SpeedTV.com: “Prudhomme, Russell Added To SPEED Performer Of Year Panel”


Drag racing legend Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and Motorcycle Hall of Fame racer Scott Russell join the voting panel for the annual SPEED Performer of the Year, an award moving into its seventh year on the network. The winner receives the Mario Andretti Trophy.

“Adding panelists of this caliber strengthens the breadth of the award,” Andretti said. “The goal is to make this a trophy that every racer wants in his or her collection, and part of that comes from ensuring everyone that the voting panel is knowledgeable, credible and fully aware of what it takes to reach a special level of excellence in all forms of motor sports.”

Prudhomme, ranked No. 3 on the National Hot Rod Association’s list of “Top 50 Drivers,” helped define the sport of drag racing for more than four decades. When he retired from driving at the conclusion of the 1994 season, he had recorded four consecutive NHRA Funny Car championships (1975-78), was the then-winningest nitro fuel racer in NHRA history with 49 victories (14 in Top Fuel, 35 in Funny Car), including seven wins at the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indy, and had recorded the first five-second Funny Car run, a 5.98 at the 1975 NHRA World Finals. His 5.63 clocking at the 1982 U.S. Nationals, nearly two-tenths of a second quicker than anything before, is considered among the greatest Funny Car passes ever.

He would go on to collect two more NHRA championships as a team owner (2002, 2003), raise his overall win total to 112, and see three of his drivers named NHRA Rookie of the Year — Larry Dixon, Ron Capps and Spencer Massey.

“I am very pleased to join the SPEED Performer of the Year panel,” Prudhomme said. “I’m an avid SPEED viewer, watching everything from Formula One to NASCAR. While I wasn’t on last year’s panel, my personal choice would also have been Tony Stewart, so I think they picked the right guy! I am looking forward to working with Mario and the other panel members to ensure the future success of this prestigious award.

A member of both the Motorsports Hall of Fame of American and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Prudhomme also helped elevate the level of corporate sponsorship in racing as his famed “Snake vs. the Mongoose” rivalry with Tom McEwen played out in households all over the world courtesy of Mattel’s Hot Wheels toy line released in 1970.

Russell, inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2005, is a former World Superbike and AMA Superbike champion. Affectionately referred to as “Mr. Daytona” after winning the Daytona 200 a record five times, Russell now is part of the SPEED on-air team as an analyst, lending his expertise to race calls on the network.

“Having competed on both two and four wheels gives me a nice perspective,” Russell said. “It will be an honor working with this amazing panel in trying to select the SPEED Performer of the Year.”

In addition to his knowledge of motorcycle racing, Russell also spent time behind the wheel in the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.

In addition to Prudhomme and Russell, SPEED Center host Adam Alexander also joins the voting panel for 2012, bringing the number of SPEED Performer of the Year voters to 21.

The SPEED Performer of the Year award, now in its seventh season, is presented annually the racer who puts a premium on winning races, shines on motor sports’ biggest stages and does it all with a measure of sportsmanship and class.

The SPEED Performer of the Year panel includes racing legends named above, as well as “Wind Tunnel” host Dave Despain, veteran broadcasters Varsha, Ralph Sheheen and Leigh Diffey, SPEED.com writers Robin Miller and Tom Jensen, versatile racers Tommy Kendall and Dorsey Schroeder and a select group of SPEED motor sports producers.

The trophy, a true work of art created by bronze sculptor Elie Hazak, stands 38 inches tall and weighs 95 pounds. It features eight cars, including six of the most important in Mario’s rise to superstardom, as well as an array of artistic symbolism that captures the essence of the trophy’s namesake.

Mario Andretti Trophy winners and runners-up : 

• 2006 – Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR. Nicky Hayden, MotoGP
• 2007 – Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR; Donny Schatz, WoO
• 2008 – Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR; Tony Schumacher, NHRA
• 2009 – Tony Schumacher, NHRA; Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR
• 2010 – Sebastian Vettel, F1; Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR
• 2011 – Tony Stewart, NASCAR; Casey Stoner, MotoGP

Written By: Erik Arneson  |  SpeedTV.com  |  Posted March 5, 2012

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