NEW YORK (Dec. 6, 2002) -- NASCAR President Mike Helton usually spends this week bestowing honors on others, but on Friday he was a deserving recipient at the annual Myers Brothers Breakfast hosted by the National Motorsports Press Association and ConocoPhillips.
Helton was presented the Myers Brothers Award, which is voted upon by NMPA members and given to an individual for outstanding contributions to the sport of stock-car racing. Helton took a customary seat on the stage for the breakfast as a special guest, but was quite surprised when he was named the recipient of the 43rd edition of the award that honors former racers Billy and Bob Myers.
"I've got to tell you, I don't know what to say. I wish this was a drivers' meeting where I could fuss at someone," Helton said to the audience. "For a long time, you come to these awards ceremonies and listen and celebrate with who won the awards. It's [nice] joining an exclusive group and a group that is annually recognized.
"It's an important award because when Bill [France] Sr. put [NASCAR] together in 1948, it was designed for a purpose and a reason. It was about delivering on what was promised. I wish he and Bill [France] Jr. were here to celebrate this. They are the ones who have made us click and have made a weekend hobby a great thing to be a part of. From the bottom of my heart, I personally and sincerely thank everyone."
Helton received the ultimate honor of the breakfast, but several others were recognized for their achievements during the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season.
The other honorees for year-end awards:
* Bill Elliott's popularity has not waned for the veteran of 27 seasons, as he was the recipient of the Grands Biscuits Most Popular Driver Award. It was the 16th time in his career that he has won the award, including 11 of the past 12 years. "Everyone knows that the fans are the real heart of NASCAR. I owe many thanks to them because my fans have stuck by me and kept me going all these years," he said. "I am so fortunate to be part of this great sport and be recognized by this award." More than 3½ million votes were cast by fans for the award this past season.
* Rookie Ryan Newman of Penske Racing, with six pole positions, won the Bud Pole Award and received a check for $100,000.
* Mark Cronquist of Joe Gibbs Racing earned his second Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award in the past three seasons. Cronquist, who won the award in 2000 with series champion Bobby Labonte, earned this award with reigning series champ Tony Stewart along with a check for $77,000.
* Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsports won the Gatorade Front Runner Award, earning a check for $75,000.
* The pit crew for the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge of Sterling Marlin was named the Mechanixwear Pit Crew of the Year, which is voted upon by their peers. The crew earned a check for $75,000.
* Kurt Busch of Roush Racing was named the Bloomin' Favorite Driver of the Year, earning a check for $75,000.
* Matt Kenseth of Roush Racing was the recipient of the Waste Management Pickin' Up Places Award and a $75,000 check.
* Jeff Green of Richard Childress Racing won the 76/NASCAR Motor Oil Award and a check for $76,000.
* Reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart of Joe Gibbs Racing received the 76/Gasoline Champion's Award and a check for $76,000.
* Early Christmas present for Zippy ... NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Tony Stewart played the role of Santa Claus and delivered an early present to his crew chief Greg Zipadelli. Stewart promised Zipadelli in 1999 that if the duo ever captured a NASCAR Winston Cup title he would buy his crew chief a Corvette. He delivered on the promise Friday morning as he brought Zipadelli outside the Waldorf=Astoria to Park Avenue, where a 2003 candy apple red Corvette was waiting.
* Smile and say cheese ...Stewart and the champions of all of NASCAR's national and regional divisions greeted the firefighters of FDNY Engine 23 outside the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel on Friday morning. Captain John Bendick and the Engine 23 crew were invited to take part in a special photo shoot with all of the champions, commemorating the NASCAR championship celebration in New York. Stewart and the other drivers spent 30 minutes meeting and talking with the firefighters while photographers and television cameras captured the excitement along Park Avenue in mid-town Manhattan.
What: NASCAR Winston Cup Series Awards Ceremony.
Who: Top 10 drivers in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship standings, led by champ Tony Stewart.
Where: Hammerstein Ballroom, Manhattan Center, New York City.
When: 8-10:30 p.m. ET, tonight.
TV: TNT (live).
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
Top 10 drivers in the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup championship: 1. Tony Stewart, 4800; 2. Mark Martin, 4762; 3. Kurt Busch, 4641; 4. Jeff Gordon, 4607; 5. Jimmie Johnson, 4600; 6. Ryan Newman, 4593; 7. Rusty Wallace, 4574; 8. Matt Kenseth, 4432; 9. Dale Jarrett, 4415; 10. Ricky Rudd, 4323.
Master of Ceremonies: Emmy Award-winning actor James Woods.
Musical entertainment: Sheryl Crow; Third Eye Blind.