The CART community closed the 2002 season tonight at the Hotel Inter-Continental in Miami, Florida where the season's awards were presented.
Cristiano da Matta was the night's big winner, taking home the Honda Fast Lap award and of course the CART FedEx Series Driver's Championship. He also was a major contributor to several other awards, leading Toyota to the Manufacturers Championship, Lola to the Constructor's Championship and CART's Brazilian drivers (with teammate Christian Fittipaldi, Bruno Junqueira and Tony Kanaan) to the Nation's Cup.
In a special presentation, da Matta also was given the 2002 Driver of the Year Award voted by the nation's racing media across all forms of motor racing.
Patrick Carpentier took home two major awards, winning the Motorola Call of The Race award and the coveted Greg Moore Legacy award, named for his late former teammate.
Paul Tracy was awarded the WorldCom Most Popular Driver award over da Matta, Carpentier and his teammates Dario Franchitti and Michael Andretti. He brought down the house with his opening comments, thanking Tony George for helping him win the award. Referring to the disputed Indy 500, he continued: "Since that whole disaster, I've become a fan favorite. I guess this is like my Borg-Warner trophy."
In other awards, Mario Dominguez was named the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year award winner and the Shell-sponsored Bobby Rahal team and Jimmy Vasser won the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge.
The drivers didn't get all the awards. Team manager Jim McGee, currently with Patrick Racing, presented a special award to recognize CART's Director of Logistics, Billy Kamphausen, for his work moving CART around the world.
The evening's festivities, hosted by CART broadcasters Bob Varsha and Tommy Kendall, featured a loose and funny mood, with many encouraging moments for CART's fans and supporters. Even Toyota's Lee White hinted that the departing engine supplier might return. As he accepted the trophy for the Manufacturer's Championship, he said: "I was told this was a loaner. I'd hate for it to go to [Ford's] Ian Bisco, so Chris, could I just keep it on my mantle? I believe that CART will be here in two years"
A highlight of the evening was Team Rahal co-owner Dave Letterman's special Top Ten list: Top Ten Messages on Chris Pook's telephone.
10: "Hi Chris, this is Bernie Eccelstone. Please stop calling!"
9: "Hi Chris, this is Joe Heitzler. Bite my ass!"
8: "Hi Chris, this is Paul Tracy. I'll be back next year, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it!"
7: "Hi Chris, this is Danica Patrick. Please stop calling!"
6: "Hi Chris, this is Bobby Rahal. The good news is that we'll be back with a team in CART next year. The bad news is that Letterman is still an owner!"
5: "Hi Chris, this the Surfer's Paradise weather service. There are some sprinkles expected in the area this morning, but the weather looks great for racing today."
4: "Hi Chris, this is Chip Ganassi. They ran out of gravy at the banquet last year. Don't let it happen again!"
3: "Hello Chris, this is Ford Cosworth. How many engines will you need next year, ten or twelve?"
2: "Hi Chris, this is Gerry Forsythe. I just bought 80,000 more shares of CART stock. Best $200 I ever spent!"
And the number one message left on Chris Pook's telephone:
"Hi Mr. Smith, this is Golden Touch Medical Massage. Your credit card has expired."