By Mike Henle
Back in the early 1980s, I had a dream one day. Considering that I was an auto racing writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, I noticed that awards ceremonies needed to be updated.
It was time to bring some class and dignity to such an event, so I pranced into the office of Jim Seagrave, a long-time former newspaper journalist who had moved into the world of public relations.
If anyone would give the idea some thought, it was Seagrave, whose easy-going nature and knowledge of Las Vegas was unmatched.
Almost instantly, Seagrave liked the idea. We had numerous motorsports awards gatherings, but it was my idea that we could do better, as long as we had a participating hotel on the Las Vegas Strip – and Seagrave’s office was Center Strip in the Frontier Hotel, which also hosted the Siegfried and Roy show.
And before I know it, Seagrave was making suggestions regarding the show, and the Southern Nevada Motorsports Awards was born. The Frontier had a beautiful showroom, complete with live music loft and a beautiful stage.
During rehearsal a few days before the show, we all knew that we were in for the big-time, especially considering that we discovered that the stage could be elevated or sunken into the floor. Not long later, we journeyed down the steps to nose around and made a left hand turn only to discover that about 8-10 cages –all wide open – sent several of us scurrying for a quick exit (we would later discover that the tigers had been removed the night before).
We were headed for the big-time, and I was burning up the phone lines calling people to let them know a motorsports awards was en route. Anyone and everyone that I spoke with loved the idea and before I knew it, a special kind of fever started spreading its wings.
I knew the idea would work, although I needed people who knew the intricacies of the promotional business.
Seagrave and I hammered out a date in the early-1980s. .Suddenly, I was in the promotions business with an awesome stage and showroom. I also needed ticket costs, press releases, time frames and everything else including an orchestra, which would be handled by veteran musician Tony Scodwell, who also performed at the Frontier’s Siegfried and Roy show.
We had no idea about the cost of the showroom, and it was our hope that we’d have such a crowd that we’d not only pay the rent, but would give the remaining money to a charity of choice, which ended up being the Lion’s Burn Unit at University Medical Center.
Whether or not the Motor Sports Award would work was simply something that we’d all discover later. All I knew was Southern Nevada needed a respected motorsports award show, and I’m thinking that this entire dream was actually going to work.
We had several categories, including off-road, asphalt drags, sand drags, stock cars and motocross. Thanks to prominent Southern Nevada publicist Dominic Clark, we had a classy event program complete with biographies and the rest.
Nissan jumped on board providing a new pickup to the overall winner, and we were on our way.
NASCAR driver Harry Gant promised us that he’d be there, and so did open wheel driver Rodger Ward.
Gant announced that NASCAR needed to get involved in the Las Vegas show.
“NASCAR’s awards show is held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, and they seriously need to move it to the Frontier in Las Vegas,’ Gant said.
A few years later, I ran into Gant at the NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and he was still howling about the impact of the Nevada Motor Sports Awards.
Then event members called for rehearsal and we were in Fat City, as we all headed for the Frontier showroom and it was announced by Larry Carter of Desert GMC that he wanted to be the presenter of the overall champion the next year.
With fitting class, Carter had the truck lettered, which was presented to winner Dick Cobb, a talented stock racer who took his new truck home in fine style.
There are many who believe that NASCAR’s year-end awards are at least possibly related to the Nevada Motor Sports Awards. The event packed the showroom for two consecutive years.
Harry Gant sure thought so, and so did our oldest son, John, who was about seven at the time.
“It was an epic event,” said John, who was about 7 at the time. “You have to write about it.”
“Done” was the response.
The Nevada Motorsports Awards was an awesome event back before auto racing went big-time in Southern Nevada.