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Murto: Was Vettel the right choice for Andretti Trophy?

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Three-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel was awarded the Mario Andretti Trophy and named the 2012 SPEED Performer of the Year.

But did the 22 industry experts who voted on the award make the correct decision?

Vettel wasn't a bad choice. It's no easy feat winning three World Driving Championships in a row. And as mediocre as the Red Bull car was at the beginning of the 2012 season, it was amazing how strong he came on at the end of the season to secure the championship.

On SPEED channel's broadcast, Andretti stated that the winner of the award was based on race wins and poles, not necessarily championships. He said that a driver could win a championship, but if he didn't win any races he wasn't going to be in contention for the award.

Obviously the award is meant to reward driver performance. If that's the case, then Fernando Alonso (who finished in the top 10 in voting for the award) would have been a better choice among F1 drivers, as he muscled an ill-handling and relatively uncompetitive car to race wins and second in the standings in a series usually determined on the drawing boards before the season even begins.

Yes, it was amazing that Vettel came back from mediocrity to win the title. But it had just as much to do with the car as it did with the driver. For that reason I believe he was the wrong choice.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski would have been a better choice. His gutsy determination and perseverance gave him the title despite his role as the underdog going into the Chase. He's come a long way in a very short time, and his throwback attitude seems to be one that would epitomize the spirit of the Andretti Trophy.

But the best choice would have been the third-place finisher in the voting, Kyle Larson.
Larson - who has been nominated in the past - won in USAC Sprints and midgets, on dirt and pavement, and also won in NASCAR's K&N Pro Series. He's young, gutsy, wins in everything he drives, and will undoubtedly be a star of the future. His talent is multifaceted, much like the talent of the racer for whom the trophy is named.

Sebastian Vettel wasn't a bad choice, but somehow it was too easy a choice. And since F1 has become more a competition of technology than an exercise in driving skill, it seems to me the Andretti Trophy belongs in the hands of someone who won due to sheer talent and determination, rather than someone - as talented as he is - who won due to a technological advantage.

Will it be an advantage to 30-year-old Danica Patrick that she's now dating 2012 Nationwide Champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 25? Or will the "distraction" of her relationship be her excuse for 2013, when both drivers compete against each other for Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year? And is a five-year difference enough to call Patrick a "cougar"? And do we really care about their personal lives anyway? As long as they're happy ...

Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas and Charlie Kimball are happy after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona in Chip Ganassi's BMW Riley Daytona prototype. It was Pruett's fifth win in the 24-hour endurance race, tying him with Hurley Haywood for the most. Montoya and Rojas enjoyed their third Rolex victory, while Kimball celebrated his first. There were a record 74 lead changes in 709 laps completed. The most aggressive driver on the winning team - Montoya - drove the closing stint, making the pass for the win in the closing minutes of the race.

The AMA Supercross event at Oakland, Calif., really was no race at all as Ryan Villopoto led every lap on his Kawasaki to become the first repeat winner this season in the 450 class. Davi Millsaps finished second to retain the point lead. The 250 class was a different story entirely, as three-time winner Eli Tomac crashed twice in the race and did not finish, dropping to third in the points. Ken Roczen won the race on a KTM and grabbed the point lead in the process.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.



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