Jimmie Johnson, who earlier this year won his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, was voted the 2010 Driver Of The Year by a panel of industry broadcasters and journalists.

Johnson is now tied with Jeff Gordon as the only other four-time Driver Of The Year winner. Mario Andretti, who was the first annual winner in 1967, and Darrell Waltrip are tied with three awards apiece. The DOTY is America’s original race driver’s award.

A native of Southern California, Johnson previously won DOTY honors in 2006, 2007, and 2009.

Feted in Las Vegas at the NASCAR Annual Awards banquet before an enormous crowd of industry, media and fans, Johnson still was a little surprised when advised that he won the DOTY again.

“Awesome! It’s an honor to win the award again,” Johnson said. “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.”

“This year’s pre-vote teleconference was one of the most spirited debates that I can recall,” said Driver of the Year President Barry Schmoyer. Other drivers such as the NHRA’s Funny Car champion, John Force and Kyle Busch, who raced and won in NASCAR’s top three divisions, had their advocates.

“As many people have said already, it will be a long time before anyone will set the bar as high as Jimmie Johnson,” Schmoyer added.

Journalist and broadcasters, including SPEED’s Bob Varsha and Tom Jensen, voted in a secret ballot for a single driver. Johnson received 10 first-place votes, while 1996 DOTY winner Force received seven votes, and Busch had one vote.

In its’ 44th year, the Driver of the Year title is unique because it is the original award of its' type that encompasses all of the racing series and all of the drivers in the United States. A panel of 20 leading journalists and broadcasters from across the U.S. are eligible to vote. Two votes were not tabulated this year.

Johnson will receive a trophy and a Tissot wristwatch which will be presented at a place and time to be announced later.

Further information on the award may be obtained from Driver Of The Year Foundation, PO Box 49827, Sarasota, Florida 34230 or (941) 379-2318 or barrydoty@yahoo.com.

Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.