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TAWA Announces 2022 Excellence In Craft Winners

Tuesday, December 06, 2022 8:18 PM | Amy Plemons (Administrator)

December 6, 2022 - The Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Excellence in Craft Competition and Texas Truck Invitational.

The Texas Auto Writers Association launched the Excellence in Craft Competition in 2007, the 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 entries were high quality and impressive. A big thanks to all our judges for spending time reading, watching, and listening to all of this great work: Daryl Killian, Kevin McCarthy, Jaime Florez, Steven Cole Smith, Harvey Briggs, Jason Fogelson, Jared Rosenholtz, Amelia Dalgaard, and Chris Teague. 


Writing: Feature category

  • 1st: Elizabeth Blackstock

  • 2nd: Mercedes Lilienthal 
  • 3rd: Kristin Shaw

1st place, Elizabeth Blackstock wowed the judges with “The Motorsport World Owes Cheryl Linn Glass, The First Black Woman of Racing, A Place in History” at Jalopnik. Our judges applauded Elizabeth’s solid journalism and storytelling, saying this is “a heartbreaking story of unfulfilled potential and a mysterious ending. Wonderful work with appeal beyond the world of motorsports.”

2nd place goes to Mercedes Lilienthal with “Electric Realization: The Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Successfully Finishes The 2021 Rebelle Rally” for Forbes. Lilienthal told the story of the rally while still giving a review and evaluation of the ID.4 for the everyday buyer, which is not an easy task,” one judge said. “She lays out the issues with EV acceptance, proposes solutions, and makes the Rally seem like a worthy challenge.” 

In 3rd place, it’s “Dad’s 1966 Corvette Is the One That Got Away – So I Brought Him a C8 for Father’s Day” by Kristin Shaw. One judge said: “A lovely story about a grown daughter’s gift to her father – a taste of his youth in the form of a new Corvette. Beautifully written with heart and emotion, but still manages to sneak in enough information about the C8 Corvette, along with the writer’s dad’s unique history with cars, to be a smile-inducing journey.”

Writing: Reviews

  • 1st: Mercedes Lilienthal

  • 2nd: Jesus Garcia
  • 3rd: Phillip Morales

1st place Mercedes Lilienthal picks up another award, this time for Tread magazine with her review she called “VW ID.4 Tackles the Rebelle Rally.” This epic article earned a 10-page spread alongside Mercedes’ beautiful photography. Would an all-wheel-drive Volkswagen ID.4 EV survive 1,400 miles of challenging terrain in the southwestern U.S. desert? Never backing away from a challenge, Mercedes embraced the opportunity. Not only does this in-depth Tread magazine vehicle review showcase stats and specs of the newly released customized ID.4 EV, but it features an intimate view of a brave new world: EV off-roading.

2nd place is Jesus Garcia with his fun piece “Testing A Ford Expedition Limited Max By Working As A Roadie For A Mariachi Band” for Imboldn. Dubbed “the roadie test,” for one weekend, the Ford Expedition became the mariachi express as it raced through the city from gig to gig with band and gear in tow.   

Taking 3rd place, Phillip Morales, who wrote “We’ll Always Have Paris: A Review of the 2022 Acura MDX” for his site DadDriver.com. “While not a traditional automotive review, this piece is an ideal representation of my writing style and my approach to storytelling,” Phillip told us. “Automobile reviews come in a variety of forms and with this piece, I wanted to contribute to that ever expanding genre using my love of film and novels as a basis for sharing my experience with this vehicle.” 


  • 1st: Jerry Reynolds, The CarPro Show

  • 2nd:  Michael Marrs, In Wheel Time
  • 3rd: Ricardo Rodriguez-Long, Garage Latino

1st place: Jerry Reynolds with The Car Pro Unplugged. Jerry took on the unpopular topic of car dealers charging over window sticker price for short-in-supply cars, and he challenged Ford and General Motors for threatening their dealers instead of letting the free market set prices.

2nd place: Michael Marrs submitted a solid entry with Moving to EVs - What Does it Take? on his show In Wheel Time. This episode takes an 'outsider' look at what it takes to collect the data and actually move to an EV society, and Lisa Whalen with Morning Consult shared how data is being used to move us forward.

3rd place:  Ricardo Rodriguez-Long and his weekly show “Garage Latino” on BLeav.com. Ricardo covers EV news, a four-door corvette, a Ram EV, and the news that Ford has changed its plan and it may do without dealers in the future. Can this really happen? Ricardo investigates. 


  • 1st: Bill Owney

  • 2nd: David Boldt
  • 3rd: Michael Marrs

1st place goes to Bill Owney and his co-host Karl Richter with a discussion about the current car market, the future of EVs, how to cut your fuel bill, the new vehicles they love, and much more.

The 2nd spot is occupied by David Boldt along with colleagues Roosevelt Gist, Greg Morrison, and Chris Lawrence. The AUTONETWORK REPORTS podcast celebrates Black History Month in 2022 with special guest Ed Lewis, Director of Toyota's Public Policy Communications at Toyota. 

Placing 3rd   it’s Michael Marrs in the podcast category with his episode called “Cat attack? Catalytic converter theft on the rise!” for his show In Wheel Time. During his show, Michael interviewed automotive journalist Jeff Yip for a look at the increase in automobile catalytic converter theft and the reasons why.


  • 1st: Roman Mica TFL Studios

  • 2nd: Jennifer Jensen
  • 3rd: Tim Esterdahl

In 1st place, it’s Roman Mica and his TFL Studios crew with “Easy Part Is Over: Driving an EV Truck Into the Alaskan Wilderness Is HARDER Than We Thought!” In this video, the team takes their Ford F-150 Lightning 3,500 miles from Boulder, Colorado up through the west side of Canada all the way to Dead Horse, Alaska. Driving an electric truck in the Northern wilderness turns out to be no joke! Don’t miss it. 

Jennifer Jensen, our 2nd place winner, submitted a fascinating video called “Tanks” for her channel Auto Exotica TV. Jennifer says this video is much different than her regular episodes. “This one was a hoot to film and create though the conditions were less than ideal,” she said. “Ambient temperatures soared over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while inside the tanks it was MUCH hotter. There were multiple issues with the hardware that day and we literally had one day on location to film. This episode showcases tanks in a way most automotive TV shows don't...what they are actually built for.” 

In 3rd place, Tim Esterdahl earned a podium spot with the video “Tundra vs  Tacoma:TRD Pro Off-Road Battle!” on his channel Pickup Truck Plus SUV Talk. In this video, Tim and Phillip Van der Vossen hit the trails of Colorado in the 2022 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro and 2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro in order to decide which one is better off-road. While there are some definite similarities between these two trucks, Tim and Phillip found there are plenty of differences as well. Air down those tires and enjoy the ride when you watch these TRD Pro Trucks on an epic off-road adventure!


  • 1st: Chris Collard

  • 2nd: Jennifer Jensen
  • 3rd: Sean Tajipour

In 1st place, the talented Chris Collard took our judges’ breath away with a Ram Rebel under the Aurora Borealis. One judge called it “an amazing capture in an incredible setting” and it is truly otherworldly in its beauty. 

2nd place goes to Jennifer Jensen and her snapshot “Nighttime Droptop” depicting an Aston Martin Vantage Roadster near Orlando for an issue of Auto Exotica magazine. None of the roads were particularly appealing, she said, but her night shoot highlights the curves of the Vantage and accentuates its open-top features. 

Sean Tajipour takes 3rd place for his photo “EV Liftoff”, a stunning composition of a Ford Mustang Mach-E GT in Grabber Blue Metallic next to a rocketship. 


1st place: Joe and Lori Raiti, Raiti's Rides and their 2023 Toyota GR Corolla social media campaign.  LINK

2nd: Cory Fourniquet and his creative video work on minivan trick features. Cory had some fun with this, highlighting the under appreciated minivan category. LINK

This year, 3rd place is a tie between two worthy members: Jennifer Jensen with her TikTok coverage of the Ford F-150 Tremor and Sean Tajipour lighting up the internet with his Nissan Z content. 


Writing: Features

  • 1st: Kristin Shaw

  • 2nd: Kathy Locke
  • 3rd: Mercedes Lilienthal
The 1st place trophy in this category goes to Kristin Shaw with “I’m Competing in a 1,500-Mile Off-Road Rally With a 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz” for The Drive. One judge said, “Kristin Shaw’s account of getting ready for the Rebelle Rally – an event that continues to generate good copy – was fun to read and moved along as quickly as a Rebelle entry.”

2nd place goes to Kathy Locke with “Baby Trophy Truck” in Toyota Cruisers and Trucks magazine. This story is about Kathy and her friend Josh’s 1981 Toyota pickup that he purchased to compete in King of the Hammers. It's about his love for the history of the truck and the perils of getting it back into race condition for its second chance at race life.

In 3rd, the judges again recognized Mercedes Lilienthal for her excellent work on ”Electric Realization: The Volkswagen ID.4 AWD Successfully Finishes The 2021 Rebelle Rally” for Forbes. This feature documented intricate details of how the AWD ID.4 handled and how Mercedes utilized her driving skills to bring it across the finish line eight days later. She covers EV off-roading challenges and what mini-rallies her team facedy. In the end, her team made history as the first-ever full EV to successfully finish the grueling traditional navigation rally in the X-Cross class. 

Writing: Reviews

  • 1st: David Boldt

  • 2nd: Kristin Shaw
  • 3rd: Bill Owney

Taking 1st place is David Boldt with “GOOD LORD! Land Rover’s Defender 90 V8” at TxGarage.com. One judge said David Boldt’s winning test drive was clever and informative – and there wasn’t a poorly written story in the bunch. Historical and whimsical with a sprinkling of personal touches, David’s review earned a top spot. 

In 2nd, it’s Kristin Shaw wrote “Bronco Everglades: Snorkel and Winch Included” for GearJunkie. “I had a chance to put the Bronco Everglades to the test in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, complete with deep water fording, winching, and rock crawling,” Kristin told us. “And lots of bugs.”

Earning a 3rd place award is Bill Owney with The 2021 Ford Raptor is the Corvette of Pickup Trucks,” which he wrote for the Texarkana Gazette. 

Overall Texas Truck Invitational Winner

Kristin Shaw with “I’m Competing in a 1,500-Mile Off-Road Rally With a 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.”

Congratulations to all of this year's 2022 EICC and Texas Truck Invitational winners! 



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