IndyCar Series 2007 champion Dario Franchitti got a first glimpse of his image on the famed Borg-Warner Trophy at a late-afternoon press conference, then walked away with the coveted Jerry Titus Award late Saturday night (January 12th) in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Franchitti, alongside fourteen other racing heroes, was feted at the American Automobile Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association annual All-America Racing Team banquet at the Hyatt-Regency Hotel.
The popular Scotsman, who also won the 2007 Indianapolis 500, is headed into his first full season as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver in the new year, where he will vie with open-wheel rival Sam Hornish Jr. for Rookie of the Year honors.
AARWBA also bestowed honors on its "First Team", a mythical lineup of 2007's best racers voted upon by members of the American auto racing press and media.
The top five vote-getters from the AARWBA All-America First Team who earned enough votes to be in contention for tonight's highest honor included Franchitti, NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, NHRA Top Fuel champion, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title winner Ron Hornaday Jr. and Champ Car World Series' Sebastien Bourdais who earned his fourth-consecutive title last year. Last year's Titus award winner Tony Schumacher who earned his back-to-back NHRA Top Fuel championship was again a top choice in voting for the Driver of the Year Titus award.
Others on the team for 2007 included NASCAR Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon and ARCA champion Frank Kimmel. Grand-Am Rolex Series star Scott Pruett and the 2007 Daytona Prototype co-champions Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (voted as a single unit) as co-drivers. American Le Mans Series GT co-champions Mika Salo and Jaime Melo made the First Team (also one unit as teammates).
From NHRA drag race, Tony Pedregon, made the First Team cut after earning the 2007 Funny Car title. The other three were Donny Schatz, 2007 World of Outlaws champion and the current USAC National Midget title winner Jerry Coons Jr. plus Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd.
Franchitti, who will drive in 2008 for the NASCAR team of Chip Ganassi, said his only regret is that he won't be able to defend his Indy 500 championship in May. "The timing is impossible and, at the same time, you can't come back here and be competitive in a one-off deal because the competition is just too tough.
"And I need to do everything I can to be competitive in a stock car. It's going to be a big learning experience," said Franchitti.