INDIANAPOLIS — The Hulman-George and France families, American motorsports’ two most influential families and owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NASCAR, respectively, Saturday were honored with the Bob Russo Founders Award for dedication to auto racing.
The award was presented by Russo Award Chairman Bill Marvel during the annual American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association breakfast meeting at IMS, site of Sunday’s Indy 500. Members of the Hulman-George family were present while Ken Clapp, longtime NASCAR West Coast executive and confidant to Bill France Sr. and Jr., accepted on behalf of the France family.
Russo, the late racing journalist/publicist/historian, founded AARWBA in 1955. He died in 1999 at age 71. The Russo Award is presented for “profound interest, tireless efforts and undying dedication to auto racing as exemplified by Russo throughout his lifelong career.”
Tony Hulman purchased the Speedway, idle for four years during World War II, and resumed the Indy 500 in 1946. He built the race into the country’s largest single-day sports event. Since his death in 1977, the Hulman-George family has continued to own the track and provide leadership throughout the industry, and now also operates the Izod IndyCar series.
Bill France Sr. founded NASCAR in 1947 and later built Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. He died in 1992. Son Bill Jr. took over as NASCAR’s president in 1972 and was the driving force into making NASCAR the country’s most popular racing series. He died in 2007. Brother Jim recently brokered the unification of U.S. sports car racing. Son Brian is NASCAR’s chairman and daughter Lesa is chairwoman of International Speedway Corp.
Previous Russo Award winners include: 2005 – Michael Knight; 2006 – Wally Parks; 2007 – Chris Economaki; 2008 – Bob Jenkins; 2009 – Shav Glick; 2010 — Bill York; 2011 — Bill Marvel; 2012 — Paul Page. A permanent plaque with all winners’ names is on display in the Speedway media center.