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Tharp, Smith among those honored during NMPA convention

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Kerry Tharp, senior director, competition communications for NASCAR, and Mike Smith, public relations director for Martinsville (Va.) Speedway were among those honored Sunday evening during the National Motorsports Press Association’s annual convention and awards dinner.

Tharp, who joined NASCAR in 2005 as director for the sanctioning body’s licensing office before moving into the competition department role, was presented the Joe Littlejohn award for his service to the NMPA. Since his arrival, Tharp has been instrumental in continuing to develop the relationship between NASCAR and the NMPA.

The Joe Littlejohn Award is presented each year to a person or persons, or an organization, in recognition for or outstanding service to the NMPA. It is named after the former track owner from Spartanburg, S.C. Littlejohn is credited with two career NASCAR starts, but raced extensively before the formation of NASCAR.

Smith is the recipient of this year’s Ken Patterson Helping Others award. He has handled the public relations duties at the 0.526-mile track since 2000. The facility hosts two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events each season.

The Ken Patterson award, named after the former director of public relations for Talladega Superspeedway, is determined by a vote of the NMPA membership. It recognizes a public relations representative in the motorsports industry (team, track, and sanctioning body) who has exhibited the kind, generous qualities that Patterson always demonstrated.

Talladega Superspeedway donates $1,000 in the winner’s name to the Kenneth Patterson Educational Trust Fund each year.

Others awards presented by the organization included the Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award, which went to 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, and the NMPA Spirit Award, which was presented to the Petty family in honor of Lynda Petty.

Sunday’s event was held at the Embassy Suites in Concord, N.C.

Harvick scores Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award for 2014

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick has been named the recipient of the NMPA’s Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award for 2014.

The award, which has been presented each year since 1969, is determined by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association membership.

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, was presented the trophy by the award’s namesake, seven-time premier series champion Richard Petty, during the annual NMPA Awards Dinner Saturday night at the Embassy Suites in Concord, N.C.

In his first season with SHR, Harvick equaled a career-best five Sprint Cup victories, with wins at Phoenix (twice), Darlington, Charlotte and Homestead. The victory in the season-ending event at the South Florida track secured the title for the Bakersfield, Calif., native.

No other driver captured more poles than Harvick, who started from the No. 1 position eight times, or led more laps (2,137) in 2014.

It is the second time Harvick has been honored with the Richard Petty Driver of the Year award. Elevated to Cup competition following the 2001 death of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, Harvick responded by winning twice and finishing ninth in points in Cup while also winning the Busch (now XFINITY) Series championship.

“You’ve heard me talk about it before, in the end it’s all about people,” Harvick said of his 2014 season. “We were in a fortunate situation where (team owners) Gene (Haas) and Tony (Stewart) said, ‘Alright, you don’t have a budget. Just go out and hire whoever you think you need to hire to make the best team possible.’ Then they built new race cars and every nut and bolt, every (piece) was brand new from top to bottom.

“It’s very rare that you get that situation. Usually when you start a new team you’ve got to mix and blend a lot of stuff from the teams that are already there. It was just a very unique circumstance. In the end, it all boils down to the people; we’re fortunate to have a great organization that has a lot of assets that go with it.”

Harvick received nearly 75 percent of the vote cast by the membership.

Other receiving votes were NASCAR drivers Chase Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman, along with six-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz.

Lynda Petty named 2014 NMPA Spirit Award Winner

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Lynda Petty, the wife of seven-time NASCAR premier series champion Richard Petty, has been named the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s annual Spirit Award for 2014.

Petty, who passed away March 25, 2014, was one of the founding members of the Racing Wives Auxiliary, a charitable organization that provided assistance to those in need within the racing community. Today the group, now known as the Women’s Auxiliary of Motorsports, seeks to enrich the lives of women, children and families through various education and wellness programs.

In addition to raising and caring for a family of four, Petty also was active in numerous community and civic endeavors.

The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, the NMPA membership selects four quarterly recipients, with an overall winner chosen from among the four candidates at season’s end.

Petty was the first quarter recipient of the award for 2014. Other recognized for their efforts were driver Martin Truex Jr. (second quarter), long-time car owner W.C. “Junie” Donlavey (third quarter) and brothers Darrell and Michael Waltrip (fourth quarter).

“The example that Lynda Petty and all of our Spirit Award nominees and recipients have set for us serves as a reminder that it’s not what you take from this life that is important, but what you give back,” 2014 NMPA President Kenny Bruce said.

“Recognizing the work and contributions of these people is an honor and a privilege the NMPA doesn’t take for granted.”

The announcement of the award came during the NMPA’s annual convention, held Jan. 25 in Concord, N.C.