(By John Oreovicz on ESPN.com 12-29-08)
The holiday season is upon us, so once again it's time to look back on the past year and conjure up another edition of the Oreo Awards. No particular qualifications are needed for nomination -- just one reporter's whimsical look back on the events that shaped open-wheel racing in 2008.
Without any further ado, the envelopes, please!
Best News: The February announcement that American open-wheel racing would join forces under the IndyCar Series banner.
Best Driver: Scott Dixon. Hands down, Dixon was the class of the IndyCar Series field in 2008, leading key categories such as race wins and laps led. It's baffling that the championship outcome remained in question for as long as it did.
Best "Transition" Driver: Oriol Servia was by far the most consistent of the ex-Champ Car newcomers and the only one to finish in the top 10 in the championship.
Rookie of the Year: Graham Rahal. Hard to believe he's still just 19 years old.
Best Actor: Helio Castroneves. Another driver (Tony Kanaan, I believe) deserves credit for coming up with this press-kit gem a few years ago. But HCN earned his Oreo Award in 2008 by maintaining his usual bubbly personality all year long while knowing he was under investigation for tax evasion.
Best Finish: Chicagoland Speedway, where the Indy Racing League had to use images from a finish-line camera to determine that Castroneves was the race winner over Dixon.
Best Finish (Alternate Ending): Dixon reeled in a fuel-saving Castroneves over the final few laps at Kentucky Speedway and snatched victory at the line when Castroneves' car ran dry.
"You Make Show!" Award: Danica Patrick, who continues to display her emotions openly, often to comical effect. The tears shed in Japan for her first win were understandable, but the angry march down the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pit lane to confront Ryan Briscoe and the arm-waving show she put on in Australia trying to get the marshals to give her a push-start were just over the top. Then there was the pit-lane catfight with Milka Duno memorably caught on amateur video at Mid-Ohio.
Best Turnaround: After the Indy 500, Briscoe was 19th in the standings and potentially on thin ice at Team Penske. A week later, he was on top of the world after a dominant win at the Milwaukee Mile on the way to fifth in the championship.
"What Are You Thinking?" Award (also known as the Marty Roth Award): Stanton Barrett says he will compete full time in the IndyCar Series in 2009.
Spoilsport Award: Champ Car co-principal Gerald Forsythe's team did not participate in the "unified" IndyCar Series, leaving star driver Paul Tracy on the sidelines.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words Award: Tracy finished fourth at Edmonton in his only IndyCar start of the season.
Close-Up Award: Dan Wheldon sported a new look in '08, thanks to a reported $40,000 worth of cosmetic dental surgery.
Toxic Teammates Award: Andretti Green Racing, where Kanaan and Marco Andretti sparred on and off the track, Danica Patrick said she couldn't hear her radio and Hideki Mutoh was an innocent bystander.
"Where Did It All Go Wrong?" Award: Tomas Scheckter.