From self-styled zero to hero in 10 races, Tony Stewart's dramatic, championship-clinching performance in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup might go down in history as one of motorsport's greatest comebacks. It's a performance that earned him not one, but two reader-voted awards in the 17th annual RACER of the Year presented by Mobil 1 – overall RACER of the Year and Oval Racer of the Year.
Before the opening Chase race, Stewart stated in that trademark, straightforward manner of his that he and his Stewart-Haas Racing team didn't deserve to be battling for the championship. Was that the spark needed to light the fire under him and his crew? Difficult to say. But as “Smoke” and the No. 14 crew proceeded to go on a tear, winning five out of 10 Chase races and finally securing Stewart's third Cup title in a winner-takes-all duel with Carl Edwards at Homestead-Miami Speedway, you've got to admit it didn't do any harm…
That amazing run in the Chase certainly got your attention and your votes, with Stewart coming out ahead of some very deserving challengers in both categories. In RACER of the Year, Sebastian Vettel's second consecutive Formula 1 World Championship put him closest to Stewart, with 2011 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon's third-placed finish a poignant salute to a racer who's greatly missed.
Wheldon also finished runner-up to Stewart in the Oval Racer of the Year category – a fitting tribute to a guy who understood the nuances of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway like no other modern era driver. Wheldon's friend and erstwhile mentor, Dario Franchitti, came third in the voting, having secured his fourth IZOD IndyCar Series title (and third consecutive).
RACER OF THE YEAR – THE VOTING
Tony Stewart 25%
Sebastian Vettel 14%
Dan Wheldon 10%
The rest… 51%
OVAL RACER OF THE YEAR – THE VOTING
Tony Stewart 20%
Dan Wheldon 15%
Dario Franchitti 8%
The rest… 57%
Doing the double is getting to be something of a habit for “Smoke,” who also earned your RACER and Oval Racer of the Year votes in 2005, the year he won the second of his three Sprint Cup titles. Can he do it again in 2012? That's for you guys to decide. In the meantime, thanks once again for voting in record numbers, and over to “Smoke” for a few words on his 2011 plaudits…
“Thanks to everyone for all of your votes. To be named Oval Racer of the Year and also earn the overall RACER of the Year award is a huge accomplishment, and one myself and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing takes a lot of pride in. That the RACER of the Year is presented by my good friends at Mobil 1 makes this award even sweeter.
“The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship was my third, but my first as a driver-owner and the first for Stewart-Haas Racing. It was also the first Sprint Cup championship for Mobil 1, and they've been in the sport for more than 30 years. That title, along with these awards, makes everything that we accomplished in 2011 that much more special.
“It was an epic run to the championship where everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing stepped up. These awards are as much theirs as they are mine, and we're all very appreciative of your support. We'll try to do it all over again in 2012.”
HALL OF FAME:
RACER OF THE YEAR OVAL RACER OF THE YEAR
1995 Jacques Villeneuve 1995 Jeff Gordon
1996 Jacques Villeneuve 1996 Jimmy Vasser
1997 Tommy Kendall 1997 Jeff Gordon
1998 Jeff Gordon 1998 Jeff Gordon
1999 Juan Pablo Montoya 1999 Dale Jarrett
2000 Michael Schumacher 2000 Bobby Labonte
2001 Michael Schumacher 2001 Kenny Brack
2002 Michael Schumacher 2002 Sam Hornish Jr.
2003 Paul Tracy 2003 Ryan Newman
2004 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2004 Jimmie Johnson
2005 Tony Stewart 2005 Tony Stewart
2006 Michael Schumacher 2006 Sam Hornish Jr.
2007 Lewis Hamilton 2007 Jimmie Johnson
2008 Kyle Busch 2008 Jimmie Johnson
2009 Jimmie Johnson 2009 Jimmie Johnson
2010 John Force 2010 Jimmie Johnson
2011 Tony Stewart 2011 Tony Stewart
Wednesday, we'll be announcing the winners of the three remaining reader-voted categories: Road Racer of the Year, Drag Racer of the Year and RACER Rookie of the Year.
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? To start receiving the world's fastest magazine, CLICK HERE.
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.