Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – LAS VEGAS, NV – Jim France was shocked.
“Holy smokes! It’s a shock, so if you’ll bear with me for second…” France said after National Motorsports Press Association President Ben White introduced the NASCAR Chairman and CEO as the recipient of the 2018 Myers Brothers Award.
France, 74, enjoys a close connection with the award, named for NASCAR pioneers Billy and Bobby Myers.
“In the summers between 1950 and 1951, I grew up in the pits at Bowman-Gray Stadium (in Winston-Salem, N.C.),” France said on Wednesday during the NMPA Myers Brothers Awards at the Encore Theater, part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Champion’s Week celebration. “As an 11-year-old, Billy Myers was my favorite driver. It so happened that the No. 4 on the side of his race car became my favorite number.
“So to receive this honor is very special. I had the opportunity the last part of this season to spend a lot of time again in the garage area and the pits with our racing series. I’d like to pass on one quick observation: from the 1950s at Bowman-Gray Stadium to the 2018 pits in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, that NASCAR spirit – the competitive spirit of the drivers and teams – is alive and well.”
With more than 40 years as a board member of International Speedway Corporation, for which he also served as president and CEO, France was honored for his outstanding contributions to stock car racing.
The Myers Brothers Awards also recognized newly crowned Cup champion Joey Logano, who received the Sunoco Diamond Performance Award and the Goodyear gold car – a replica of his championship-winning No. 22 Ford – for his efforts in securing his first title.
Logano couldn’t take his eyes of the gold trophy, which gleamed from the stage in the theater.
“That is the coolest trophy in all of sports,” Logano said, who preceded his crew chief, Todd Gordon, to the dais.
“What a great year to be a part of Team Penske,” Gordon said. “(Team owner) Roger (Penske) was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Will Power won our 17th Indianapolis 500, Brad Keselowski won our first Brickyard 400, Ryan Blaney won the inaugural Charlotte Roval race, Scott McLaughlin won the Australia Supercars championship, and we checked off the last current Cup track that Penkse hadn’t won at with a win and championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”
Talladega Superspeedway president Grant Lynch was the recipient of the 2018 Buddy Shuman Award, which recognizes individuals who have played vital roles in in ensuring the continued growth and popularity of NASCAR racing.
“Man, y’all can keep a secret,” said Lynch in an emotional speech. “I never thought I would get where I did, and you don’t get there without people who put their faith behind you.”
First-year Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron took Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but he was eager to put his status as a neophyte behind him.
“No more rookie meetings, and that’s a freedom I haven’t had in my short NASCAR career so far,” Byron said. “With that being said, I’m ready to have a little fun tomorrow when I turn 21 and take those rookie stripes off.”
Other awards handed out on Wednesday included: the Busch Pole Award to Kurt Busch for his five pole positions in 2018; the NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award to Exxon Mobil for its Mobil 1 ads featuring a miniature Kevin Harvick; the Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award to the No. 18 crew of driver Kyle Busch; the Moog Go the Extra Mile Crew Chief Award to Adam Stevens; the Mahle Engine Builder of the Year Award to Doug Yates of Roush Yates Engines; the Mobil 1 Performance Award to Rick Stenhouse Jr. for 3,090 passes during the 2018 season; and the American Ethanol Green-Flag Restart Award to Kevin Harvick.