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May 24, 2015
December 07, 2012 | By Dave Lewandowski - INDYCAR.com
After the exuberant trackside celebration following his IZOD IndyCar Series championship-clinching race Sept. 15 at Auto Club Speedway, Ryan Hunter-Reay said the accomplishment hadn’t “set in yet.”
Eleven weeks later, a reflective Hunter-Reay said that his first series title is “definitely a special feeling.” Another, more understated, celebration ensued.
Hunter-Reay and Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier – along with other drivers, teams and manufacturers – were recognized during the INDYCAR Championship Celebration presented by Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Starke Taylor, representing series sponsor IZOD, and INDYCAR CEO Jeff Belskus presented Hunter-Reay and team owner Michael Andretti with a $1 million championship bonus check and replicas of Astor Challenge Cup.
“We accomplished so much this year and it was a first for a lot of people here,” said Hunter-Reay, the first American to win the IZOD IndyCar Series championship since 2006. “It’s the first championship for me, the first championship for my lead engineer Ray Gosselin and the first championship for our crew chief Josh Freund. It was a year of firsts in many ways and now we have the No. 1 on the car.”
Andretti Autosport unveiled the No. 1 (bisected by 28, representing the estimated 28 million people worldwide afflicted with cancer) car with primary sponsorship from DHL on Dec. 5.
In addition to the championship bonus, Hunter-Reay accepted the $50,000 A.J. Foyt Oval Championship and the Jostens Champions Award, a ring valued at $10,000.
"This is something I've dreamed about since I was 12," said Hunter-Reay, who announced to the audience that he and wife, Beccy, are expecting their first child in late winter. "It is truly a team effort and I look forward to defending the title next year with this group."
Freund, chief mechanic for Hunter-Reay’s Chevrolet-powered car, accepted the IZOD IndyCar Series Chief Mechanic of the Year award. Kyle Moyer of Andretti Autosport accepted the Team Manager of the Year award.
Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports accepted the $50,000 IZOD IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year award, while Charlie Kimball won the Tony Renna Rising Star award.
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, accepted the manufacturer’s award on behalf of Chevrolet. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing was named the winner of the 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.
Will Power of Verizon Team Penske was honored as the second-place finisher in the championship, while Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was honored for finishing third. Power also won the $50,000 Mario Andretti Road Championship.
Vautier accepted the mini Firestone Firehawk Cup, the Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year, a Jostens Champions Award ring valued at $5,000, an original artwork by motorsports artist Jim Swintal commissioned by Firestone and the $3,000 “Securing Tomorrow Award” from Gregory & Appel Insurance for winning the most races.
Vautier was also named the winner of the Greg Moore Legacy Award.
“It was a great season and looking back it seems like St. Petersburg was yesterday,” Vautier said. “So much came to me this year. I didn’t expect to win the title, I just came in open-minded and decided to listen to my team to learn as quickly as a I could because I was a rookie racing against some very experienced guys. What an awesome year with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. They are real winners and it was great to share a common motivation with them this year. I can’t thank them enough.”
Jason Robb, chief mechanic for Vautier’s No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports with Curb Agajanian, accepted the Firestone Indy Lights Chief Mechanic of the Year award.
The Mazda Road to Indy also presented Jack Hawksworth, champion of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, and Matthew Brabham, champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, with Jostens Champions Award rings valued at $4,000.
IZOD IndyCar Series award winners
Firestone Indy Lights award winners
Mazda Road to Indy award winners