For the past four decades members of the National Motorsports Press Association have been reporting hot-off-the-press motorsport stories through print, television, radio and the internet to millions of fans. When the NMPA started more than forty years ago, it consisted of a small group of journalists and broadcasters who focused mainly on NASCAR and stock car racing in the southern states of the USA. Today it has both national and international members and represents all forms of motorsports.
An interesting feature of the NMPA is its Hall of Fame in which notable figures in the motorsports industry are honored. In January 2013, three of NASCAR’s legends will be the latest inductees into the NMPA Hall of Fame – namely Ken Squier, Jim Hunter and Dr. Joseph Mattioli, with the latter two being honored posthumously. All three spent their careers contributing to the sport of auto racing, and the general consensus is that their induction into the NMPA Hall of Fame is well-deserved.
Jim Hunter started his journalistic career in South Carolina before moving into the field of public relations and later being appointed as track president at Darlington Raceway. Hunter fulfilled corporate roles with both NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation during his career, remaining an integral part of NASCAR for the rest of his life.
Dr. Jospeh Mattioli was the founder of the very popular Pocono Raceway which opened in 1971 and currently hosts both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, as well as IZOD IndyCar Series and ARCA Racing Series, among other events. The track is owned by Mattco Inc. which also owns the South Boston Speedway in Birginia. Pocono is also the home base of the Sports Car Club of America and some motorcycle clubs and racing schools. Known as “Doc” in the NASCAR community, Mattioli trained as a dentist at Temple University, but his passion lay in racing and he supported the sport whole-heartedly, which is he well remembered for.
Ken Squier started offering lap-by-lap commentary in the world of auto racing as a 14-year-old from the back of a logging truck at a stock car dirt race track in Vermont. His father, Lloyd Squier owned and operated the radio station WDEV based in his home town of Waterbury, Vermont. When his father passed away, Ken Squier took over ownership and running of the station, which he continues to do today. Squier was the co-founder of the Motor Racing Network in 1969 and filled the role of auto racing announcer for a number of years. He joined CBS Sports in 1972 and over the following years auto racing fans came to know his unique broadcasting style as he delivered lap-by-lap accounts of the action on the racetrack. Today Squier contributes to NASCAR coverage on the Speed Channel.
Matt Kenseth took first place in the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, with Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch coming in at second and third place. But it was the twenty-something car pileup caused by Tony Stewart that took all the attention, with drivers blaming restrictor plate racing for the mayhem, and a number voicing their concerns regarding this NASCAR rule which results in cars bunching up and unable to get away from one another. As the field headed for the finish line, it was four lanes deep with no place for maneuverability when Stewart moved in front of Michael Waltrip, triggering the pileup.
Initially implemented for safety reasons, restrictor plates are used at superspeedways such as Talladega and Daytona, and more recently New Hampshire, to effectively slow cars down. Consisting of a square aluminum plate with four holes drilled into it, the size of which is set by NASCAR, a restrictor place is placed between the carburetor and the intake manifold with the aim of reducing the flow of fuel and air into the combustion chamber of the engine, thereby reducing horsepower and speed. With improved aerodynamics and technology of racecars over the past ten years or so, they have become capable of reaching speeds exceeding 225 mph (362 km/h), which experts believe is too dangerous for both drivers and spectators. When Bobby Allison crashed into a retaining fence at Pocono Raceway on 19 June 1988, he was traveling at a speed of 210 mph (338 km/h). The crash nearly killed him and endangered the welfare of hundreds of fans.
While traveling at slower speeds may be to increase safety, it also levels the playing field to an extent, causing all the cars in the field to be bunched up and leaving little space for top drivers to pull away from the pack, or to work their way out of the bunch. Having all the cars bunched together traveling at speeds of 190 mph around a track presents safety issues of its own, as one poor decision can cause multiple-car crashes – and this problem was resoundingly illustrated in Sunday’s race at Talladega.