BUSCH: CHAMPCAR/CART: IRL: Third quarter "Driver of the Year" report

Da Matta claims third-quarter Driver of the Year award. Cristiano da Matta, CART's diminutive points leader, is busily proving that size doesn't matter. He blew away the competition in voting for the third quarter 2002 DRIVER OF THE YEAR. The...

Da Matta claims third-quarter Driver of the Year award.

Cristiano da Matta, CART's diminutive points leader, is busily proving that size doesn't matter. He blew away the competition in voting for the third quarter 2002 DRIVER OF THE YEAR.

The 28-year-old da Matta, who stands only 5'4" and weighs only 130lbs., has crushed the competition this year in general, and this quarter in particular, driving the Havoline/Toyota/Lola for Newman/Haas Racing.

In thirteen starts leading up to the vote, he grabbed six poles and six wins (including four poles and three wins in the third quarter) topping the CART FedEx series by a commanding 55 points with six races remaining.

The blue-ribbon panel of DRIVER OF THE YEAR voters responded by giving the Brazilian-born racer 15 of the 17 first place votes and 143 points.

Ageless Bill Elliott scored two straight Winston Cup wins, including the prestigious Brickyard 400. The Dodge Dealers UAW Dodge driver earned one-first-place vote and 83 points.

Busch Grand National points leader, Greg Biffle, who drives the Roush Racing Grainger Ford, recorded three wins, two poles and tallied 45 points.

Da Matta, a second year driver on the team co-owned by Academy Award winning actor Paul Newman and Chicago businessman Carl Haas, gladly accepted the results of the voting.

"This is the first time it happened to me in the top series, so it means a little more, plus I think it's an award not only voted by CART journalists but from all types of journalists. So, if even from a distance we can cause a good impression on everybody else, it's good to know that everybody is paying attention."

His performance makes the man called "Shorty" by his team, self-assured in the drive for the series title.

"I think the way we ran on most of the tracks we went to" said da Matta, "it gives me such confidence that everything is going to be alright going to every race. You are not anxious, you are just feeling fine. Going there and knowing 100 percent you are going to run well. That's important. That's the way it's been for us at every race this year."

He added, "I think we are doing fine. The whole team feels the same way. Everybody is doing their job, everything is going fine we just don't change anything we just keep doing everything we've been doing."

The DRIVER OF THE YEAR title is unique because it is the only award that encompasses all of the racing series in the United States. A panel of 16 leading journalists from across the U.S. and a fan vote on ESPN.com determine the winner. In quarterly voting, points are awarded on a declining 9,6,4,3,2,1 basis.

2001 IRL champion and winner of the first quarter voting for DRIVER OF THE YEAR, Sam Hornish, Jr., finished fourth in the third-quarter vote, followed by World of Outlaws' Steve Kinser, who drew the other first-place vote. Funny car's John Force, DRIVER OF THE YEAR in 1996, was sixth. A total of 17 drivers received votes.

In recognition of his results, da Matta will receive a trophy and a Maurice Lacroix Swiss Watch.

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.

Further information on the award may be obtained from DRIVER OF THE YEAR Foundation, PO Box 49827, Sarasota, FL 34230 or from (941) 953-6209.

-doty-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , NASCAR Cup , NASCAR XFINITY , NHRA , World of Outlaws
Drivers Bill Elliott , John Force , Greg Biffle , Paul Newman , Steve Kinser , Carl Haas , Cristiano da Matta , Sam Hornis