CHARLOTTE (August 31, 2006) -- When brought up in conversation, the name Mario Andretti may be the only one that universally brings racing to mind.

Whether one is a fan of NASCAR, Champ Car, Formula One or any other type of racing, Andretti is one of few men ever to cross each of those borders and do it at a championship level. Now, SPEED will pass on the legacy of the Champ Car and Formula 1 champion by awarding the Mario Andretti Trophy to its Performer of the Year.

The trophy, which was created by renowned sculptor Elie Hazak and was given to the top vote-getter for the Champ Car World Series All-Star team from 1999-2001, depicts many of the highlights of Andretti's career including his 1967 Daytona 500 win, his 1978 F1 title and his four Champ Car titles. The trophy also symbolizes Andretti's emigration from Italy to Nazareth, Pa., with a globe and an olive tree with roots going to both locales.

"Everyone knows that racing was my work, but also the absolute joy in my life," said Andretti. "And it is the ultimate compliment (to me) to have my name on this trophy. I cherish the opportunity that it is giving me to have a lasting bond with racing. I am genuinely appreciative of everyone who continues to acknowledge my part in racing history."

The original trophy, which stands 38 inches tall and weighs 95 pounds, will be on display at various SPEED trackside locations throughout the rest of the season leading to the inaugural award ceremony.

"When we decided to take on the task of recognizing the top performer in motor sports, we wanted to have a trophy the best drivers really wanted to win," said Hunter Nickell, SPEED EVP & General Manager. "Mario Andretti defines performance, versatility and class in motor sports and having his name attached to an award open to drivers from every discipline makes it the perfect fit for the SPEED Performer of the Year.

"Many of the meaningful awards in sports have a life and personality all their own ... the Lombardi Trophy, the Stanley Cup, Wimbledon's Rosewater Dish," Nickell added. "We expect that the Mario Andretti Trophy, with its unique design and name recognition, has the potential to develop a similar significance in the world of sports."

About SPEED: SPEED, celebrating its 10th Anniversary in 2006, is the nation's first and foremost cable network dedicated to motor sports and the passion for everything automotive. From racing to restoration, motorcycles to movies, SPEED delivers quality programming from the track to the garage. Now available in more than 72 million homes in North America, SPEED is among the fastest growing sports cable networks in the country, the home to NASCAR TV and an industry leader in interactive TV, video on-demand, mobile initiatives and broadband services. For more information on SPEED, please visit

About Champ Car World Series: The Champ Car World Series features some of the greatest race car drivers in the world competing in the most diverse and exciting series in the world. Champions Sebastien Bourdais and Canadian Paul Tracy along with 2004 Roshfrans Rookie of the Year A. J. Allmendinger, Bruno Junqueira, Alex Tagliani and Mexican Mario Dominguez are among the drivers who battle for the Vanderbilt Cup, which is awarded to the winner of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. The title is contested on oval circuits, temporary street circuits and permanent road courses.

-credit: ccws