The 26th annual Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards of Excellence ceremony was held today, honoring five individuals with the coveted accolades in motorsports media.

This year's recipients were Nate Ryan (USA Today), Lauren Stowell (ESPN), Kris Johnson (NASCAR Illustrated), Mark Rebilas (US Presswire) and Brian Tetzler (KWGN/KDVR) for exceptional motorsports media coverage in 2010. The ceremony, which honors the legacy of motorsports journalism pioneer Russ Catlin, was orchestrated by Aflac, the No. 1 provider of voluntary and guaranteed-renewable insurance in the United States, and held in conjunction with the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards of Excellence recognize the best motorsports coverage in five categories, including Daily and Other Writing, Local and National Broadcast, and Photojournalism. More than 150 entries were submitted this year, making it one of the most competitive seasons to date.

"We're proud to honor the writers and broadcasters who strive to bring the best possible coverage to the motorsports audience. Their passion helps fuel our industry and keeps fans coming back for more," said Daniel Fleishman, vice president of Corporate Sponsorships and Emerging Markets for Aflac. "We thank them for all the time and dedication they pour into their work and connecting with the fans."

The Indiana University School of Journalism judged the award entries. Winners receive a trophy and $1,000 scholarship from Aflac in their names to the schools of their choice. Their names are also added to a perpetual trophy housed at Charlotte Motor Speedway that lists all past winners.

"We have so many gifted and talented journalists in the motorsports field. To be chosen among them is an incredible honor," said Scott Cooper, vice president of communications for Charlotte Motor Speedway. "We're proud and thankful that Aflac recognizes their contributions to the sport."

The award is the most coveted in motorsports journalism. The 2010 Aflac Motorsports Journalism Awards of Excellence winners are as follows:

Writing - Daily
Nate Ryan - USA Today
Entry:  "Junior's Ride Tied to Sports"
Judges' Comments:  Timely story that explores the pressure of high expectations; excellent variety of perspectives; provides ample context for understanding current issues in NASCAR; solid reporting.
Scholarship:  Northwestern University; Evanston, Ill.

Writing - Other
Kris Johnson - NASCAR Illustrated
Entry:  "Taking Flight"
Judges' Comments:  Revealing quotations from a variety of sources; addresses a serious and complex issue (safety) from both a physical and emotional perspective; readers "walk in the shoes" of drivers who have crashed; reporter's research and excellent interviewing skills are evident.
Scholarship:  UNC Chapel Hill; Chapel Hill, N.C.

Broadcast - National
Lauren Stowell - ESPN
Entry:  "Hendrick for Haiti"
Judges' Comments:  Connects racing to world events and universal themes of loss and hope, which allow this story to reach a broader audience. The story illustrates these themes by using personal, national and international tragedies. Excellent production values, effective storytelling, and marriage of verbal and visual elements.
Scholarship:  South Windsor High School, South Windsor, Conn.

Broadcast - Local
Brian Tetzler - KWGN/KDVR, Denver, Colo.
Entry:  "Using iPads at the Track"
Judges' Comments:  This story exemplifies quality reporting. It goes beyond "what happened at the track today" by examining the timely issue of technology integration in motorsports. Superior content and production quality.
Scholarship:  Marquette University; Milwaukee, Wis.

Photojournalism
Mark Rebilas - US Presswire
Entry:  "Lawn Dart"
Judges' Comments:  Excellent composition that provides context for the action. Interesting photo that makes a person stop and examine the details. Unusual image that helps tell the story of off-road racing.
Scholarship:  Lincoln Elementary School; Mesa, Ariz.