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TAWA Announces 2021 Excellence In Craft Competition and Texas Truck Invitational Winners

Friday, December 03, 2021 12:17 PM | Amy Plemons (Administrator)

In 2007, the Texas Auto Writers Association launched the Excellence in Craft Competition with the goal of recognizing and encouraging excellence in automotive journalism. In tandem, the Texas Truck Invitational competition invites TAWA members, along with non-members worldwide, to enter their works in exclusive truck-writing categories.

Once again, the competition was high quality and fierce. A big thanks to all of our judges for spending time reading, watching, and listening to all of this great work: Stan Hulen, Christian Waits, Ivan Galven, Jaime Florez, Steven Cole Smith, Harvey Briggs, Jason Fogelson, Brian Armstead, Carrie Kim, Jared Rosenholtz, and Chris Teague. 


Writing: Feature category

For 3rd place, it’s Mercedes Lilienthal in Tread magazine with: “Bad-Ass Bandoola: a 1953 Willys M38A1 Beast”. Although the stock 1953 Willys stayed in the family for decades, a random transmission issue on a steep hillside and a plea from Ghiringhelli’s wife to "fix it" changed the vehicle forever. “Yes, dear,” he simply replied. Her ask to address the transmission issue turned the little M38A1 from a stock vineyard run-about to a massively customized off-road beast. After months of upgrades and changes to his Willys 4x4, his wife finally got what she wanted out of the deal—a new Mercedes-Benz SL550.

2nd: Jordan Golson at Inverse with GMC tapped the guys behind Marvel’s coolest computer screens for the Hummer EV”.  Our judge said: “Jordan took a complex vehicle feature set, where he could've gone WAY into the weeds, and made it easy to read.” By the way, this post had great art on top of great writing.  

In 1st place, Elizabeth Blackstock earned her spot with the compelling “François Cevert, Watkins Glen, And The Myths Of Dead Heroes” story at Jalopnik. With high scores across the board, our judges thought Elizabeth did an incredible job capturing this story. “Elizabeth has a way of getting into the lives of the people she covers and did so with an eye on making it all understandable and approachable,” one judge said. 

Writing: Reviews

In 3rd place, it’s “The Power to Surprise (Kia Telluride Review)” in Outdoorx4 magazine by Frank Ledwell. After spending a week in the Kia Telluride on both pavement and off-road in the Big Bend region of west Texas, Frank answers the question: is the Kia Telluride a competent overland vehicle? Our judge said, “Ledwell’s professional, yet personal approach to the Kia Telluride told me everything I wanted to know about the SUV in an engaging, informative way. Solid work.”

In 2nd Elizabeth Blackstock impressed our judges with“Let The 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody Stroke Your Ego Sky High” at Jalopnik. Elizabeth has a way of describing cars and situations in a way that makes you feel part of the story. This one about the high-horsepower Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody will get your pulse going. Judges said, “Ms. Blackstock captured the joy of excess horsepower in her article with a fresh voice and sparkling prose. A fun discovery and refreshing expert tone that made me want to ride along with her on her next vehicular adventure.”

And in 1st place withStars vs. Space: Dueling Delicas of the 1980s and 1990s” it’s the dynamic duo of Mercedes Lillienthal and Andy Lillienthal in Tread magazine. If you’re curious about oddball vehicles, rad vans, or quirky four-wheel drives, then you may have heard of the right-hand-drive Japanese Domestic Market Mitsubishi Delica. If you don’t know anything about them nor have ever driven one, you’re not alone. Andy and Mercedes know their ins and outs specifically because they have owned them both and have traveled with them extensively on the tarmac and off the beaten path. “This was a deep dive into an obscure, yet delightful vehicle, told with obvious expertise and enthusiasm. It stoked my interest to find out more about the Delica — I’m hoping the authors will expand this article into a book,” our judge said. 


In 2nd place, Harold Gunn and Wayne Cronin’s Texas Outdoor News show about T.J. Tennent, a forensic tire expert working with the tire industry, police departments, and the legal profession. “Great content, amazing guest, lots of knowledge, interesting topic,” our judges said. 

Winning 1st place is Jerry Reynolds, Sr, of CarProUSA. Jerry hosted a story called “Sweet Carol” about a WBAP caller named Carol, a nurse who needed help and had purchased a car from Jerry’s late son. Our judges said, “Original story, very human, personal and well taken care of. Informative and useful.” 


Placing 3rd, Michael Marrs, In Wheel Time covered “The Chip Shortage: a look from a different perspective.” Our judges liked the timeliness and newsworthiness of this show, commenting that it’s good background on the chip shortage and the various elements that make up chip production. 

In 2nd, Cory Fourniquet and Matt Thorsen of GT Garage Talk’s show “Women in the Industry and Tech School”. The judges loved this, saying it was a superb interview. 

And congratulations to Cory Fourniquet and Matt Thorsen of GT Garage Talk, who took 1st place with their show called. “World Travel, Off-Road Accolades and Beef Jerky”. This entry received a near-perfect score across the board. The judges said: “A look into the life and experiences of an industry legend, Sue Mead. Excellent program!”


In 3rd place, Jennifer Jensen impressed with her video on the Ram TRX. With this review, Jennifer challenged the Ram TRX in all of its glory, and this video fully encompasses all of the capabilities of its unique and exciting offering in an entertaining fashion.

The Fast Lane Truck with Nathan Adlen, Tommy Mica, and Roman Mica earned a top spot in 2nd place with their “Bronco vs Wrangler vs Defender” video.  This segment tested the off-road capability of the brand new 2021 Ford Bronco against two of its direct rivals: the Jeep Wrangler 4xe and the Land Rover Defender. This three-way shootout has some exciting moments and unexpected turns as they drove all three up a steep Rocky Mountain trail.

And in 1st place, Raiti’s Rides with Joe and Lori Raiti and their video about the incredible Cadillac CT4 Blackwing. The judges appreciated the overall production quality, Joe’s enthusiasm, and depth of knowledge. Well done! 

With Honorable Mentions, we’d like to recognize Amy Plemons of CarProUSA and Tim Esterdahl and Jill Ciminillo with Pickup Truck + SUV Talk


In 3rd, Jordan Golson with a gorgeous sunset photo of a Land Rover Defender. You can find it on his Instagram channel

Sean Tajipour captured a vibrant photo of the Ram TRX at the Texas Truck Rodeo for 2nd place. Truly beautiful. 

And in 1st place, Jennifer Jensen took a photo of a Ferrari for Auto Exotica that is a work of art. Really good job. 


In 2nd place in a tie it’s Michael Satterfield of The Gentleman Racer with his First Drive coverage of the Chevrolet Trail Boss Custom. His broad reach, from Instagram to Facebook to Pinterest – and gorgeous photography catches the eye. 

And the other 2nd place winner in a tie is Joe and Lori Raiti of Raiti’s Rides, who earned a spot with their coverage of the CT5-V Blackwing. It all began when Joe and Lori were given 10 minutes to capture whatever they could on video at a secret preview in Daytona for V club members. They were able to track down the Blackwings again at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale in the thick of the pandemic and get inside for a walk around, and then again at the media launch for the Blackwing. The Raitis TikTok alone garnered 3.5 million and Instagram Reels video gathered 2 million views more.

And finally with their coverage of the Alcan 5000 Rally, it’s Mercedes Lilienthal, Andy Lilienthal in 1st place. Who would've ever traveled to the Arctic Ocean in the dead of winter with an old right-hand-drive diesel-powered Mitsubishi Pajero? How about doing that while competing in a major 10-day Arctic road rally that required 30 tanks of diesel and 7,230 miles total to get to, compete in, and get home? The Lilienthals did. They recapped three eventful days of the 2020 Alcan 5000 Rally on social media, including stories of ditch dives and -40 degree temperatures. They crossed the Arctic Circle four times in two countries in less than three days, drove 146 miles of ice roads, and completed ice racing on the Yukon River, conquering the Alcan 5000 Rally in their vintage Pajero in a challenging and unique way. 

Honorable mention: Jill Ciminillo and her coverage of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L 

Honorable mention: Cory Fourniquet and his social coverage of the Ford Bronco. 


Writing: Reviews

In 3rd place, it’s Jordan Golson with his review of the Land Rover Defender for The North State Journal. Judge’s note: The author recounts his own sad experience owning a Rover product, while pointing out that this is a different Land Rover from how the company operates today, turning out dependable products.

Lyn Woodward took 2nd, writing about her test drive of the Nissan Frontier at the Rebelle Rally for Kelley Blue Book. 

Judge’s note: The Frontier stars in an account of the seven-day, women-only Rebelle Rally that indeed puts the Nissan through its paces.

1st:Eight Days in the Desert with a Rivian pickup” by Emme Hall. Judge’s note: This is a combination adventure story and test drive of an electric pickup truck from a relatively unknown manufacturer makes for a solid, informative read.

Writing: Features

In 3rd: “The Lightning is not the Model T” by David Boldt at TxGarage. Our judges said, “A New York Times story that insists the electric Ford Lightning is the Model T of this generation sent Boldt to the history books, making a case that the Times may well be mistaken.”

2nd isTuSimple Trucking” by Jack Ferry, also at TxGarage. “An informative and forward-looking feature about an autonomous trucking company that suggests driverless 18-wheelers may be just around the corner,” judges said. 

And in 1st place, “The Gambler 500” by Kathy Locke at Toyota Cruisers & Trucks. Judges said it was an entertaining and heartfelt account of her participation in the Gambler 500, a sort-of race that allows most anyone crazy enough to compete to have at it.

And the overall winner of the Texas Truck Invitational and cash prize goes to:

Overall Winner: Emme Hall for “Eight Days in the Desert with a Rivian pickup

Thanks to everyone who submitted their work. We look forward to seeing next year’s entries! 



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