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Rocky Mount native honored for motorsports journalism

031917COMpearce

Rocky Mount native Al Pearce, right, seen here with European racing champion Niki Lauda, recently received the National Motorsports Press Association's 2016 Pocono Spirit Award.

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From Contributed Reports

Monday, March 20, 2017

Veteran motorsports journalist Al Pearce, a native of Rocky Mount, has been named recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's 2016 Pocono Spirit Award. Pearce was one of the NMPA's four nominees, and earned the annual honor over Chris Osborne of Joe Gibbs Racing, the late motorsports artist Jeanne Barnes and former NASCAR driver Mike Skinner.

The award recognizes character, outstanding achievement within the NASCAR family and contributions to motorsports at large. It is sponsored by Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and has been presented by the National Motorsports Press Association since 1992. Among its previous winners: Kyle Petty, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Dave Marcis and Ernie Irvan, and the late Lynda Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Jr., Benny Parsons, Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki.

Pearce won the award for raising and distributing more than $13,000 to four NASCAR-related children's charities last season. He raised the funds by auctioning a racing helmet in Monte Carlo that carried signatures of 22 living Formula One World Driving Champions. Among them were Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir John Surtees, Mario Andretti, Michael Schumacher, Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell, Lewis Hamilton and Alain Prost. The project took parts of four years as Pearce made numerous trips to Europe and South America, one to Canada and two to California to meet the drivers and personally ensure that the autographs were authentic. All proceeds from the project went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman and the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation, all in Charlotte.

Pearce — known as Buddy at the time — grew up in Rocky Mount and attended Battle, R.M. Wilson and Rocky Mount Senior High, class of 1961. He graduated from Presbyterian College in 1965, worked at the Evening Telegram and taught high school before spending three years as an Army officer, including a tour in Viet Nam. He was an eight-time award-winning sportswriter in Newport News, Va from 1969-2004, and still covers NASCAR for Auto Week magazine. He's a member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, Ala.

He and his wife, Francie, live in Newport News. Their daughter, Annie, works with individuals and families in crisis in the Christiansburg/Blacksburg, Va area.

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