all season on a tight budget, the 24-year-old Keenan was given a new set of tires by fellow B-Spec competitor and eight-time National Champion David Daughtery in time for the last qualifying session. Keenan used those tires to jump several positions on the grid to start in second place, now well ahead of Daughtery, and Kyle drove a smart and quick race to win by 3.57sec.
The whole tale had showcased what amateur racing in SCCA is all about: sportsmanship, determination, and talent.
Additional RACER of the Year awards selected by the editors of RACER are revealed in the Spring Issue of RACER magazine, on sale now. To subscribe now at a special discount rate, click here. To learn where to buy RACER in your area, click here.