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Thursday, April 15, 2010
Gibbs, Yates among Texas Hall inductees


FORT WORTH, Texas -- Now who would ever have thought Joe Gibbs would be inducted into any hall of fame in Texas?

Or Robert Yates, either, who is attending his first Sprint Cup race since his retirement as a longtime team owner?

Robert Yates
Robert Yates is a legend as a NASCAR owner, and now he's the Bruton Smith Legends Award recipient from the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose also will take the stage Friday night, two men being rewarded for always trying to be good guys. Kyle Busch will get a trophy, too, and you never know what Kyle might say.

The annual Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame dinner always is a special occasion, but this year's honorees could make it the best show ever for the attendees at the Texas Motor Speedway Club Ballroom.

Previous Hall inductees Terry Labonte and Bobby Labonte -- along with inaugural inductee Johnny Rutherford -- plan to attend the gala.

It's also a proud night for the members of the THHoF voting panel. One of our own, longtime motorsports writer John Sturbin, becomes the first media member to earn a spot in the Hall.

And I'm honored to be the man presenting Sturbin (Sturb to us) into his rightful place among the Texas racing elite. I won't reveal all my speech tidbits about Sturb, but this tells you all you need to know:

"My mom loves to tell a story about my first word as a baby," Sturb said. "It wasn't 'Mommy' or 'Daddy.' It was 'car.'"

I doubt Gibbs' first word was "football," but people around North Texas still know him as Coach Gibbs, and not necessarily in a good way. His years as the leader of the Washington Redskins, the hated rival of the Dallas Cowboys, made Gibbs the enemy around these parts.

How ironic that Gibbs now enters the Texas Motorsports Hall for all he's done off the football field as an accomplished NASCAR team owner and a man of great character.

And it will be a Texan presenting Gibbs at the dinner. Norm Miller, CEO of Dallas-based Interstate Batteries -- the longtime sponsor of the No. 18 car at Joe Gibbs Racing -- will do the honors.

It's a night for great NASCAR team owners with Yates receiving the Bruton Smith Legends Award. Yates was a legendary engine builder and a Cup champion as a team owner when Dale Jarrett won the title in 1999. Charlotte Motor Speedway president Marcus Smith, Bruton's son, will present Yates.

Busch will receive the TMS Racer of the Year award for his three victories at Texas last season, sweeping both Nationwide races and winning the November Camping World Truck Series event. Busch has won four consecutive Nationwide races at TMS. ESPN.com motorsport editor K. Lee Davis, a Fort Worth native, will present Busch with his award.

Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose said he's happy to be recognized for his positive approach to NASCAR, as well as the warm reception he's received.

The TMHoF voters, a panel of 20 veteran writers and broadcasters across Texas who cover racing, usually pick one person to win the annual Sportsmanship award. But the vote this year was a dead heat between Gordon and Ambrose, so we decided to honor both of them.

Gordon is receiving two awards: Sportsmanship and the Fan Choice Award, which is determined by an Internet vote by the fans. TMS president Eddie Gossage will present Gordon his Fan Choice Award. Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Anthony Andro presents Gordon's Sportsmanship Award.

Tad Geschickter, Ambrose's team owner, will present him Friday. Ambrose becomes the first Australian recipient of a TMHoF award.

"I have such a great appreciation for our sport," Ambrose said. "When I came into NASCAR, I promised myself I was going to appreciate every single day and not get mad or angry. I remind myself every day that I'm doing something that millions of kids out there would love to do when they grow up. I am lucky enough to be a driver.

"Sure, you may get disappointed at times, and there are compromises. However, you can never lose sight that there are not many downs when you are a race-car driver. I love what I do. So to be recognized like this for the first time -- especially when I'm a goofy Tasmanian coming from 14,000 miles away -- is pretty awesome."

That tells you all you need to know about why Ambrose earned this recognition.

So this Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame event will run the gamut -- from a famous coach and team owner to a talented newbie from half a world away.