Tuesday, May 24

Kyle Larson is named EMPA National Driver of the Year Stewart Friesen and Matt Hirschman claim top honors as Northeast Dirt and Asphalt Drivers of the Year

Kyle Larson is named EMPA National Driver of the Year Stewart Friesen and Matt Hirschman claim top honors as Northeast Dirt and Asphalt Drivers of the Year Getty Images for NASCAR

The Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) is proud to announce the 2021 award winners in the various categories that were recently voted upon by the membership.

The presentations will take place during the organization’s ceremonial formal dinner on Saturday evening, January 15 at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center, Wilkes-Barre PA, which is part of the 49th EMPA Convention slated for Friday through Sunday of that weekend.

In one of the most overwhelming ballots ever cast for any one individual, Kyle Larson was selected as the 2021 EMPA Al Holbert Memorial National Driver of the Year. Larson won the prestigious award by a wide margin over Brandon Overton, Alex Palou, John Force and Brad Sweet.

This marks the second consecutive year for Larson – who is also the 2021 NASCAR Cup Champion – being named as National Driver of the Year and it marks only the second time in the organization’s history that a racer won on the national scene in back-to-back years (Donny Schatz 2014-


The coveted EMPA Richie Evans Memorial Northeast Driver of the Year has two winners with a dirt and asphalt representative being voted on.

For a second consecutive year and a record fifth time overall Stewart Friesen has claimed the honor among the dirt stars. Friesen, who was the top Northeast winner with 32 feature victories, was able to out-vote other notables Lance Dewease, Greg Satterlee and Mat Williamson. Aside from last year Friesen also was the recipient in 2010, 2014 and 2015.

In 2021 Matt Hirschman was the top Northeast asphalt winner, visiting Victory Lane 22 times while also collecting 34 top-5s in 39 starts. That effort earned him a third straight Northeast Driver of the Year, outdoing Ryan Preece, Justin Bonsignore and Derek Griffith in the voting.

The John Blewett III Young Gun Award presented by New England Race Fuels will be bestowed to Briggs Danner.

In a very close margin the Chris Economaki Memorial News Maker of the Year award goes to Andy Jankowiak who tallied just enough returns over the re-opening of the Bloomsburg Fair Raceway.

For the second time in the past three years the EMPA Outstanding Promotional Effort of the Year will be presented to Brett Deyo who spearheads the popular Short Track Super Series and is on the successful promotional team of Fonda (NY) and Georgetown Speedways (DE).

Legendary Ken Brenn Sr., was the top vote getter for the Junie Dunlavey Memorial Spirit of the Sport award.

As always a big part of the dinner is the induction into the EMPA Hall of Fame. Those well-deserving honorees will include Howie Commander, Bob Frey, Van May, Don Krietz Jr., and Bob Rossell.

A number of other significant distinctions will be announced during the banquet, among them the Jim Hunter Memorial Writer of the Year, the Ace Lane Sr., Memorial Photographer of the Year, the Ernie and Marilyn Saxton Dedication to EMPA Award and the Jerry Reigle Memorial Sprint Car Award presented by World Racing Group as well as photo honors named for Janice Brice and Howie and Mary Hodge.

Winners will also be named in the Pocono Raceway Writers Contest, Brice’s NAPA Auto Parts Photo Contest and the DirtTrackDigest.TV Video Contest.

Founded in 1969 EMPA is an organization of professional writers, broadcasters, videographers, photographers and PR individuals throughout the motorsports industry unified in representing auto racing in the utmost proficient manner.



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