National Motorsports Press Association honors Lynda Petty, Kevin Harvick and others for service, achievement

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During its annual awards banquet, the National Motorsports Press Association announced several key award winners on Sunday.

First, the late Lynda Petty, wife of seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty, was named the recipient of the NMPA’s annual Spirit Award for 2014.

Petty, who passed away March 30, 2014, was known for her charitable work both inside and outside the racing community.

Petty was the first quarter recipient of the award in 2014, while Martin Truex Jr., the late team owner Junie Donlavey and Michael Waltrip also won the quarterly phases of the award in 2014. Petty then was voted the overall winner for the year by NMPA members.

Next, Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick was named the winner of the NMPA’s Richard Petty Driver of the Year award for 2014.

The award has been presented each year since 1969, following a vote by NMPA membership. Harvick, who also won the award following his rookie season in 2001, received nearly 75 percent of the votes cast by NMPA members.

Others receiving votes included Chase Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and six-time World of Outlaws champ Donny Schatz.

Two other awards of note were:

* NASCAR senior director of competition communications Kerry Tharp received the Joe Littlejohn award for his service to the NMPA.

* Martinsville Speedway public relations director Mike Smith was also recognized with the Ken Patterson award, which honors a PR representative in the industry who exhibits the kind and generous qualities that Patterson, the late PR director of Talladega Superspeedway, demonstrated.

source:
Richard Petty, Kevin Harvick and National Motorsports Press Association president Brian Nelson at Sunday’s NMPA annual awards banquet. (Photo courtesy Kevin Harvick Facebook page)

 

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April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994