The award, determined by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association, was presented during the NMPA’s annual awards ceremony last night in Charlotte, NC.
Hillenburg, 49, purchased the legendary Richmond County facility in 2007 after the track’s previous ownership group moved its lone Cup date to another facility and put the 1-mile track on the auction block.
Nearly five years later, and against incredible odds, Hillenburg had successfully lobbied NASCAR for a 2012 date on its Camping World Truck Series schedule.
The Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 drew more than 25,000 fans to a track that had hosted Cup races from 1965-2004. This year’s event, the Carolina 200, is scheduled for Sunday, April 14.
A two-time Daytona winner in ARCA competition, Hillenburg won that series’ overall championship in 1995. He is one of only a handful of drivers that have competed in the Indianapolis 500 as well as the Daytona 500.
The Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, quarterly winners are selected, and a yearly winner is determined by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association membership.
Quarterly Spirit Award winners for 2012 were: Clint Bowyer (first quarter); Hillenburg (second); Brad Keselowski (third) and Ryan Newman (fourth).
Previous Winners2011 – Jeff Gordon
2010 – Jim Hunter
2009 – David Poole
2008 – T. Taylor Warren
2007 – Bill France Jr.
2006 – Benny Parsons
2005 – Morgan Shepherd
2004 – Kyle and Pattie Petty
2003 – Bob Latford
2002 – Larry Hicks
2001 – Ricky Craven
2000 – Kyle Petty
1999 – Clay Earles
1998 – Mark Martin
1997 – Dave Marcis
1996 – Dale Earnhardt
1995 – Ernie Irvan
1994 – Ernie Irvan
1993 – Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki
1992 – Davey Allison Family