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Despite many years racing CART Champ Cars, this year was Alex Tagliani's first Indianapolis 500 start, and the Conquest Racing driver was honored last night at the Indy 500 Victory Banquet as the event's top rookie driver. After an excellent performance on Sunday from the Quebecois and his and his team that allowed him to move up from 33rd on the grid to 11th, Tagliani was selected as the 2009 Chase Rookie of the Year, given to the outstanding first year driver in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. He was presented with a $25 000 bonus prize and the Chase Rookie of the Year trophy. Tagliani joins the likes of Mario and Michael Andretti, Rick Mears, Arie Luyendyk, Nigel Mansell and fellow Canadian Jacques Villeneuve as winners of the Rookie of the Year award.
“I’m very proud to have won the Chase Rookie of the Year award for this year’s 500,” said Tagliani. “It’s something that you only get one chance at winning so it’s very special to have been chosen. It means a lot to me. It’s been a month filled with ups and downs and so much emotion and this is the perfect way to close out my first Indy 500.”
Tagliani was one of five rookies competing in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 and only one of two to have taken the checkered flag and completed all 200 laps around the 2.5-mile oval. Tagliani moved up from his last place on the grid through solid pit stop work from his team as well as a strong run on his part. The last time a driver had made up so many positions at the Indy 500 was in 2002. Tagliani’s performance also gave Conquest Racing its best finish at the Indianapolis 500.
Meanwhile, Sarah Fisher was selected as this year’s recipient of the Scott Brayton Driver’s Trophy, presented annually to the driver best exemplifying the character and racing spirit of the late driver Scott Brayton. Fisher received the award at the 2009 Indianapolis 500 victory banquet on May 25. The Scott Brayton Driver’s Trophy is voted on by local, national and international media attending the race.
“I cannot believe I am receiving this award,” said Fisher. “This is such a huge honor for me. Thank you very much.”
Brayton, a 14-time Indianapolis 500 starter, was killed in a practice crash in May 1996 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just days after winning his second consecutive Indianapolis 500 pole.