James Hinchcliffe spoke for all INDYCAR drivers in thanking fans, spectators and TV viewers for their support of the IZOD Indy Car Series and Mazda Road to Indy during the INDYCAR Championship Celebration presented by Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Hinchcliffe was voted the IZOD IndyCar Series “Favorite Driver of the Year” through voting at INDYCAR Nation, INDYCAR’s official fan club. Sebastian Saavedra was voted the Firestone Indy Lights favorite driver, while Zach Veach won the award for Star Mazda and Shannon McIntosh for USF2000.
“I remember the time I went to a school dance and my date left with another guy and when my mom had to tell me, 'No, you're the most handsome kid in school.' That's what this is for,” said Hinchcliffe, who completed his first season with Andretti Autosport in the No. 27 Team GoDaddy car.
"First I get elected ‘Mayor’ (of the online “Hinchtown”), then I got on the Go Daddy homepage and now I'm the fan's favorite. It's been a great year and I can't wait to get back on the track in 2013 and keep it up. The fans are what it's really all about. I was a fan once, and still am, so to be picked by them is really special."
Kimball, Vautier recognized with legacy awards
Charlie Kimball, who recorded six top-10 finishes in 14 races in his second season in the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing car, received the Tony Renna Rising Star Award.
The award is presented in honor of the Orlando, Fla., native who died in a testing accident in 2003.
“This is truly special,” said Kimball, who had a best finish of second at Toronto. “It is a great honor, especially winning it a year after my great friend James Hinchcliffe. It’s not that we’re competitive or anything, but it’s nice to have a trophy on my shelf similar to his.”
Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier was presented the Greg Moore Legacy Award, which is named in honor of the Canadian driver who died from injuries suffered in a race accident in 1999 and given to a driver who best typifies Moore’s legacy of talent as well as displaying a dynamic personality with fans, the media and the racing community.
“It is indeed a great honor to receive this award,” Vautier said.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing honored for giving back
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing received the inaugural Indy Family Foundation Giving Back Award Presented by Firestone and the $1,000 charitable donation for its work in supporting the family of Carey Hall, a SFHR crew member who battled ALS before passing away earlier this year.
Others recognized and presented $500 donations for the charity of their choice were Kimball and his work to promote diabetes awareness; Ryan Hunter-Reay, co-founder and ambassador of Racing For Cancer; the Graham Rahal Foundation in working with underprivileged youngsters and supporting the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund; and Scott and Emma Dixon for supporting the extended Wheldon family in their time of need.
Hunter-Reay presented replica helmets to his Andretti Autosport crew members following the show. ... Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, accepted the manufacturer's award on behalf of Chevrolet (below right, with INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips). Manufacturer competition returned to the IZOD IndyCar Series after a six-year absence. "Arthur (Chevrolet) raced in the first Indy 500 in 1911 then Gaston (Chevrolet) went on to win the race in 1920, so on behalf of Chevrolet it's extra special to be here to accept the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series manufacturers' championship," he said. "The true credit for this championship goes to the Chevy drivers and teams that contributed those valuable manufacturer points with 11 wins along the way."