NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has been named Driver of the Year for the fourth time -- tying a record with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for the most wins in the prestigious award's 44-year history and putting him ahead of three-time winners Mario Andretti and Darrell Waltrip.
Johnson, who is the first to win five consecutive Sprint Cup titles, edged drag racing legend John Force, who won a historic 15th National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) championship. Johnson received 10 first-place votes from the 20-member panel of racing journalists and broadcasters while Force earned seven votes. Kyle Busch, who won a NASCAR-best 24 races in three national divisions this season, received one first-place vote.
"Among such tough competition; with the voting panel, who it is and how well-versed they are in motorsports, it's a huge, huge honor," said Johnson, who will receive a Tissot watch and trophy from the organization.
Driver of the Year President Barry Smoyer said the final vote came following one of the most "spirited" debates in the history of the award, which honors the best driver in an American four-wheel racing series or best American driver racing overseas.
"As many people have said already, it will be a long time before anyone will set the bar as high as Jimmie Johnson," Schmoyer said.