Reigning NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Tony Stewart was named Driver of the Year during the ESPN ESPY Awards on Wednesday night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Stewart, who drives the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing, beat out Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher, IRL IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr., Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran and NHRA Funny Car champion John Force.

"It's an honour to win an ESPY," said Stewart, who was unable to attend the awards ceremony due to a scheduled appearance at Thompson (Connecticut) Speedway, where the 32-year-old Indiana native won a 30-lap SK Modified feature as part of the Dodge Weekly Racing Series. "The fact that the ESPYs are voted on by the fans makes this award extra special. I was definitely in some good company with Schumacher, Hornish, de Ferran and Force, and to come out on top is kind of overwhelming. I can't thank the fans enough for voting for me."

The Driver of the Year ESPY was Stewart's fourth such award following his 2002 Winston Cup championship, as Stewart was also named Driver of the Year by the National Motorsports Press Association, the Eastern Motorsports Press Association and The Sporting News.

En route to his first NASCAR championship, Stewart scored three victories, two poles, 15 top-fives and 21 top-10s, while securing more than $9 million in winnings. The Winston Cup championship was Stewart's ninth career driving title, having won an IRL IndyCar Series championship, four USAC series championships and three karting championships - the first of which came in 1980 at age nine.

Stewart is currently in his fifth year of Winston Cup competition, with a total of 16 career victories and seven career poles. He races this Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon in round 18 of the 36-race Winston Cup schedule.

Wednesday night marked the 11th anniversary of the ESPYs, which honour Excellence in Sports Performance. Previous Driver of the Year winners are Nigel Mansell (1993 & 1994); Al Unser Jr. (1995); Jeff Gordon (1996, 1998 & 1999); Jimmy Vasser (1997); Dale Jarrett (2000); Bobby Labonte (2001); and Schumacher (2002). Stewart is the fourth Winston Cup driver to win the award.


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