The annual National Motorsports Press Association's Myers Brothers breakfast welcomed press members and teams this morning in the Grand Ballroom of New York's legendary Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
Festivities kicked off at 8:30 AM, led by host Mike Joy with introductions of every championship driver among all of NASCAR's racing series. Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Mike Bliss, Andy Santerre, Kevin Hamlin, Mike Stefanik, Steve Carlson, Eddy McKean, Eric Norris, Jeff Fultz and Jake Hobgood stood for a resounding round of applause.
Winter storms in Charlotte and near-whiteout conditions in New York City prevented many press and team members from joining the crowd, including Evernham Motorsports driver Bill Elliott.
For the sixteenth time in his career, but in absentia this time, Elliott was awarded the Most Popular Driver Award by NMPA and sponsor Grands!Biscuits. A record setting 3.3 million votes were cast this year, and Elliott narrowly beat second place finisher Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Among the notable awards given out, Winston Cup Rookie of the Year Ryan Newman was presented with the season-ending Bud Pole Award Trophy. Newman was nervous as he collected his prize, and joked, "I'm used to getting a Bud Pole hat, I'm not sure what to do."
Champion Tony Stewart and Jeff Green both won the 76-gasoline award and garnered checks for $76,000. The first of many checks Stewart will be handed today.
The Myers Brothers award is the most prestigious trophy given out by the NMPA. Voted on annually by its members, the award serves to acknowledge those who have made outstanding strides in stock car racing. The award is named for Billy and Bob Myers, two veteran racing pioneers.
NASCAR President Mike Helton was recognized with the 2002 Myers Brothers Award for his unyielding support and loyalty in bringing NASCAR to new levels since taking over the head role.
Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch also received awards at the breakfast.
Partygoers set out for a leisurely afternoon in New York before heading to The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City's Manhattan Center. The site will serve as host for the awards ceremony for the first time.
Stewart will be hailed as the 2002 Winston Cup Champion at the ceremony. In addition, the top-ten drivers will be honored at this evening.