CONCORD, N.C. – Current Super DIRTcar Series (SDS) Champion Matt Sheppard will be recognized with top honors as the Richie Evans Memorial Northeast Driver of the Year at the Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Hall of Fame Banquet. The annual convention takes place Jan. 6-8, 2017 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia, Pa.
Richie Evans, a former driver from Rome, N.Y., is often referred to as one of the greatest racecar drivers to ever get behind the wheel. Evans, a nine-time NASCAR champion, won eight consecutive titles from 1978 to 1985 and was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. The Northeast Driver of the Year Award was re-named after Richie Evans in 1985 after his tragic death at Martinsville Speedway. The Richie Evans Memorial Northeast Driver of the Year award is voted on by the EMPA membership after the awards committee considers nominees based on season-long performance.
Sheppard meets the standard of this award after the Waterloo, N.Y. driver visited Victory Lane 12 times, setting a Super DIRTcar Series single-season win record. Sheppard started from the pole position three times and finished inside the top-three 18 times en route to his fifth Super DIRTcar Series championship.
“It’s definitely a huge honor,” Sheppard said. “I’ve been nominated a bunch of times and never won it before. This kind of caught me by surprise. This year I forgot about it, but when I received word that I [won] it, it’s truly a special honor. Richie Evans was huge, probably was one of the best ever to get into a racecar. That will never be forgotten.”
Past Richie Evans Memorial Northeast Driver of the Year award winners include: Kenny Tremont (1999), Mike Stefanik (1997), Fred Rahmer (1998,2004,2005,2013), Alan Johnson (2003,2006), Brett Hearn (2007, 2012), Stewart Friesen (2010, 2014, 2015), Richie Evans (2002), Rick Eckert (2011), Billy Decker (2008) and Ted Christopher (2000, 2001, 2009).
EMPA was created in Feb. 1969 by Ernie Saxton, Red Kirsch, Al Consoli, Jim Cutler and John Ernesto during a meeting at a hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla. The aim of EMPA is to foster a better understanding by recognizing the true value between an organization and its press to improve working conditions.
-EMPA Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Daryl Canfield