Sonoma Raceway will honor its late public relations director, John Cardinale, during this weekend’s 25th Toyota/SaveMart 350 activities.
Cardinale passed away in March after a two-year fight with stage IV gastric cancer. He had worked at the track since 1998 and was promoted to Vice President of Media and Community Relations in 2003, a post he held until his death. He also held the dual role of Vice President of Marketing from 2007 through 2012, as well.
Cardinale will be inducted into the track’s Wall of Fame and the media center will be renamed as the “John Cardinale Media Center” in his honor this Friday. His wife Andrea and daughters Emma and Lauren will accept the honors on his behalf.
Cardinale was one of the most popular and respected PR directors in NASCAR. Among the many honors the Bay Area native received during his career included NASCAR Track PR Representative of the Year in 2009 and posthumously received the National Motorsports Press Association “Spirit Award” last month. He also was an award-winning sportswriter for 10 years before joining the track’s administrative staff.
“John was not only our dear friend and colleague, he was a major contributor to the growth and success of this organization,” Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway, said in a statement. “Although he is not with us physically, his spirit surrounds us and carries forward in everything we do. These two tributes will ensure John has a permanent presence at the raceway and provide us a daily reminder of how fortunate we were to have him in our lives.”
Among the more popular media events and promotions that were Cardinale’s brainchild was to have drivers like NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Rusty Wallace ride along with officers from the California Highway Patrol and “ticket” drivers who were obeying all traffic laws behind the wheel. Only in this case, drivers pulled over received free tickets to the race from Wallace rather than an actual citation.
Cardinale also held a number of media events that included NASCAR drivers piloting their race cars — at the posted speed limit, in case you wondered — across the world famous Golden Gate Bridge.