Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs And Al Unser Sr. Inducted Into NMPA Hall of Fameby Tommy Dampier January 25, 2016 0 comments
Concord, N.C – The National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) held its annual conference on Jan. 16-17 in Concord, N.C. Motorsports correspondents from around the country met and planned for the upcoming 2016 season and also recognized select members in writing, television, radio broadcast, photography and social media for their outstanding contributions in 2015.
The NMPA Hall of Fame inducted three new members on Jan. 16. Inductees this year were Al Unser, Sr., Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs. Hendrick and Gibbs attended the ceremonies via video stream. Al Unser Jr. accepted for his father. A reception hosted by Sprint was held prior to the Induction Ceremony.
“Thanks for this honor,” Gibbs said. “I want to thank the National Motorsports Press Association for honoring me. I really, really appreciate it. I think also about what do you guys mean to our sport? You bring the information to our fans, which is hugely important for us. Our fans are what make us go.
“I want to thank you all for this award, and I hope you have a great night,” Gibbs said.
Hendrick talked about his induction, “Hello everyone. I’m sorry I can’t be there with you tonight. To be recognized by the National Motorsports Press Association is a real honor. I have so much respect for the people who cover our sport and keep our fans informed. It takes an incredible amount of commitment and sacrifice. Not only that, but the NMPA does so much to give back to the NASCAR community.
“To be inducted with two of my heroes, that makes it even more special. Congratulations Joe Gibbs and Al Unser. I’m extremely grateful for this honor. Thank you to the NMPA and its members,” Hendrick concluded.
Mike Joy accepted the award on Hendrick’s behalf.
Unser Jr. spoke admiringly of his father’s induction, “I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of my father. For you to acknowledge him with the award is a true honor. I want to thank the National Motorsports Press Association for acknowledging him with this prestigious award.”
A general member’s meeting kicked off the morning of day two, and a photographer’s meeting was held that afternoon with Sprint Cup driver Michael McDowell in attendance. Talladega Superspeedway sponsored an evening reception, followed by the Nationwide/Ford Racing NMPA Awards Dinner honoring excellence in writing, broadcasting, and photo journalism.
On Sunday night, Kyle Busch, 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion who rallied from injuries sustained in a season-opening crash to capture the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, was named the 2015 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award.
“I just want to thank the National Motorsports Press Association for voting me as the Richard Petty Driver of the Year,” said Busch. “Last year was the most challenging, yet rewarding year of my career. While this honor has my name on it, I don’t think it would have possible without the hard work and dedication from everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing.
“On the personal side, I’d like to thank my wife Samantha and my entire family for all they did to get me back on my feet. Just looking at the list of past winners; it’s a tremendous honor to have my name mentioned along with many other great champions of our sport,” Busch said.
Jon Edwards, the long-time public relations representative for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon, was named the 2015 recipient of the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award. This Award commemorates the person that provides the best of the best services to the members of the media throughout the previous season.
Jeff Gordon talked about Edwards commitment after Martinsville last season, “This guy has been my absolute rock and has been an amazing person,” Gordon said before presenting Edwards with a checkered flag from Martinsville Speedway, where the driver scored his 93rd victory. “I think everybody knows what a class act he is and how good he is, but he makes me good and I appreciate that.”
Patterson, the former Public Relations Director at Talladega Superspeedway, passed away in April 2004. The Award was established in his honor in 2005.
Veteran motorsports writer Holly Cain received The 2015 NMPA Spirit award. Cain has courageously been fighting breast cancer since being diagnosed in 2014. She was presented the award by NMPA President Kenny Bruce.
Through tears, Cain thanked the members for recognizing her with this Award, “I can’t tell you how much this means. You’ve all been so supportive. Thank you so much for bestowing this honor on me.”
The Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. The National Motorsports Press Association presented Sprint Corporation the Joe Littlejohn Award for service to the NMPA. Sprint is entering its 13th and final year as sponsor of NASCAR’s premier racing series.
“It would be hard to understate the contribution that Sprint has made to NASCAR racing and the NMPA,” said Brian Nelson, former NMPA President. “There’s no doubt that Sprint used its vast resources as a leading telecommunications company to lift the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award to new levels of activation and exposure.”
Other awards were presented in the fields of the various disciplines of writing and photography categories.
Ryan McGee took home the esteemed George Cunningham Award. This Award recognizes excellence in writing. The Award is based on total points earned in the various print categories.