The primary purpose of the North Carolina Motorsports Association's annual banquet Monday night was to honor Tribute Award winner Richard Childress and the winners of the group's other annual awards. But that wasn’t the whole story.
It was also a reunion of people who don't see each other as much as they'd like and a pep rally for an industry that has taken some economic body blows in the past few months.
"It's hard to argue that North Carolina isn't as critical to motorsports as any other state out there," NASCAR president Mike Helton told several hundred people at the Concord Convention Hall at the Embassy Suites hotel for the program. "Being with this group reminds you that what we do has a home."
Richard Petty, who won the Tribute Award last year, helped present it to Childress this time around. Childress, who marked his 40th year as a Cup Series team owner in 2008, was recognized for his six Cup championships and other on-track accomplishments as well as his other business and philanthropic efforts.
"I remember the gas crisis back in the early '70s and the credit crunch in the early '80s," Childress said.
"We were racing then and we're still racing now. We persevered through those challenging economic times and 9-11.
"There is a lot of strength in this industry and in this great nation, and we'll continue to be strong. And, we should always remember to thank our fans, whose dedication is the reason we've been able to prosper all these years."
Ten other awards were given during the evening:
- Two-year education program, Central Piedmont Community College.
- Four-year education program, Belmont Abbey College.
- Workforce diversity, Winston-Salem State University.
- Regional marketing, Food Lion Auto Fair.
- National marketing, NASCAR's Home Track Campaign.
- Event facilities, Z-Max Dragway.
- Economic development, Mooresville – South Iredell.
- Safety innovation, Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe program.
- Small company, SRI.
- Large company, CV Products.