IndyCar Series Honors Champs

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 4 2010

2010 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti and the "naked guy riding the unicycle". (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti is celebrating his latest title with a $1 million bonus check, and a new trophy that truly fits the description of unique.

“You mean the naked guy riding the unicycle?” Franchitti quipped during an interview on “Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain” Sunday night on SPEED.

Franchitti was referring to the three-foot-tall, 45-pound trophy that was unveiled during a media event last week at the W Hotel on South Beach in Miami. That venue also served as the site of Sunday’s poolside, season-ending Indy Racing League Championship Celebration.

Franchitti and Firestone Indy Lights champion J.K. Vernay – along with series drivers, teams and manufacturers – were recognized one day after Dario dramatically clinched his third title in four years at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Franchitti, of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished eighth in the season-ending Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 to edge Verizon Team Penske’s Will Power by five points (602-597) en route to joining Sam Hornish Jr. as the series’ only three-time champions. Scott Dixon, winner of Saturday night’s race and Franchitti’s TCGR teammate, finished third in the overall standings with 547 points.

Phillips Van Heusen executives Allen Sirkin and Mike Kelly, representing series sponsor IZOD, and members of the Hulman-George family presented Franchitti with a $1 million championship bonus check and the new IZOD IndyCar Series Championship Trophy.

Call it an example of art meeting asphalt.

IZOD collaborated with and commissioned acclaimed sculptor Ted Gall to design and create the award, which conveys “the intertwined nature of man and machine in the 21st century.” The stainless steel sculpture of man with outstretched arms balanced on a single wheel rests atop an African Pedauk hardwood base.

“We’re not just a human form; we’re what we use all the time,” said Gall, who added he intends all his work to be both visually and psychologically intriguing. “It used to be if you were a cowboy you’d ride a horse. Now we’re really attached to wheels our whole lives. The arms are imploring; they’re reaching out for that golden ring, for that big win.”

After informally talking with IndyCar Series drivers, other motorsports participants and IZOD principals, Gall sought to create a piece of artwork for the champion to proudly display as a testament to his/her accomplishments throughout the season on the most diverse set of racetracks in motorsports. IndyCar’s 17-race schedule covered three continents in 2010.

“The drivers were really tired of getting bowling trophies,” Gall said. “They’re bowls or something that doesn’t relate to what they’re doing. IZOD has gone beyond other sports. Rather than give out the run-of-the-mill trophy, they’re giving artwork to the drivers about what they are.”

The angular-cut base of African Pedauk, which has a natural orange or yellow hue, was darkened by a process of ebonizing, and Gall added some texture to either side for “a little bit of an Art Deco feeling to it.

“The combination of stainless steel and the dark wood is wonderful. The steel is very strong and very industrial and very gutsy and the wood is very warm and beautiful. It’s a nice combination of strength and richness.”

Similar trophies were presented to second- and third-place points finishers Power and Dixon, respectively, during the Championship Celebration. Only one arm is outstretched on each of those 26-inch-tall trophies.

“They’re a little bit more aggressive; they’re reaching out, they’re grabbing for that win,” Gall said.

“We wanted to create something that would truly represent the speed, excitement and innovation that is the IZOD IndyCar Series” said Mike Kelly, executive vice president of marketing for Phillips Van-Heusen, parent company of IZOD. “We feel that Ted Gall, with his compelling aesthetic and thought-provoking vision, was the perfect artist for the project. The final result, with its outstretched arms reaching into the future, is a stunning statement that pays tribute to the amazing athletic champion that wins it.”

In addition to the championship bonus, Franchitti accepted the $10,000 Bosch Platinum Award and received a $100,000 diamond-encrusted champion’s timepiece from Ritmo Mundo and the Herff Jones Champions Award, a ring valued at $5,000.

“I’m just going to enjoy (this third championship),” said Franchitti, a 37-year-old native of Scotland who has won IndyCar titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010. “I think I’m just going to let it sink in, enjoy it. I’m very proud of the achievement. And it’s an absolute honor to get to drive for the Target team. That feeling of success is great.”

Kevin O’Donnell, chief mechanic on Franchitti’s No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda, accepted the IZOD IndyCar Series Chief Mechanic of the Year Award.

Alex Lloyd of Dale Coyne Racing accepted the $25,000 IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Award, while Simona de Silvestro of HVM Racing won the Tony Renna Rising Star Award.

Power won the $25,000 Raybestos Road & Street Challenge for having the best average finish on road and street courses while former series champion Dan Wheldon of Panther Racing was awarded the Xtrac Championship Award and its $5,000 prize.

Vernay accepted the mini Firestone Firehawk Cup, $10,000 for Rookie of the Year, a $10,000 award for the Raybestos Road and Street Course Challenge for having the best average finish on road and street courses and the $5,000 “Securing Tomorrow Award” from Gregory & Appel Insurance for winning the most races.

“I’m just proud about the work that we did together at Sam Schmidt Motorsports,” Vernay said. “It was a good year, especially for being a rookie in America. Now we have to be focused on next year to go to the IZOD IndyCar Series, to find a good deal. I will be the happiest guy in the world if I go there.”

Dave Higuera, chief mechanic for Vernay’s No. 7 Lucas Oil/CJ entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing, accepted $5,000 as Firestone Indy Lights Chief Mechanic of the Year.

James Hinchcliffe of Team Moore Racing won the Greg Moore Legacy Award Presented by Firestone and the $5,000 Lucas Oil Frequent Pole-sitter Award while teammate Adrian Campos Jr. was named Sunoco Most Improved Driver, earning an additional $10,000.

Rodrigo Barbosa of PDM Racing claimed the Force for Earth Hard-Charger Award and its $5,000 prize for improving the most total positions during the 2009 season.

IndyCar Series award winners

Championship driver: Dario Franchitti

Herff Jones Championship Driver Award (ring valued at $5,000): Dario Franchitti

Ritmo Mundo Championship Driver Award (diamond watch valued at $100,000): Dario Franchitti

Championship team: Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Championship team sponsor: Target

Championship team managers: Scott Harner and Barry Wanser

Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Kevin O’Donnell

Rookie of the Year Award ($25,000): Alex Lloyd

Second-place championship driver: Will Power

Second-place championship team: Verizon Team Penske

Third-place championship driver: Scott Dixon

Third-place championship team: Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Tony Renna Rising Star Award: Simona de Silvestro

BOSCH Platinum Award ($10,000 for highest-finishing driver using Bosch spark plugs): Dario Franchitti

Raybestos Road & Street Course Challenge ($25,000 cash or product): Will Power

Xtrac Championship Award ($5,000 for driver who won most Xtrac Awards during 2010): Dan Wheldon

Manufacturer Recognition Awards: Honda, Firestone, Dallara and Xtrac

Firestone Indy Lights award winners

Championship driver (mini Firehawk Cup): J.K. Vernay

Herff Jones Championship Driver Award (ring valued at $4,000): J.K. Vernay

Ritmo Mundo Championship Driver Award (watch valued at $25,000): J.K. Vernay

Championship team (mini Firehawk Cup): Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Chief Mechanic of the Year: Dave Higuera

Second-place championship driver: James Hinchcliffe

Second-place championship team: Team Moore Racing

Third-place championship driver: Martin Plowman

Third-place championship team: AFS Racing Inc./Andretti Autosport

Firestone Painting Award: J.K. Vernay

Force for Earth Hard-Charger ($5,000): Rodrigo Barbosa

Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year ($10,000): J.K. Vernay

Greg Moore Legacy Award: James Hinchcliffe

Gregory & Appel “Securing Tomorrow” Award ($5,000): J.K. Vernay

Lucas Oil Frequent Pole-sitter Award ($5,000): James Hinchcliffe

Raybestos Road & Street Course Challenge (10,000): J.K. Vernay

Sunoco Most Improved Driver ($10,000): Adrian Campos Jr.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 4 2010
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