Squier, Mattioli, Hunter inducted into NMPA Hall of Fame
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Track owner Dr. Joseph Mattioli, broadcaster Ken Squier and NASCAR official Jim Hunter were inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame during ceremonies Saturday, Jan. 19.
Mattioli, the founder of Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, gave NASCAR a formidable presence in the Northeast when he built the unique, three-turn, 2.5-mile speedway. The track hosted its first 500-mile NASCAR event in 1974, and it has been a staple on the series’ schedule ever since.
Mattioli cut an imposing figure, yet he was warm and caring, not only seeking what was best for his facility, but for the surrounding region as well. Those traits made him a beloved and respected figure inside and outside the sport.
Squier, who began his broadcast career at just 14 years of age, continues his work behind the microphone today. One of the original members of the Motor Racing Network, Squier eventually made the transition to television where he became a fixture in the broadcast booth for telecasts of the Daytona 500. To this day, he has maintained his ties to his Northeastern roots through ownership of radio stations and the popular Thunder Road race facility.
Hunter began his career in the sport as a journalist, but soon found himself working for the sanctioning body in a number of different capacities, including president of Darlington Raceway. With a keen understanding of the inner workings of the sport, Hunter helped craft decisions that impacted its growth in a variety of areas. In his later years, he became a guidance counselor of sorts for drivers as well as members of the media, often providing advice and friendship in equal doses.
The National Motorsports Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame was founded in 1965 to recognize excellence and leadership in the sport of auto racing. To date, there are 94 members in the Hall. It is located on the grounds of Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C.
Keselowski garners Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award from NMPA
CHARLOTTE -- Brad Keselowski brought new glory to Penske Racing during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Keselowski won five races to earn his first Sprint Cup title, and the first for team owner Roger Penske. For his efforts he has been named the National Motorsports Press Association Richard Petty Driver of the Year.
It is the first time the membership of the NMPA has voted Keselowski as the winner of the award, which has been given since 1969.
The announcement was made Jan. 20 during the NMPA’s annual convention in Charlotte, N.C.
“It truly is an honor to receive the Driver of the Year Award from the National Motorsports Press Association,” said Keselowski. “They are the voice of our sport. I really feel as though I should be honoring them because many of these individuals are with us every weekend of a long season. I am proud of the mutual respect that I share with this group.”
During the 2012 season, Keselowski earned two of his five wins during the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He earned 23 top-10 finishes, 13 of them top fives.
Also receiving votes were fellow Cup competitor Clint Bowyer and Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series national champion Jimmy Owens.
Hillenburg tabbed for 2012 NMPA/SMI Spirit Award
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Andy Hillenburg, the former racer who turned a dream into reality when he brought NASCAR competition back to Rockingham Speedway, has been named the recipient of the 2012 NMPA/Speedway Motorsports Spirit Award.
The award, determined by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association, was presented during the NMPA’s annual awards ceremony Jan. 20.
Hillenburg, 49, purchased the legendary Richmond County facility in 2007 after the track’s previous ownership group moved its lone Cup date to another facility and put the 1-mile track on the auction block.
Nearly five years later, and against incredible odds, Hillenburg had successfully lobbied NASCAR for a 2012 date on its Camping World Truck Series schedule.
The Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 reportedly drew more than 25,000 fans to a track that had hosted Cup races from 1965-2004. This year’s event, the Carolina 200, is scheduled for Sunday, April 14.
A two-time Daytona winner in ARCA competition, Hillenburg won that series’ overall championship in 1995. He is one of only a handful of drivers that have competed in the Indianapolis 500 as well as the Daytona 500.
The Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, quarterly winners are selected, and a yearly winner is determined by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association membership.
Quarterly Spirit Award winners for 2012 were: Clint Bowyer (first quarter); Hillenburg (second); Brad Keselowski (third) and Ryan Newman (fourth).
Dennison receives Joe Littlejohn Award
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jeff Dennison, Director, Media and Public Relations for the Breaking Limits marketing group, was presented the Joe Littlejohn Award during the National Motorsport Press Association’s annual awards ceremony Jan. 20.
The award is presented each year to a person or persons, or an organization, in recognition for or outstanding service to the NMPA. It is named after the former track owner from Spartanburg, S.C. Littlejohn is credited with two career NASCAR starts, but raced extensively prior to the formation of NASCAR.
Dennison was recognized for his work with the NMPA’s Most Popular Driver program, establishing a new web site that provided race fans with a year long opportunity to vote for their favorite drivers.
Speedway’s executive recognized by NMPA
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Scott Cooper, vice president of communications for Charlotte Motor Speedway, is this year’s recipient of the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award.
The award, determined by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association membership, was announced during the organization’s convention and awards ceremony Jan. 20.
The award, presented annually since 2004, is named for former Talladega Superspeedway media relations representative Ken Patterson. It honors a public relations representative in the motorsports industry (track, team or sanctioning body) who has exhibited the exceptional qualities often demonstrated by Patterson.
Talladega Superspeedway will donate $1,000 to the Kenneth Patterson Educational Trust Fund in Cooper’s name.
“Scott has always gone above and beyond the call of duty to help ensure that the various needs of the members of the media are met,” NMPA President Kenny Bruce said. “His professionalism and kindness are great assets to Charlotte Motor Speedway.”