Ryan Hunter-Reay wins Best Driver Award at the ESPYs

USA TODAY Sports

The defending IndyCar Series champion won the Best Driver award via an online fan vote.

IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay received the ESPY Award for Best Driver during the 21st annual event on Wednesday night at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

It was the first ESPY Award presented to an Indy car driver since Jimmy Vasser in 1997 when he won the CART Championship for Target Chip Ganassi Racing the year prior. It was also the first ESPY nomination for Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay won in the category that also featured Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowsk. The results were determined by online voting.

"I can't thank you all enough for your votes and support," said Hunter-Reay, who secured the 2012 title in the season finale in a Andretti Autosport car to become the first American to win the series championship since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.

The awards show celebrates the past year's best athletes and moments in sports and was hosted by "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm. Former honorary Indianapolis 500 pace car driver Robin Roberts, won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, given to an individual whose contributions transcend sports.

The show also recognized racing personalities Dick Trickle, Jason Leffler and Chris Economaki in its "In Memoriam" segment to those who have passed in the past year.

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