National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame Inducts 4 New Members

Don Garlits, Johnny Rutherford, Deb Williams, and Hurley Haywood recognized for their careers in motorsports

0
990
Charlotte, NC — January 21, 2024

The National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) held its annual convention in Charlotte on Sunday announcing the 2023 year-end awards and inducted four new members into the NMPA Hall of Fame.

The 2024 class was led by NHRA legend Don Garlits, alongside three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Johnny Rutherford, award-winning journalist Deb Williams, and road course star Hurley Haywood.

Garlits received the most votes with 84.95%. Rutherford received 82.80% and Williams 80.65% of the votes cast. Haywood was voted in with 73.12%. To be elected to the NMPA Hall of Fame, a nominee must receive more than 65% of the votes cast by members. The NMPA Hall of Fame, which highlights all inductees and other award honorees, is located on
the grounds of Darlington Raceway. It has been in operation since 1965.

Don Garlits / Photo Courtesy of Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing Inc.

Don Garlits

Don “Big Daddy” Garlits is a pioneer in the world of drag racing. After losing his foot in a racing accident, Garlits advanced the use of the rear-engine dragster, changing the sport forever. The Tampa, FL native was the first driver to top 270 miles per hour in the quarter-mile, winning nearly 150 national events and 17 national titles. His innovations and dedication to safety earned his infamous Swamp Rat XXX dragster a spot in the National Museum of American History. In 2000, the NHRA named him the top driver of the 20th century.

JOHNNY RUTHERFORD

Johnny Rutherford / Photo Courtesy of Indy Car Photo

Johnny Rutherford is a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and is known as one of the best ambassadors for Indy car racing. Growing up in Texas earned him the nickname “Lone Star JR,” and Rutherford won 30 times in Indy cars, including the CART series championship in 1980.

His career went beyond open-wheel racing. Rutherford made 35 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, including a win in his first race while driving for owner Smokey Yunick at Daytona International Speedway. Rutherford’s career saw him compete around the world until retirement in 1994. He continued his motorsports contributions in the broadcast booth with NBC, CBS, ESPN, and IMS radio network.

DEB WILLIAMS

NMPA President Kelly Crandall (L) presents Deb Williams a plaque recognizing Williams (R) induction into the NMPA Hall of Fame / NMPA Photo

Writer and author Deb Williams is a trailblazer for women in the NASCAR media corps. Williams is in her fourth decade of covering motorsports with a resume that includes time at USA Today, the Charlotte Observer, United Press International, and as the editor of Winston Cup Scene.

The two-time NMPA George Cunningham Writer of the Year is also the author of five books.
Williams was the first female to win the Writer of the Year award and the first female to win
the Henry T. McLemore Award for career excellence in motorsports journalism. Williams also received the prestigious Russ Catlin Award for Excellence in Motorsports Journalism. She remains a trusted voice in media centers across the country.

HURLEY HAYWOOD

Hurley Haywood / Photo Courtesy of Porsche AG

Hurley Haywood earned a Hall-of-Fame career on the track. Haywood is one of the most accomplished road racers ever, earning five overall victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and three overall wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The NMPA also recognized winners of various industry awards presented annually by the association.

Richard Petty Driver of the Year

The Richard Petty Driver of the Year has been presented annually since 1969 to recognize the season’s most outstanding driver. It is named in honor of the seven-time NASCAR Premier Series champion.

Max Verstappen’s historic year has earned him the honor of presented by the National Motorsports Press Association.
Verstappen earned his third consecutive Formula 1 world championship for Red Bull Racing while winning 19 of the season’s 22 events. He also placed on the podium in 21 of the 22 events to have an incredible average finish of 1.3.

During Verstappen’s domination, he won all three Grand Prix races held in the United States. It was the first time a driver had won in the same country three times in a single season.

Verstappen also had a stretch of 10 consecutive victories that started in Miami in early May and went through Monza in early September. Additionally, Verstappen won the final seven consecutive races of the season.

The award is voted upon by the NMPA press membership. Verstappen was voted the winner over newly crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney and six-time Cup Series season winner William Byron. Erica Enders, who earned her sixth NHRA Pro Stock championship and became the winningest female in motorsports, finished fourth in the voting.

Barney Hall Award

Steve Richards, who was a recognizable presence on broadcast calls for the Performance Racing Network (PRN), has been named the 2023 recipient of the Barney Hall Award.

Richards was a member of the PRN team covering NASCAR races for more than 30 years on the radio. Not only was he a reporter for the network but also held various hosting roles during his tenure with the company. A friend to many in the industry, Richards was a familiar voice and passionate about racing.

Richards died in December 2021 from complications related to COVID-19.

Joe Littlejohn Award

Pocono Raceway has been named the 2023 recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Joe Littlejohn Award as chosen and announced by the organization’s president, Kelly Crandall.

Pocono Raceway was chosen for its service to the NMPA. The unique triangle-shaped facility in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania has been the presenting sponsor of the Pocono Spirit Award and recently extended their agreement by five years.

Ken Patterson Helping Others Award

The Ken Patterson Helping Others Award is presented annually and voted on by the NMPA membership. It recognizes a public relations representative in the motorsports industry “who has exhibited the kind, generous qualities that Patterson always demonstrated.”

Mike Siberini has been named the 2023 winner. Siberini is a public relations representative for Goodyear Racing and the trackside contact for everything NASCAR-related.

He started with Goodyear in 1999 as a PR rep with the NASCAR Truck Series, followed by a move to Cup Series in 2001, and has since been Goodyear’s PR rep at every Cup race.

Siberini is an asset to all the reporters on the NASCAR beat. His weekly emails detail the relevant tire information for each track, complete with context and usable quotes from Goodyear officials. In times of developing stories, Siberini is quick to gather information and initiate interview opportunities for the media corp.

Pocono Spirit Award

The group responsible for bringing North Wilkesboro Speedway back to its glory was announced as the overall winners of the Pocono Spirit Award for 2023.

The four individuals included Dale Earnhardt Jr., Terri Parsons, Marcus Smith, and Steven Wilson.

Earnhardt used his podcast, the Dale Jr. Download, to press Smith on the issue. He also organized a cleanup day at the racetrack on a cold and rainy day in 2019 so iRacing could scan the track for its platform.

Parsons worked behind the scenes for many years pushing for North Wilkesboro Speedway to return. Parson wasn’t afraid to get in Smith’s ear about wanting to see the track open again while also working with local officials in those efforts and rallying the community.

The president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Smith, told Earnhardt on his podcast that he heard the outcry and hadn’t forgotten about the racetrack. It brought a new wave of optimism and a push to make it happen. Smith was among those who made the decision to move the All-Star Race, held at a Speedway Motorsports track, to North Wilkesboro.

Wilson is a co-founder of Save the Speedway, an organization focused on getting North Wilkesboro Speedway reopened. It formed in 2005 and was persistent in its efforts to keep the history of the racetrack alive with the hope of seeing racing there again, and then offered assistance in making that happen.

Wood Brothers Award of Excellence

While not presented annually, the Wood Brothers Award of Excellence is determined by the Wood family and is considered one of the most coveted industry awards.

It honors crew members, crew chiefs, engine builders, and race engineers who offer outstanding contributions to NASCAR through on-track success.

Previous recipients are eight-time NASCAR Cup championship crew chief Dale Inman, NASCAR innovator Leonard Wood, NASCAR championship crew chief Harry Hyde, who engineered several land speed records as well as Hendrick Motorsports’ first victory, and NASCAR engine builder and crew chief Waddell Wilson, who was the winning crew chief for three Daytona 500s in the 1980s.

National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame member Ray Fox Sr., a renowned engine builder, crew chief, team owner, and NASCAR official, is the 2023 recipient of the prestigious Wood Brothers Award of Excellence.

Following Fox’s service in the U.S. Army during World War II, the New Hampshire native moved to Daytona Beach, Fla., where he soon became known for building powerful engines and winning race cars. Carl Kiekhaefer, NASCAR’s first multi-car team owner, recognized Fox’s talent in stock car racing’s formative years and hired him. In 1956, Fox was named NASCAR Mechanic of the Year. That year, the Chrysler 300 cars he built for Kiekhaefer won 22 of the season’s first 26 races in the 56-race season.

In addition to Fox’s success with Kiekhaefer, his list of engine-building accolades includes winning the 1960 Daytona 500 with driver Junior Johnson and David Pearson’s first career NASCAR Cup victory in the 1961 World 600.

The award was accepted by Fox’s grandson Ray Fox III.