Winston-Salem, NC---Martinsville Speedway's Dick Thompson won the Joe Littlejohn Award and the track's founder, the late H. Clay Earles, claimed the 1999 Spirit Award at the annual National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Banquet in Winston-Salem, NC Sunday night. The Joe Littlejohn Award is given for service to the NMPA. Steve Waid, past president of the NMPA, in giving Thompson the Littlejohn Award said, "this time it transcends that. "It's service to the press. It's service to racing. It's service to all of us for many, many years. This man has spent all of his life supporting racing and supporting the speedway for which he worked, but more importantly supporting our cause," Waid said of Thompson, who is the track's Vice President of Corporate Communications. "In doing that, he never treated it as a job. His most important goal was, yes, to get as much as he could for his speedway. Second, and most important, was he became friends to all of us. "Each and everyone of us can point to one individual when we came up through the ranks, that we can say helped us guide us, steered us, supported us, led us, informed us," he said. "We all have that individual. This individual is my such a person. More than that, I think he's that same person for many of you here this evening." Upon receiving the award Thompson said, "I've been around so long I actually knew Joe Littlejohn. For those of you that didn't know him, you would have loved him because he was like all of us, crazy." Thompson said one of the things he admired about Littlejohn was that he was one of the few people he ever knew that could get the last word on H. Clay Earles. He and Earles ran into LittleJohn at a convention not long after Earles hired him. "When Clay hired me back in the dark ages in 1996, he was very proud because it was very unusual for any track, especially a half mile track, to have a full-time PR Director. Joe was running a track in Spartanburg and I knew Joe but Clay didn't know that," said Thompson. "Clay introduced me and he was so proud. Joe said 'Oh yeah, I know Dick and I was planning on hiring him myself.' If you knew my boss, well he just bulled up and said 'Oh really'. Joe said 'Did you pay him a good salary?' Clay said, 'Yeah we pay him a good salary'. Joe smoked a cigar and he'd take it out saying, 'Well did you give him a car?' Clay said, 'Yes, he's going to drive the pace car sometimes.' Joe said, 'Well did you give him a house?' Clay said 'Well, I think I'm going to help arrange the financing for one.' Joe said 'Well, what I really want to know did you furnish the house for him?' Clay said 'let's go Dick.' "This is the greatest sport in the world, but as much as I love racing what has kept me in this business and has made me so happy is the people. I think they are the greatest bunch of people in the world," said Thompson. "I love you all." Thompson also won the NMPA third quarter Spirit Award in 1999 after having cancer surgery in August. "This man said he could choose to cry or he could choose to smile. He choose to smile and in so doing he has endeared himself to all of us by his perseverance, his hard work and most of all his love for all of us," Waid said of Thompson. The late H. Clay Earles, who was CEO of Martinsville Speedway, was awarded the fourth quarter NMPA Spirit Award and the 1999 Spirit Award. "Our fourth quarter winner was a man whose spirit endured not one year or not for two but for 50 or more as a part of this sport. He was a pioneer, an innovator and more than that he was a friend to all of us," Waid said. He added that is was an easy decision to make Earles, who died in November after operating Martinsville Speedway for 53 years, the 1999 recipient of the Spirit Award. Track President and Earles' grandson, W. Clay Campbell, accepted the award on behalf of Earles. "I know if he was here tonight this would mean a lot to him," Campbell said. "He won a lot of awards over his lifetime, but this one would be near and dear to his heart. "Those of you that knew him know what he thought about the press. He knew a long time ago what many people know now. It doesn't matter how big our facilities are, and they keep growing and growing, but it's you that's responsible for putting people in there. You are getting the word out to the people. Even if you seat 200,000 people that's a small part of what's out there. You are getting the word out to the world. We appreciate that and, on behalf of him, I certainly appreciate this award. We look forward to a long relationship with all of you, and I look forward to carrying on what my grandfather did for 50 some years." Martinsville Speedway's next action is the Goody's Body Pain 500/NAPA 250 weekend April 7-9. The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will run in the Goody's Body Pain 500 on April 9 and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will race in the NAPA 250 on April 8. Great seats are available by calling the track's toll free ticket number 1-877-RACE-TIX.
Added: 17/01/2000 11:45
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