Once again, you, the readers of RACER, have recognized motorsports excellence by casting your votes in the 17th annual RACER of the Year presented by Mobil 1.
Tony Stewart was your choice for 2011's overall RACER of the Year and Oval Racer of the Year (CLICK HERE for all the details), following an amazing late-season run that brought him a third NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Three more awards are also voted for by you guys, and today we can reveal that you've chosen two-time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel as your Road Racer of the Year, Top Fuel convert and first-time champ Del Worsham as the Drag Racer of the Year, and IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe as RACER Rookie of the Year.
Thanks once again for voting in record numbers for the 17th annual RACER of the Year presented by Mobil 1. We appreciate your support!
ROAD RACER OF THE YEAR, SEBASTIAN VETTEL (FORMULA 1)
Sebastian Vettel had a tough act to follow in 2011 – himself. Unfazed, the reigning Formula 1 World Champion took things to the next level, racking up 11 race wins and a record-breaking 15 poles for a still dominant Red Bull Racing team.
Was Vettel a more complete racer in '11? That's difficult to say; he was certainly a more complete driver, as those poles testify, along with his trademark, blisteringly fast opening laps. But, such was his affinity with the new-for-2011 Pirelli tires and his metronomic ability to build a multi-second lead on full tanks that, psychological impact aside, it left his chasers unable to reel him in using DRS, the low-drag rear wing system introduced by the FIA to aid overtaking. End result: the kid didn't have to do a whole lot of racing most weekends. Yet, when he had to, there wasn't a whole lot missing from his repertoire of moves – or his bravery quota, when that was required.
Some may argue that the German's era-defining dominance is bad for F1. But that's not his problem. It's up to the others to give him a run for his money. As it is, Sebastian Vettel is in a class of his own, and your votes confirmed that.
ROAD RACER OF THE YEAR – THE VOTING
Sebastian Vettel 24%
Will Power 20%
Jenson Button 8%
The rest… 48%
“What a great surprise! It's one thing to get an award for your achievements, but it's very special when it's the result of public voting. This one is particularly satisfying knowing that RACER and RACER.com are American, because the U.S. holds a special place in my heart: the last Formula 1 race there, at Indianapolis in 2007, was my grand prix debut, and I managed to score a point.”
DRAG RACER OF THE YEAR, DEL WORSHAM (NHRA TOP FUEL)
After 20 years of racing in Funny Cars, but never quite reaching the pinnacle, Del Worsham switched nitro classes when technical guru Alan Johnson and Al-Anabi Racing chose to concentrate solely on Top Fuel for 2011. Worsham had dabbled in Top Fuel in the early '90s, so wasn't a complete novice at cajoling a “digger” down the strip, but with a talent-heavy field ranged against him (not least his teammate and reigning champ Larry Dixon), surely this wouldn't be the easiest of transitions?
But from the start, it was a classic case of “under promise/over deliver” for the unassuming 41-year-old. Second time out, in Gainesville, Fla., he earned a final round win over Top Fuel giant Tony Schumacher. Things only got better after that, with five more “regular season” wins and two in the Countdown, including an ice-in-the-veins, title-clinching day at the Pomona Finals.
Soon after taking that first pro title of his career, Worsham hung up his helmet. In 2012, mission finally accomplished and duly recognized by RACER's readers, he'll crew chief for FC newbie Alexis DeJoria.
DRAG RACER OF THE YEAR – THE VOTING
Del Worsham 27%
Mike Neff 25%
John Force 18%
The rest… 30%
“John Force didn't win?! To get more votes than him is an absolute honor. Thank you, everyone! I mean, I've never won anything like this before. RACER's Drag Racer of the Year is a great way to cap off my driving career. Thanks!”
RACER ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (IZOD INDYCAR SERIES)
If ever a driver seemed to belong in the IZOD IndyCar Series from the moment he made his debut, it's “Hinch.” Qualifying eighth for his first race showed his innate speed, but it was his work with Newman/Haas Racing race engineer Craig Hampson, his openness with his fast and experienced teammate Oriol Servia, and his absorbing of technical details that ensured Hinchcliffe maintained this momentum through the year.
As Hampson noted midseason, “Compared to 15 years ago, when an IndyCar rookie would get thousands of test miles before his first race, it's unfair on James. He hasn't gotten any solid testing under his belt. Every race weekend, we throw something new at him, but he's unflappable.”
It's terribly sad that an acid economy dissolved this combination of talents, but we're sure James will flourish at Andretti Autosport.
RACER ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – THE VOTING
James Hinchliffe 39%
Trevor Bayne 20%
JR Hildebrand 11%
The rest… 30%
“How cool is this? I'm shocked and honored. The rookie class through the whole of motorsports was very strong in 2011, so to come out ahead of guys like Trevor, Paul and JR is fantastic. Plus, it looks like I'm the first IndyCar driver to win this, which is an added bonus! A big thanks to RACER for putting this on, but even more to the readers who voted.”
HALL OF FAME:
ROAD RACER OF THE YEAR DRAG RACER OF THE YEAR
1995 Michael Schumacher 1995 Scott Kalitta
1996 Alex Zanardi 1996 Blaine Johnson
1997 Tommy Kendall 1997 Joe Amato
1998 Alex Zanardi 1998 Joe Amato
1999 Dario Franchitti 1999 John Force
2000 Michael Schumacher 2000 John Force
2001 Michael Schumacher 2001 John Force
2002 Cristiano da Matta 2002 John Force
2003 Michael Schumacher 2003 Kenny Bernstein
2004 Sebastien Bourdais 2004 John Force
2005 Fernando Alonso 2005 Tony Schumacher
2006 Sebastien Bourdais 2006 John Force
2007 Lewis Hamilton 2007 John Force
2008 Scott Pruett 2008 John Force
2009 Jenson Button 2009 Tony Schumacher
2010 Will Power 2010 John Force
Thursday, we'll be announcing the winners of the Editors' Choice Awards, decided by the editorial team of RACER and RACER.com, celebrating excellence in design, team work and on-track entertainment.
For more in-depth coverage and analysis of the 17th annual RACER of the Year presented by Mobil 1, including reaction from all of our big winners and our Editors' Choice Awards results, make sure you check out the March issue of RACER magazine. Not a subscriber?
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This year, we are proud and excited to once again welcome Mobil 1 as the presenting partner of RACER of the Year.
Like all of the candidates for RACER of the Year, the family of Mobil 1 fully synthetic lubricants is competition proven in the most challenging race series in the world, including Formula 1 and NASCAR.
Mobil 1 competes not just to win races, but to test its lubricants in the most demanding environments in order to develop cutting-edge products that benefit customers in their everyday road cars. Mobil 1 is designed to exceed industry performance specifications and continues to set new standards in lubrication technology.
To find out more on Mobil 1 in racing, and how its lubricants can benefit your road car, go to mobil1.com.