Jimmie Johnson named Indy 500 Rookie of the Year over David Malukas

Jimmie Johnson has been voted Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

The award has traditionally gone to the top finishing rookie but the media is given the latitude to select a different driver in its voting. Here are the instructions from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

“The Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award should be presented to the driver who has performed with the most distinction among first-year drivers in the Indianapolis 500. Criteria includes on-track performance in practice, qualifying and the race, media and fan interaction, sportsmanship and positive influence on the Indy 500.”

David Malukas, of Dale Coyne Racing, was the highest finishing rookie at 13th and had a strong May overall, with Kyle Kirkwood one spot behind him in the race and among the top risers after starting 28th.

Dale Coyne Racing tweeted: "We all know that (David Malukas) is the actual Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. Maybe actually finishing the race needs to be part of the criteria."

Malukas added: "That one stings. Well, congrats to Jimmie."

Johnson finished 28th due to a wreck with six laps to go; only Callum Ilott (32nd) and Romain Grosjean (31st) finished below Johnson among the rookies. Devlin DeFrancisco (19th) and Christian Lundgaard (20th) were the other rookies in the race.

Jimmie Johnson, who’s on the fourth row, Indianapolis, Saturday, May 28, 2022, during the 500 Festival Parade.
Jimmie Johnson, who’s on the fourth row, Indianapolis, Saturday, May 28, 2022, during the 500 Festival Parade.

There was some controversy when Fernando Alonso was voted Rookie of the Year 2017 over Ed Jones, another Dale Coyne Racing driver. Alonso led 27 laps but ultimately finished 24th when his engine failed. The former Formula 1 star, however, also hit several of the criteria outlined for the award. Jones finished third in the race.

Johnson certainly qualified for the award based on the voting instructions and there should be less controversy without a rookie finishing in the top 15. Johnson was the only rookie to lead a lap Sunday -- granted, it was due to a cycle of pit stops -- but he made it clear throughout the month that competing in the Indy 500 was a dream come true and clearly has a positive influence on the Indy 500.

Johnson assumed he'd never get the chance to compete in the race when he became a NASCAR star. Even when he agreed to join IndyCar for the 2021 season, it was for street and road courses only, at the request of his family. But after serving on the broadcast crew at last year's Indy 500 and witnessing the safety advancement of the aeroscreen, Johnson was ready to compete on ovals this season.

Johnson started 12th, quickly dropped to 16th and wasn't truly competitive during the race, but he didn't run a lap with an average speed below 218.237 miles per hour. Add in the crash and Johnson considered it something of a disappointing performance after turning in some of the fastest laps during practice and qualifying. But Johnson soaked in every moment of competing in front of more than 300,000 fans in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“It was special,” he said after Sunday's race. “It was more than I could have ever imagined. To be there with my family, experience that, it was really cool.”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indy 500: Jimmie Johnson named Rookie of the Year over David Malukas