Hunter-Reay wins ESPY for Best Driver, first for IndyCar since 1997

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Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series championship has netted him one last award later in 2013 – an ESPY award for Best Driver.

The Andretti Autosport driver’s comeback in the final two races of 2012 took him past Will Power to capture his first series title. He also took home RACER Magazine’s Racer of the Year and Road Racer of the Year awards earlier this year.

Furthermore, he’s the first open-wheel driver to win the Best Driver ESPY since Jimmy Vasser in 1997. Vasser took home the CART series title for Target Chip Ganassi Racing – that team’s first ever championship – in 1996.

Hunter-Reay beat out 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and defending three-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel in a fan vote.

Danica Patrick, who’s unlikely to be nominated for the Best Driver ESPY anytime soon, was also on hand at the event at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles to present the Best Male Athlete award, won by LeBron James.

Jon Hamm hosted the show and Robin Roberts (Arthur Ashe Courage Award) and the father-and-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt, veteran marathon runners from Boston, were also honored for their contributions that have transcended sports.

The ESPYs also recognized Dick Trickle, Jason Leffler and Chris Economaki in its “In Memoriam” tribute to those who have passed in the last year.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.