The 29th annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Russ Catlin Awards for Excellence in Motorsports Journalism ceremony was held May 17, honoring five individuals with the most sought-after accolades in motorsports media. This year's honorees are Nate Ryan (USA Today), J.A. Ackley (Dick Berggren's Speedway Illustrated), Lauren Stowell (ESPN), Chris Weaver (WGHP FOX8) and Mark J. Rebilas (USA Today Sports) for their outstanding work in 2013.

This year marked Ryan’s fifth time receiving the award (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013). It was the second time receiving the honor for Stowell (2010, 2013) and Rebilas (2010, 2013). It was the sixth time that a representative from USA Today was honored with the award, the ninth time for ESPN and the second time for WGHP FOX8.

The awards, which pay homage to motorsports journalism pioneer Russ Catlin, recognize the best motorsports coverage in five categories: Daily and Non-Daily Writing, National and Local Broadcast and Photojournalism. Entries are open to all forms of motorsports coverage and no affiliation or membership is required for participation.

"The quality of this year’s entries reflects how gifted and talented our journalists are," said Scott Cooper, Vice President of Communications at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "We understand the time, effort and sacrifice it takes to cover such a demanding sport. They do an unbelievable job conveying the thrills, the excitement and the passion of motorsports. We appreciate all of our journalists’ efforts and are excited to reward the best of the best."

Russ Catlin was a forerunner of motorsports public relations and journalism. Catlin was one of the best known racing writers and historians, contributing articles and information to Speed Age, Automobile Quarterly, Open Wheel and numerous other publications. Catlin served as publicist for Darlington Raceway during the 1960s and guided several influential figures in the motorsports field, including former Charlotte Motor Speedway General Manager Humpy Wheeler, who established the awards in his honor.

As in years past, The Indiana University School of Journalism judged the entries and determined the winners. All five winners were given a trophy and were awarded a $1,000 scholarship in their name to the school of their choice. The recipients also had their names engraved on the perpetual trophy kept at Charlotte Motor Speedway that lists all of the past winners.

The award has been among the most coveted in motorsports journalism since it began in 1985. Reporters from top media outlets such as USA Today, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, New York Times and The Washington Post have all been past winners. The 2013 Charlotte Motor Speedway Russ Catlin Awards for Excellence in Motorsports Journalism are as follows:

Writing - Daily

Nate Ryan - USA Today

Entry: “NASCAR walks tightrope with NRA sponsorship”

Judges’ Comments: The story acknowledges that NASCAR does not live in a bubble. It exposes the potentially volatile political and social side effects of sponsorship. The reporter tackles a timely topic with in-depth reporting and clear writing.

Scholarship: Northwestern University

Writing – Non-Daily

J.A. Ackley – Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated

Entry: “Tire Doping”

Judges' Comments: The reporter educates readers on an important and timely topic while revealing a complex issue in motorsports. What could have been a dry report is brought to life by extensive reporting, lively writing and interviews from sources with a variety of perspectives.

Scholarship: Rochester Institute of Technology

Broadcast – Local

Chris Weaver – WGHP FOX8, High Point, NC

Entry: “Racing at Bowman Gray Stadium”

Judges’ Comments: This piece captures the viewers’ attention with great camera work, fast-paced shots, and nice natural sound. But it also tells an interesting narrative and it is clear that there was a lot of work put into interviewing a variety of people over a span of many days. The combination of visuals, audio and storytelling that went into this piece make it a stand out from the rest. This work makes Bowman Gray come to life on the screen.

Scholarship: UNC-Greensboro

Broadcast – National

Lauren Stowell – ESPN

Entry: “Richie Parker – Drive”

Judges’ Comments: This piece combines excellent videography, interviews, natural sound and narrative to tell a compelling story. It’s clear the reporter invested time in getting to know Richie Parker. The story provides a look behind-the-scenes of a successful NASCAR team yet avoids being a cliché.

Scholarship: University of Connecticut

Photojournalism

Mark J. Rebilas – USA Today Sports

Entry: “Tumble of Terror”

Judges’ Comments: A lot of sports photography involves being in the right place at the right time, which this photographer obviously was. However, also notable are the excellent focus, framing and exposure of the wreck. This photo draws the viewers, who then stay to examine the details.

Scholarship: Shoot Off Visual Media Workshops

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