Cristiano da Matta beats Tony Stewart in tie-breaker in voting for 2002 Driver of the Year.
While Cristiano da Matta dominated the CART FedEx series, it took the only tie-breaker in DRIVER OF THE YEAR history to determine he beat Tony Stewart the NASCAR Winston Cup Champion for this year's annual award.
"That's cool," the 29-year old da Matta exclaimed after learning of the results adding, "it feels great. It compliments a great year."
Da Matta, known as "Shorty", because he stands 5'4" and weighs only 130lbs., won seven races, seven poles and clinched his series championship with three races to go in the 19-race season driving the Chevron/Toyota/Lola for Newman/Haas Racing.
In addition, the native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil led almost twice as many laps as his closest rival. His 73- point lead over second place in his series was the second largest in series history.
Winning the coveted 2002 DRIVER OF THE YEAR award was another matter completely, because the annual award winner is selected by a nationwide panel of 16 motorsports journalists and the cumulative winner of a fan vote on ESPN.com.
Since both da Matta and Stewart got an equal number of ballots; a tie-breaker was invoked for the first time in the 35-year history of DRIVER OF THE YEAR award. The total of the weighted quarterly votes, 246 for da Matta to 66 for Stewart, decided this year's winner.
Reacting to the vote da Matta noted, "it's tough to be compared to NASCAR (drivers) but it shows that everyone was paying attention to what we were doing on the track."
Driving the Home Depot Pontiac, the 31-year old Stewart, rocketed back from his 43-place finish at the season opener in Daytona, won 3 races and 4 poles to clinch his first Winston Cup crown at the season finale last Sunday.
Also getting votes in final voting were Steve Kinser from the World of Outlaws, Top fuel dragster, Larry Dixon, and 1996 DRIVER OF THE YEAR and Funny Car driver John Force.
Da Matta becomes the first DRIVER OF THE YEAR winner from the CART series since 1993 when Britain's Nigel Mansell, who also drove for Newman/Haas which has also owned cars for DRIVER OF THE YEAR winners, Mario Andretti and Michael Andretti.
Co-owner and Academy Award winning actor, Paul Newman, commenting on the additional honors said "it's well deserved and makes the season even better."
Carl Haas, based in a Chicago suburb, added, "I'm proud of what we have achieved as a team."
Da Matta will receive a crystal trophy, a custom 2003 Indian Motorcycle and a Maurice Lacroix Swiss Watch in recognition of his accomplishment.
Maurice Lacroix USA-the official watch of the DRIVER OF THE YEAR award - is one of the fastest growing Swiss watch manufacturers in America, with more than 400 quality jewelers representing the award-winning collection in the United States.
President of the DRIVER OF THE YEAR Foundation is Barry Schmoyer, businessman and sportsman of Sarasota, Florida.