POWER PLAYERS for the 2015: This year's 10 most influential people in the Business and Politics of Motorsports, based on their total placings in the weekly lists, as selected by long-time journalist/publicist and industry insider Michael Knight.
1. Jeff Gordon -- No surprise. Gordon's season-long last-time-around-the-NASCAR-tracks lap drew massive media coverage, including 24 hours of network TV time, according to sports marketing and research firm Repucom. Gordon -- who made NASCAR's Final 4 -- departs for the Fox TV booth as one of the most consequential people in motorsports history, a true transformational figure. Gordon made the weekly top 10 list 18 times, including four weeks at No. 1.
3. Donny Schatz -- He's the biggest name in American short-track racing, with over 30 World of Outlaws A-Main wins in another championship season. To the extent the national media and general public pays attention to traditional American dirt track racing, Schatz is The Man. He was ranked on the weekly list 14 times, three as No. 1.
4. Joe Gibbs -- The coach shuffled crew chiefs, added Carl Edwards as a fourth entry, had to keep the No. 18 going with sub drivers after Kyle Busch's Xfinity series injury at Daytona, then saw his Toyota Camry's gain surprising speed around mid-season. Busch returned to win his first Cup championship and Gibbs' efforts got Toyota its first Cup drivers title. Gibbs made the weekly list 13 times, twice at the top.
5. Kyle Busch -- He was not only the comeback athlete of the year, Busch's amazing return from leg and foot injuries to win the Sprint Cup made him the athlete of the year, at least to many. And he dominated most Xfinity series races he entered and was the Truck series championship team owner. Busch's Daytona injuries sparked a sweeping safety review at all tracks with additional SAFER barriers added. Twelve times he was on the weekly list, four at No. 1.
6. Kevin Harvick -- The defending Cup titlist wore that crown well, cooperating with more media appearances, and overall accepted the added responsibility of champion. He was arguably the fastest most of the season and came up one spot short of a second title. Harvick made the weekly list 11 times, three atop that list.
8. Roger Penske -- He won the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 and the Xfinity series owners' championship, but the Cup and IndyCar titles got away. Again. Penske was ranked eight times during the season, three at No. 1.
10. Joey Logano, Lewis Hamilton, Bernie Ecclestone and Dave Moody -- Each appeared on the weekly list seven times, with Logano and Hamilton with one No. 1 each. Logano was NASCAR's biggest race winner, got the Daytona 500, and became the target of boos for crashing Matt Kenseth out of a win at Kansas. Hamilton easily won another world championship. Ecclestone retained his tight grip on the commercial rights in Formula One and was outspoken as ever in his never-ending search for more money. Moody became solo anchor of SiriusXM's NASCAR channel 90 prestigious drive-time show and wasn't afraid to disagree with callers.
[ annual Year in Review blog next week . . . ]