The 15-member SPEED voting panel, headlined by racing icon Mario Andretti, has named 11 finalists for the 2008 SPEED Performer of the Year honor, with the winner to be announced as part of the SPEED Performance Awards one-hour television special in February.
"This is the only award that considers all the major disciplines of motor sports," Andretti said."Because of that, it's a daunting job for the individuals tasked with selecting a winner. Because all the different series are included, you've got a bigger and deeper pool of talent from which to select a performer of the year. What I also like is that the criteria for this award is not just about winning championships. The ultimate performer of the year doesn't have to be the series champion -- he just needs to have driven with gusto."
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and two-time winner of the SPEED Performer of the Year Jimmie Johnson is on a ballot that represents eight different racing series. The top six vote-getters will be featured on the special.
In addition to Johnson, this year's finalists are: NHRA Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi, IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz, AMA Motocross champion James Stewart, USAC champion Jerry Coons Jr., NASCAR drivers Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, and Formula One driver Felipe Massa.
The Third Annual SPEED Performer of the Year will be selected by a panel including Andretti, "Wind Tunnel" host Dave Despain, veteran broadcasters Bob Varsha and Ralph Sheheen, SPEEDtv.com writers Robin Miller and Tom Jensen and versatile racers Tommy Kendall and Dorsey Schroeder. The winner will receive the Mario Andretti Trophy, created by bronze artist Elie Hazak.
Nine additional"fan chosen" SPEED Performance Awards are open for voting on SPEEDtv.com (keyword: Performance) through Dec. 14.
In addition, USAC's Cole Whitt was also among drivers nominated for this prestigious award.