Rookie of the Year!

I had thought my next post would be telling of all the fun we had attending the Indianapolis 500 and I hope to get that post out soon but since then a new development happened and I can’t get it off my mind- Jimmie Johnson won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

This is not a surprise. We all saw it coming. We’ve seen it before when Fernando Alonso won ROY. Yet it still infuriates me. I’m frustrated with the rules, the people that voted for him and with Jimmie and Chip Ganassi Racing for accepting the award.

It is not a surprise to anyone that regularly reads my blog that I am not a NASCAR fan. Jimmie Johnson made the move to IndyCar in 2021 but only drove the ovals. After his first year he decided to add the ovals to his schedule in 2022, including the Indy 500. Jimmie has embraced IndyCar and I have enjoyed watching him. I understand he is a huge star and therefore gets more attention than other drivers. I’d prefer it not be that way but it’s fine. The same could be said of Romain Grosjean. However, Jimmie Johnson was awarded the Rookie of the Year award last night at the awards banquet and I am not okay with that.

I’ve read many posts with people arguing both ways, some for, some against Jimmie being given this honor. Even Wikipedia explains that the term Rookie of the Year can be confusing because it may be awarded to someone with many years of racing and championships won but as long as this is the first Indianapolis 500 they are considered a Rookie. So even with all that in mind here is why I’m not happy about it.

Jimmie Johnson was not the rookie that qualified best. That honor goes to Romain Grosjean. David Malukas started in position 13, just one behind Johnson.

Jimmie Johnson was not the highest finishing rookie in the race. Not only that but Devlin DeFrancesco, Christian Lundgaard, Kyle Kirkwood and David Malukas all finished higher.

Jimmie Johnson crashed during the race. He crashed! Anyone who watches racing knows that often drivers are caught up in an accident that is not their fault. Fortunately, every crash in this years 500 was single car incident and did not take anyone else out. Jimmie crashed all on his own and he made the mistake himself. We’ve seen this nearly every race he has been in. Jimmie crashed. How can you be the ROY if you crashed? Ridiculous!

From the time I started writing this until the time I published it I watched some of the awards ceremony. It does appear that Johnson was not aware he would be receiving the Rookie of the year award until it was presented to him so my next argument isn’t as strong but Jimmie should have turned it down. He knows he is not a true rookie. He has performed under pressure at both the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 as well as any other track where points were on the line for his NASCAR championships. He is a veteran in so many ways. David Malukas is a young kid, 20 years old, completely overwhelmed by the pomp and circumstance of the Indy 500, blown away by the size of the crowd and feeling the pressure of so many eyes on him. Jimmie should have turned down the award so it could be given to David Malukas. Chip Ganassi should have done the same. At the end of the day Johnson will not have a single thing change in his life because he won this honor. Had Malukas won and been able to put on his resume that he was the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year some teams and sponsors might take a second look. The prize money would go a long way and the confidence boost would be huge. For Jimmie the money means nothing, the title won’t give him more screen time because he already dominates there and sponsors are all ready lined up. His career is set and doesn’t need a boost. David Malukas was completely robbed and it’s a shame that those who vote for this are so blinded to what the award could really mean to a true rookie.

I’m not really one to complain about IndyCar but this is one area they got wrong and David Malukas should be rookie of the year. In my book he is. I hope future drivers that are truly veterans will see the problem here and pull themselves from competing for the title and realize the honor should go to a true Rookie.

Having said all this, I do appreciate how Johnson has embraced IndyCar and the new eyes he has brought to our racing series. I hope it makes other veteran drivers from NASCAR and F1 want to do a crossover but let them compete for a crossover award and not a rookie award.

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