AARWBA Reveals Top 5 Newsmakers Andretti, Earnhardt, France, Hulman-George, Penske Get Most Votes for Media Group's Top 50th Anniversary Honor; Winner to Be Announced May 15 in Indianapolis INDIANAPOLIS -- The American Auto Racing Writers...
AARWBA Reveals Top 5 Newsmakers
Andretti, Earnhardt, France, Hulman-George, Penske Get Most Votes for Media Group's Top 50th Anniversary Honor; Winner to Be Announced May 15 in Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS -- The American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association revealed today the top-five vote-getters for its Newsmaker of the Half-Century Award, the most important event of AARWBA's 50th Anniversary Celebration. They are (in alphabetical order): Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt, the France family, the Hulman-George family and Roger Penske.
AARWBA President Dusty Brandel also said the Newsmaker of the Half-Century will be announced at a public ceremony Sunday afternoon, May 15, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The winner will receive a specially commissioned painting and AARWBA will make a donation to the recipient's favorite charity.
A record number of AARWBA members voted, according to 50th Anniversary Celebration Chairman Michael Knight, choosing from 12 nominees selected by the group's Board of Directors from an original list of 50 newsmakers. AARWBA is the country's oldest and largest organization of motorsports media professionals.
The top five Newsmaker of the Half-Century choices represent the wide diversity of American racing and their achievements include making headlines on-and-off the track:
* Andretti is regarded by many as one of the country's most versatile drivers ever, with victories in the Indy 500, NASCAR's Daytona 500 and Sebring 12 hours. He was the 1978 world Formula One champion. He retired in 1994 with four Indy Car championships and 52 race wins, earned over a record four decades, the last at a record 53-plus years old. He finished with Champ Car records for starts, poles and laps led and was voted Driver of the Quarter-Century in 1992.
* Earnhardt was a seven-time NASCAR Cup champion, tying Richard Petty's record, and achieved legendary status as "The Intimidator." He won 76 Cup races, including the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, and earned over $41 million in Cup prize money alone. The team he founded, DEI, has fielded winning cars for several drivers, including son Dale Earnhardt Jr. His death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 was headline news around the world.
* The France family has led NASCAR to a position as the No. 2 sport in America, behind only the NFL. William H.G. ("Big Bill") France promoted the famous beach/road races in Daytona Beach and founded the stock car organization in 1947. He built Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. He died in 1992. His wife, Anne, was NASCAR's first secretary and treasurer. She also died in 1992. William C. ("Bill") France succeeded his father as NASCAR president in 1972 while another son, Jim, became president of the family-founded International Speedway Corp. Bill steadily grew NASCAR into a true nation-wide series that even came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway starting in 1994. National TV exposure and prize money greatly increased. Bill's son, Brian, succeeded his father as NASCAR chairman in October 2003 and quickly revolutionized the series by instituting the "Chase for the Championship" format in 2004. Bill's daughter, Lesa Kennedy, is a member of the NASCAR Board and president of ISC, which has built and acquired several major tracks in recent years. Jim now serves as vice chairman of both NASCAR and ISC and his son, J.C., is a winning driver in the Rolex Sports Car Series.
* The Hulman-George family is responsible for making the Indianapolis 500 "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and the world's largest single-day sporting event. Anton ("Tony") Hulman purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945, and quickly began to upgrade the facility, which was in disrepair after World War II. In the following three decades he continued an aggressive program of track improvements and worked to build-up the now-traditional month of May activities surrounding the race. Hulman also was involved in the founding of the U.S. Auto Club. He died in 1977 and wife Mary Fendrich Hulman assumed the title as chairman. She died in 1998. Their daughter, Mari Hulman George, was named chairman in 1988. The winner's purse exceeded $1 million for the first time in 1989. Anton ("Tony") H. George, Tony Hulman's grandson, became Speedway president in 1990. He continued the on-going track improvement effort leading up to his historic decision to bring NASCAR to the Speedway for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. In 1996, George launched the Indy Racing League, then constructed an infield road course to stage the Speedway's first U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race in 2000. IMS helped develop the groundbreaking SAFER barrier system and was the first to install it in 2002. George's stepson, Ed Carpenter, is an IRL driver.
* Penske is the winningest car owner in Indianapolis 500 history, with 13 victories, and his team has been the most successful ever in U.S. open-wheel competition with 11 championships and more than 120 wins. He was one of America's top young road racers before retiring in 1965 to concentrate on business. Since 1966, Penske's team has won in every type of racing it entered, including NASCAR, Formula One, and various sports car series for an additional seven titles. He has employed some of history's greatest drivers, including Mark Donohue, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi, Danny Sullivan, Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace. Penske Cars has designed and built numerous championship machines. Penske is widely regarded as racing's foremost entrepreneur, owned or built tracks such as Michigan Speedway and California Speedway, and was a co-founder of CART.
Also nominated for the honor were: Kenny Bernstein, John Force, A.J. Foyt, Jeff Gordon, Dan Gurney, Wally Parks and Richard Petty.
"I have been told by many members how difficult it was to choose just one of the 12 legendary names for Newsmaker of the Half-Century," said Brandel. "That's part of the fun of this award and what we believe will make it extremely prestigious for the winner. AARWBA members have written about, broadcast and photographed the most memorable racing people and events since 1955, and are the best qualified to make this decision."
Knight added, "The high-level of participation by our members in the voting process reinforces the fact that the Newsmaker of the Half-Century Award is the most important event of AARWBA's 50th Anniversary Celebration. The presentation to the winner on May 15 certainly will be one of the highlights of the entire motorsports season, and there is no better place to do this than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where so much news and history has been made."
To learn more about AARWBA, please visit the AARWBA.org web site.
Official AARWBA 50th Anniversary Celebration sponsors are: Porsche Cars North America, NASCAR, Toyota Motorsports, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy Racing League, Valvoline, Honda, Champ Car World Series, Fernandez Racing, Budweiser, BMW, NHRA, American Le Mans Series and Ford Racing.