Hunter-Reay named RACER’s Racer, Road Racer of 2012

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The readers of RACER magazine and Racer.com have chosen IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay as their overall RACER of the Year and Road Racer of the Year for 2012.

Now in its 18th year, the RACER of the Year Awards presented by Hawk Performance is open to racers from a wide cross-section of motorsports series and determined entirely by reader voting. It’s that breadth of competition and fan-powered format that gives RACER of the Year its prestige and makes it an accolade that racers want to win.

Past winners of the overall RACER of the Year include Tony Stewart, Michael Schumacher, John Force, Lewis Hamilton and Jimmie Johnson. In joining them, Hunter-Reay becomes the first overall winner from North American open-wheel racing since Paul Tracy in 2003, the first IZOD IndyCar Series Champion and first American-born open-wheel champion to win the prestigious award.

Over the course of the season, Hunter-Reay took four victories in his Andretti Autosport Dallara-Chevrolet, more than any other driver, taking two oval wins, at Milwaukee and Iowa, and two street-course wins at Toronto and Baltimore. He clinched the title in a tense season finale at Fontana, eventually beating Will Power (Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet) by just three points.

Once again, RACER magazine and Racer.com readers voted in record numbers, powering Hunter-Reay to a comfortable victory in both categories. The Andretti Autosport driver beat NHRA Pro Stock star Erica Enders, Top Fuel champ Antron Brown and Formula 1 aces Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel to the overall RACER of the Year title.

In Road Racer of the Year voting, he finished ahead of two previous winners of the category, IndyCar’s Will Power and three-time and reigning F1 champ Vettel.

Ryan said: “I’m honored to have been chosen as the 2012 overall RACER of the Year as well as the Road Racer of the Year. A sincere thank you to all of those fans who took the time to vote. For consideration of this honor, my name was placed among distinguished drivers I feel privileged to be associated with, let alone to be the driver chosen. As the first Indy car driver selected since 2003, I’m proud to be able to represent IndyCar, Andretti Autosport and our partners DHL, Sun Drop and Chevrolet.

“While 2012 was a hard-fought season, it was also a dream season in so many ways and it certainly would not have been possible without the unwavering support I’ve received from our team, sponsors, my family and of course the fans.  Thank you for pushing me to limits I deemed unattainable, that’s what being a RACER is all about.”

Malsher will personally deliver both coveted RACER of the Year presented by Hawk Performance trophies to Hunter-Reay at a special IZOD IndyCar Series preseason event in St. Petersburg, FL on Thursday, March, 21 prior to the opening race of the series on Sunday March 24.

Other winners voted for by RACER’s readers include:

Oval Racer of the Year – 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski.

Drag Racer of the Year – 2012 NHRA Top Fuel Champion Antron Brown.

Rookie of the Year – NHRA Funny Car race-winner Courtney Force.

RACER’s editors also selected these 2012 winners:

Car of the year: Toyota TS030 Hybrid WEC LMP1 Hybrid

Career Achievement: Sebastian Loeb, 9-time FIA World Rally Champion

Previous winners of the RACER of the Year:

2011: Tony Stewart, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion

2010: John Force, NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Champion (his 15th title)

2009: Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion

2008: Kyle Busch, 8 wins in Sprint Cup, 10 in Nationwide, 3 in Craftsman Trucks

2007: Lewis Hamilton, four wins and six poles in debut F1 season

2006: Michael Schumacher, F1’s all-time winner retires after battling for 8th title

2005: Tony Stewart, NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Champion

2004: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daytona 500 winner + 5 more NASCAR victories

2003: Paul Tracy, CART Champ Car Series Champion

2002: Michael Schumacher, F1 World Champion

2001: Michael Schumacher, F1 World Champion

2000: Michael Schumacher, F1 World Champion

1999: Juan Pablo Montoya, CART Fed-Ex Series Champion

1998: Jeff Gordon, NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion

1997: Tommy Kendall, 11 wins in a row to claim 3rd straight SCCA Trans-Am title

1996: Jacques Villeneuve, On pole in first F1 start, won 4 races in his rookie season

1995: Jacques Villeneuve, CART PPG IndyCar World Series / Indy 500 Champ

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.