2009 SPEED Performance Award nominees

Yamaha Champions Spies, Stewart and Rossi up for Mario Andretti Trophy

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Dec. 10, 2009
Ben Spies, James Stewart and Valentino Rossi are among the finalists for the 2009 SPEED Performer of the Year award.

The three Yamaha motorcycle racing champions are up against a field of 12 automobile racers for the award and the Mario Andretti Trophy. The award is the top prize for SPEED’s fourth annual awards program, with the winner selected by a panel of racing experts. Nine additional awards are open to fan voting.

Ben Spies' phenomenal rookie WSBK season earned three SPEED Performance nominations.

Spies captured the 2009 World Superbike Championship, the first for Yamaha. Spies set a record with 11 poles in a single season and won 14 races in 28 starts for an impressive 50% winning percentage. These achievements are even more impressive considering they come in Spies’ first WSBK season, making him a nominee for the SPEED’s Rookie of the Year award as well.

Spies is also up for the Best Rivalry award with Ducati rider Noriyuki Haga. The two riders were a class above the rest of the WSBK field in 2009. Their rivalry presented a number of storylines: Ducati vs. Yamaha, Japan vs. America, veteran vs. rookie. The season-long battle came down to the final weekend with Spies overcoming a 15-point deficit to win the championship.

Also up for the Best Rivalry award is the AMA Superbike battle between Stewart and Suzuki’s Chad Reed. Stewart led the series with 11 wins in 17 races, but Reed was able to keep it close by finishing on the podium in all but one round. The two riders finished one-two in 13 main events, with Stewart taking the advantage 11 times.

James Stewart and Chad Reed held one of the most dramatic racing duels in recent memory during the 2009 AMA Supercross Championship.

The rivalry grew heated during the season and included some controversy as Stewart’s San Manuel Yamaha teammate Kyle Chisholm was black flagged in the second-last round of the season after blocking Reed. The incident may have been the difference-maker, helping Stewart take the title by a 377-373 margin.

Rossi’s ninth Grand Prix World Championship makes him a candidate for the Mario Andretti Trophy. The Fiat Yamaha rider won six races and fought off his teammate Jorge Lorenzo to win his seventh premier-class title and second in a row.

Rossi’s last-lap pass of Lorenzo at the Catalunya Grand Prix earned a nomination for the Best Finish award.

Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo look to be in the mix for the MotoGP title again in 2010.

Lorenzo is a nominee for the Best Comeback award for the U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. Lorenzo crashed during qualifying at the Monterey, Calif., circuit’s famous Corkscrew. Lorenzo injured his right shoulder in the crash but overcame the pain to finish third on race day.

Other finalists for the SPEED Performer of the Year award include Formula One Champion Jenson Button, F1 runner-up Sebastian Vettel,  IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti, his teammate and 2009 IndyCar runner-up Scott Dixon, NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, Sprint Cup runner-up Mark Martin, Nationwide Champion Kyle Busch, American Le Mans Series Champion David Brabham, World of Outlaws Champion Donny Schatz, WoO 20 race-winner Joey Saldana, NHRA Top Fuel  Champion Tony Schumacher and Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.

The Speed Performance Awards will be presented in a televised special in February. Voting for the fan-chosen awards are open until Dec. 20 at http://www.speedperformanceawards.com/.