France family Newsmakers of half-century; aces journalism awards

Culled from a list of 50 outstanding contributors to the sport of racing, the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association narrowed the choices for "Newsmaker of the Half Century" to a group of 12, then to the final five.

Today the overall choice of the AARWBA membership was announced from this exemplary group of Mario Andretti, the late Dale Earnhardt, the France family, the Hulman-George family and Roger Penske.

In the largest vote tally ever compiled from the AARWBA membership, NASCAR's France family earned the citation, receiving 28.5 percent of the vote. The Hulman-George clan, owners and keepers of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League garnered 26.3 percent, followed by Andretti with 8.2 percent, while Penske and Earnhardt tied for fourth with 6.7 percent of the vote tally.

Leesa France Kennedy, daughter of Bill France and granddaughter of "Big Bill" came from Charlotte and the Lowe's Motor Speedway in order to accept on behalf of her kin. The president of International Speedway Corp. accepted a commissioned painting by artist Hector Cademartori depicting the family's [more than] 50 years of achievement from AARWBA president Dusty Brandel and 50th anniversary chairman Michael Knight.

"On behalf of my entire family, I thank AARWBA and the media for this great honor. It is especially gratifying for us, considering the others who were nominated," France Kennedy acknowledged.

"I know that my father, in particular will be very happy. I'm anxious for him to see this painting as soon as possible because it will mean a lot to him and bring back a lot of memories," she smiled.

In addition to the painting and recognition, AARWBA donated $1000 in the France family's name to Speediatrics at the Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, FL, a charity begun by France Kennedy's mother.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway sponsored the annual AARWBA journalism awards contest based on their work in 2004. was the winner of the best professional web site for a second consecutive year. In all, took home nine awards for excellence in writing and photography.

Writing awards went to Earl Ma, Anne Proffit, David Reininger and Nancy Knapp Schilke, while photography prizes were awarded to Ma and Jack Durbin.

Editor-in-chief Knapp Schilke was present to accept the prize for best Professional Racing Web Site. topped all other online media with its recognition by the association, celebrating its 50th anniversary this season.

"On behalf of my co-partners, this is indeed an honor to be recognized as the top web site," commented Knapp Schilke. "We believe that our writers and photographers are the best in the business and the individuals' awards for those who are AARWBA members have shown that we do have a top-notch field of journalists. We appreciate the recognition by AARWBA."