Other nominees for Best Driver honors include four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti, Formula 1 champion Sebastien Vettel and National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) champion Del Worsham.
Stewart’s come-from-behind win was also deemed worthy of a “Best Championship Performance” nomination. All five of his 2011 victories came during NASCAR’s 10-race Chase For The Sprint Cup, including a win in the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November. For the first time in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history, the championship standings ended in a draw. After passing 118 cars during the race, Stewart tied Carl Edwards with a total of 2,403 championship points, then won the tiebreaker based on his total number of race victories.
The Ford 400 marked the first time since 1975 that the eventual champion came from behind to win the championship while winning the final race of the season. Stewart's Homestead win put him in the company of NASCAR Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip, all of whom now have three championships at NASCAR’s highest level.
“An ESPY is a prestigious award,” said Homestead Miami Speedway president Matthew Becherer. “Having one of NASCAR’s best represented is a testament to the teamwork and dedication needed to compete in NASCAR. Last year, Jimmie Johnson won the ESPY for ‘Best Male Athlete’ and I think Tony will be tough to beat, given his gritty performance throughout the NASCAR Chase For The Sprint Cup.”
Voting for this year’s ESPYs ends July 9, with winners to be announced July 11 in Los Angeles. Fans can vote at http://espn.go.com/espys/#!/voting/.