News & Media

Higgins fourth to win Squier-Hall Award

July 04, 2014, Kenny Bruce,

Longtime newspaper beat reporter covered NASCAR for decades

RELATED: Background on Higgins, and other nominees

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Tom Higgins, whose stories and reporting kept NASCAR race fans entertained and informed for more than four decades, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

Higgins, who covered his first NASCAR race at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in 1956, spent the bulk of his writing career working for The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. Through the years, he has written about nearly all of the sport's legendary figures -- from NASCAR Hall of Fame members Lee and Richard Petty, David Pearson and Bobby Allison, to Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt.

Higgins stories were colorful -- often offering glimpses of the sport's stars away from the track -- and always accurate. That accuracy, and the fairness with which he treated his subjects, earned him long-lasting relationships with those who not only raced each week, but those who built the machines as well.

"I'm supposed to have a command of words," Higgins said via telephone during Friday's announcement. "But the only word I can come up with to fully describe what I felt today after learning this is 'flabbergasted.'

"I'm just an old boy from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, a real small town called Burnsville. To dream I would ever achieve anything like this was beyond my wildest expectations. I'm just … very humbled."

Higgins received NASCAR's Award of Excellence for contributions to the sport in 1996.

The Squier-Hall Award is named for journalists Ken Squier and Barney Hall, who were honored with the initial award. Longtime journalist Chris Economaki was last year's recipient.

"Tom reported on NASCAR for part of six decades and is really considered the first full-time beat writer in our sport," said Brett Jewkes, vice president and chief communications officer for NASCAR's Integrated Marketing Communications division.

"He continues to contribute to the sport, writing at times for the Observer, but he also is a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting panel. A legendary career, and a great, great man."

Higgins will be recognized during the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony in January. He will join Hall of Fame inductees Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, Fred Lorenzen and Rex White.

"The first race I went to, I covered," Higgins said. "The first one I ever saw.

"In the summertime I was either fishing or playing baseball when they were racing at Asheville-Weaverville. All my buddies would go, but I never went. … I had no idea what was going on; I was lost. I had just turned 20 years old … and was thrust into covering racing.

"I met a cast of characters like Lee Petty, Buck Baker, Tim Flock and on and on. When they started qualifying, the first car I ever saw go around the track was Lee Petty. I said, 'this is crazy; a car can't go that fast. And if it can, I don't think there's a man crazy enough to try it.'

"I was hooked that day, and I've been hooked for the rest of my life."