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Jul 04, 2014 - 05:01 PM
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Higgins Named Fourth Winner Of Squier-Hall Award
Posted by: ASkyler on Jul 04, 2014 - 05:01 PM
Feature Articles
Higgins Named Fourth Winner Of Squier-Hall Award


By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tom Higgins, the first beat reporter to cover every NASCAR race in a season, never witnessed a NASCAR event until his first racing assignment as a 20-year-old cub reporter for the Asheville Times in North Carolina.

"When they started qualifying, the first car I saw go around the track was Lee Petty and I was convinced it was crazy," Higgins recalled. "I said that a car can’t go that fast, and if it can I don’t think there’s a man crazy enough to drive it. I was hooked that day and I’ve been hooked the rest of my life."

On Friday, they 76-year-old Higgins, a 2011 inductee to the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, was named as the recipient of the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

A native of Burnsville, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Higgins will be honored in January along with Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, Fred Lorenzen and Rex White at induction ceremonies for NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In making Friday’s announcement, NASCAR Vice President of Communications Brett Jewkes and NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive President Winston Kelley agreed that the sport’s "Mount Rushmore" of media excellence is now complete with Higgins joining legendary announcers Ken Squier, Barney Hall and Chris Economaki as the first four recipients of the Squier-Hall Award.

 

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Reacting by phone, Higgins called the honor "beyond my wildest expectations." Said Higgins, who continues to write nostalgia columns for The Observer's website ThatsRacin.com, "I’m supposed to have command of words, but the only one I can come up with to fully articulate what I felt after learning this news was ‘flabbergasted.’"

Kelley grew up in Concord, N.C. reading Higgins on a daily basis. "Crew members and drivers trusted him with information and knew that it would be articulated fairly and balanced," he said. "I can’t think of anyone more deserving professionally. But the thing about Tom is that he has to be one of the most humble individuals that you would ever know."

Higgins worked at the Canton Enterprise in North Carolina and Asheville Times as well as daily papers in Winston-Salem and Durham before launching his legendary 34-year career as a beat reporter and motorsports columnist for The Charlotte Observer. A graduate of Brevard College, Higgins authored the book "NASCAR’s 25 Greatest Races, co-wrote the biography "Junior Johnson: Brave in Life," with friend Steve Waid, and in 1996 received the NASCAR Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other nominees for this year’s award were Bob Moore (Daytona Beach News-Journal and Charlotte) and Shav Glick (Los Angeles Times), ESPN announcer Bob Jenkins, photographer T. Taylor Warren and journalists Russ Catlin and Norma Brandel. A 19-person committee of NASCAR media members, drivers, Hall of Famers and executives voted on the award.

OASIS FOR THE TROOPS

Capping a seven-week salute to U.S. Troops, NASCAR and Coca-Cola has debuted The Troops Welcome Center, a respite located in the Daytona midway. And the large tent has provided more than a thank you to active and military veterans and their families. It’s provided a much-appreciated oasis from the heat and occasional rain.

"We think it’s fantastic," said Lester Kyle, 74, a Marine from 1956-59, who now lives in Vero Beach, Fla. "The sodas and the waters and the snacks for us to have are great. I think I got to the track around 10:30 and I’ve been in here three or four times."

In addition to Coca-Cola beverages and snacks, racing simulators, games, prizes and the display of "thank you" walls signed by thousands, the venue is giving servicemen and families the chance to meet NASCAR drivers and legends. Dale Jarrett, Darrell Wallace Jr., Casey Mears and Aric Almirola were among the celebrities to greet the troops on Friday. Greg Biffle, Leonard Wood and Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood are scheduled for appearances on Saturday.

"The fact that (NASCAR and Coca-Cola) have taken their resources to do this is awesome," said John Freed, 21, a senior cadet from the Emory-Riddle Army ROTC program which assisted in operating the activities under the tent at Daytona. "It’s incredibly hot outside and this gives everyone a chance to cool off for a second. Usually you don’t see this kind of thanks given back to the troops. It’s been awesome to be able to help out, talk to the veterans and hear their stories."

NASCAR’s celebration of U.S. Troops began on Memorial Day weekend, and Daytona International Speedway paid tribute to four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam War with a luncheon on Friday.

Major General Bernard "Burn" Loeffke will serve as Honorary Pace Car Driver. The General retired from the Army in 1992 and now serves on medical missions in war-torn and impoverished areas such as Bosnia, Haiti, Kenya, Iraq, Niger, Darfur, and the Amazon jungles.

JOHNSON’S D.C. VISIT

Leading up to July 4 weekend, Jimmie Johnson, Rick Hendrick, crew chief Chad Knaus and members of the No. 48 team had the chance to meet President Barack Obama at the White House, in honor of their 2013 Sprint Cup Championship.

"The experience was amazing to share with my family - and (the) few moments of private time that we all had is something I will cherish forever," said Johnson, who noted that he’s not quite on a first-name basis with the President but had visited his home once before.

"In my last championship (season), every driver that made the Chase went (to the White House)," he recalled. "This time it was just the No. 48 team, so it was really nice to let 15 of the guys share that experience. That’s a huge honor."


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