CHARLOTTE, N.C.--()--Motor sports icon Mario Andretti presented his namesake trophy to 2012 Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel as this year’s SPEED Performer of the Year on the Sunday night edition of SPEED Center.
“It’s unbelievable … I´m very proud to get the trophy of one of the best racers of all time -- Mario Andretti”
“You are going up against the best of the best for this award,” said Andretti, the only driver to ever win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Formula One World Championship. “We’re considering every major discipline in motor sports. That’s what you are up against … that’s the grandeur of this award.”
Vettel, who captured his third consecutive Formula One title in dramatic fashion to become the youngest triple champion in series history, came out atop five SPEED Performer of the Year finalists, including NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski, versatile youngster Kyle Larson, IndyCar champ Ryan Hunter-Reay and WRC legend Sebastien Loeb. Ten of this year’s 16 nominees earned at least one first-place vote in the balloting.
"It’s unbelievable … I´m very proud to get the trophy of one of the best racers of all time -- Mario Andretti,” said Vettel, who also took home the Andretti trophy in 2010. “It does mean a lot to me and I really appreciate it."
Andretti headlines a 22-member SPOTY voting panel that includes racers Dan Gurney, Darrell Waltrip, Don Prudhomme, Scott Russell, Tommy Kendall and Dorsey Schroeder. In addition, some of the most recognizable names in motor sports television -- Dave Despain, Bob Varsha, Leigh Diffey and Ralph Sheheen -- are joined by motor sports journalists Robin Miller, Tom Jensen and Marshall Pruett on the panel.
“(Vettel) had an unbelievable season,” Andretti said on SPEED Center. “When you look at the overall performance – qualifying, race wins and the start of the season when things were not really going their way … all of a sudden, the way he just came back and forced his way to the very top was exemplary of a real champion. He could not be denied.”
The award, now in its seventh season, is presented annually by SPEED to the racer who puts a premium on winning races, shines on motor sports’ biggest stages and does it all with a measure of sportsmanship and class.
The Mario Andretti Trophy, a true work of art created by bronze sculptor Elie Hazak, stands 38 inches tall and weighs 95 pounds. It features eight cars, including six of the most important in Mario’s rise to superstardom, as well as an array of artistic symbolism that captures the essence of the trophy’s namesake.
Former SPOTY winners and runners-up:
- 2012 – Sebastian Vettel, F1; Brad Keselowski, NASCAR
- 2011 – Tony Stewart, NASCAR; Casey Stoner, MotoGP
- 2010 – Sebastian Vettel, F1; Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR
- 2009 – Tony Schumacher, NHRA; Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR
- 2008 – Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR; Tony Schumacher, NHRA
- 2007 – Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR; Donny Schatz, WoO
- 2006 – Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR; Nicky Hayden, MotoGP
Racer Alex Zanardi, who continues to personify the heart of a racer despite an accident that robbed the Italian of both his legs in 2001, was recognized on SPEED Center with the Dan Gurney Spirit of Racing award for his success last year as a paracyclist. The two-time CART champion won two gold medals and a silver medal in the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London.
SPEED, anchored by its popular and wide-ranging coverage of NASCAR, is the nation’s first and only cable television network dedicated to automotive and motorcycle racing, performance and lifestyle. Now available in nearly 86 million homes in North America, SPEED, a member of the FOX Sports Media Group, is among the industry leaders in interactive TV, video on demand, mobile initiatives and broadband services, including SPEED2, a groundbreaking new broadband network featuring live, streaming and on-demand events complementing offerings of the linear network. For more information, please visit SPEED.com, the online motor sports authority and follow us on Twitter: @SPEED.
About FOX Sports Media Group
FOX Sports Media Group (FSMG) is the umbrella entity representing News Corporation’s wide array of multi-platform US-based sports assets. Built with brands capable of reaching more than 100 million viewers in a single weekend, FSMG includes ownership and interests in linear television networks, digital and mobile programming, broadband platforms, multiple web sites, joint-venture businesses and several licensing partnerships. FSMG includes FOX Sports, the sports television arm of the FOX Broadcasting Company; Fox’s 20 regional sports networks, their affiliated regional web sites and FSN national programming; SPEED and SPEED2; FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go; FUEL TV; FOX Deportes and FOX College Sports. In addition, FSMG also encompasses FOX Sports Interactive Media, which includes FOXSports.com on MSN, Whatifsports.com Scout.com and Yardbarker.com. Also included in the Group are Fox’s interests in joint-venture businesses Big Ten Network, BTN 2Go and STATS, LLC, as well as licensing agreements that establish the FOX Sports Radio Network and FOX Sports Skybox restaurants.