In the spirit of those high school yearbook pages listing the awards for everything from best dressed to most likely to succeed, here's a look at the 2008 NASCAR season:
The "Close-But-No-Cigar Award" goes to Carl Edwards, who won more races than any other driver, yet finished second in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. (Edwards does take home top honors for nicest smile and best back-flip and is among those ''Most Likely to Succeed in the future.)
The "Crash and Burn When it Really Counts Award" goes to Kyle Busch, who looked like he'd be the team to beat when he won eight times during the first 26 weeks of the season, only to self-destruct during the Chase. Along the way, he tussled with several other drivers on the track and off. Hopefully some humility was learned along the way.
On the other end of the spectrum, the "Turn it on When it Really Counts Award" goes to Jimmie Johnson, who somehow always seems to step up his game for the home stretch. Johnson posted three wins during the Chase to edge Edwards for the Sprint Cup Championship - his third in a row. He's also a straight arrow and good ambassador for the sport whose team has earned the right to be called a dynasty.
The "Fading Fast Award" goes to Petty Enterprises. The company has sold its controlling interest and may merge with another race team. Kyle Petty's future behind the wheel is up in the air, depending on sponsorships, which are harder and harder to come by in today's floundering economy.
But hats off to this racing family made famous by the King in that signature hat. They've endured tough times in business and tragic times on the track the loss of Kyle's son, Adam in a 2000 crash. In his memory, they started the Victory Junction Gang, a camp that gives life-changing experiences to children with serious or chronic illnesses. For all the Petty's have contributed to racing, this special charity may be their greatest legacy.
The "Welcome Back Award" goes to Mark Martin, who will return to the track full-time in 2009, driving the Number 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Martin, known for his toughness and consistency has never taken home a Cup championship. How sweet would it be if he could celebrate his first title the same year he celebrates his 50th birthday?
The "Bold Move Award" goes to Tony Stewart who, traded in the comfort and stability of the Joe Gibbs Racing Team to take on the trials of ownership.
And the "Coolest Award" goes to Dale Earnhardt Junior, voted NASCAR's most popular driver for the sixth straight year, but that's little consolation in his quest for a championship. There's always next season: Daytona is just 61 days away.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.