Rahal, Hildebrand honored with Firestone's legacy awards
Graham Rahal and J.R. Hildebrand never got the opportunity to race with either Tony Renna or Greg Moore, but the two rising stars will have their names Indy Racing League drivers will be linked with awards given in their honor.
Rahal, driver of the No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team car for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, was named the winner of the Tony Renna Rising Star Award on Sunday night at the W Hotel in South Beach. Hildebrand, who claimed the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights championship for ARPRO/Andretti Green Racing/AFS Racing, was honored with the Greg Moore Legacy Award.
"Greg and Tony competed only on Firestone tires at the top levels of open-wheel racing - in Firestone Indy Lights, CART and the IndyCar Series - and both were a close part of the Firestone family," said Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone Racing, which presented both awards for the second consecutive year.
"They were on the cusp of stardom when they died doing what they loved. The things I remember most about Greg and Tony were their sheer talent, enthusiasm and willingness to help everyone. I have a deep and lasting respect for them, and am very proud that Firestone Racing continues to honor their memories with these meaningful awards to current-day drivers."
The Tony Renna Rising Star Award is presented to an up-and-coming IndyCar Series driver who embodies the qualities of the late Renna, an IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights competitor who died in a testing crash in October 2003 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Past winners of the award include Vitor Meira, Patrick Carpentier, Marco Andretti and Hideki Mutoh.
"It means a lot to me," Rahal said. "I didn't know Tony, but I know what he represented. Obviously it's nice for me to get any sort of recognition after the trying year that we had, but certainly a good one. It's pretty cool that I was picked for the award. As the years go on, hopefully we can live up to being chosen a rising star."
The Greg Moore Legacy Award originated in CART/Champ Car, but Firestone assumed sponsorship when that series unified with the IndyCar Series last year. It is presented to the Firestone Indy Lights driver who best personifies the late Moore, who was a CART standout and Firestone Indy Lights champion who died in a racing accident in October 1999 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
"I was surprised to win the award," Hildebrand said. "Greg Moore was one of the brightest stars coming up through North American road racing. When he won the championship in Indy Lights and made his way to CART and was a winner right away. To be in the same category as Greg Moore and have my name alongside his is really quite an honor for me."