AARWBA honors Irwindale's Doug Stokes

Doug Stokes Wins Jim Chapman Award POMONA, Calif. (January 15) Doug Stokes, Irwindale Speedway director of communications, is the recipient of the 2004 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations. The announcement was made...

Doug Stokes Wins Jim Chapman Award

POMONA, Calif. (January 15) Doug Stokes, Irwindale Speedway director of communications, is the recipient of the 2004 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.

The announcement was made Saturday night at the 35th annual American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's All-America Team dinner at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel. AARWBA is the country's oldest and largest organization of motorsports media professionals. AARWBA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and, with the permission of the Chapman family, has resumed the Chapman Award.

The honor is named in memory of Chapman, the legendary Detroit-area PR executive, who was a confidant of Babe Ruth and best remembered by many as director of racing for CART series sponsor PPG Industries from 1981 through his retirement in 1992. Chapman, who also orchestrated the annual Driver of the Year ceremony, died in 1996 at age 80. The Chapman Award was presented throughout the 1990s for PR achievement in the CART series but was on hiatus in recent years. AARWBA expanded eligibility to PR representatives from all forms of motorsports and Stokes was selected by an AARWBA blue-ribbon committee.

Stokes has played a key role in making Irwindale Speedway, a one-half mile paved oval near Los Angeles that opened in 1999, into one of the country's best-known short tracks. In addition to its own regular series, Irwindale hosts major national events, such as the USAC Thanksgiving Night Midget Grand Prix and the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown. Prior to joining the Irwindale staff, Stokes worked on the L.A. Vintage Grand Prix and at Perris Auto Speedway.

The Chapman Award was presented to Stokes by Los Angeles Times Hall of Fame sportswriter Shav Glick, and introduced by AARWBA 50th Anniversary Celebration Chairman Michael Knight, winner of the first Chapman Award in 1991. Both Glick and Knight were close friends of Chapman. Other previous winners were: Tom Blattler, 1992; Deke Houlgate and Hank Ives, 1993-1994; Kathi Lauterbach, 1995; Marc Spiegel, 1996; Mike Zizzo, 1997; Tamy Valkosky, 1998.

"Doug Stokes is a great friend of AARWBA and a perfect choice to win the Jim Chapman Award, especially at the start of our 50th anniversary year," said AARWBA President Dusty Brandel.

Comment from Mr. Stokes

Dear Madame President:

Here it is now late on Sunday evening and it's just starting to settle in. What a wonderful honor -- And what a mess I made of my "acceptance speech" last night. (Honestly, I have never been so flummoxed in my life -- The last thing I remember was thinking "Why the heck, is Shav saying MY name -- Who the hell won the award?")

And the next thing I knew Lisa McClure was tugging me up out of my seat and sort of herding me toward the stage. The rest is a complete blur (I looked at a couple of the photos that Albert Wong was kind enough to bring by this afternoon and still wonder who that was up there).

Anyhow, I need to express my heartfelt thanks to AARWBA and especially to the blue ribbon committee for this signal honor. Jim Chapman was the original and undisputed "PRguy's PRguy". He taught us all by example as well as by results. He shaped motorsports public relations and promotion into an art form and, in doing so, gained the respect of everyone in the business.

Having my name added to the list of people who have been given the Chapman Award is something that I would have never dreamed up in a thousand single-spaced, double-sided pages of heavy-duty PR hype.

The list of people who I needed to thank last night for getting me to that point begins with my dear wife, Dede who is always there for me. This wonderful young woman understands my dreams and gives me the support I need to deal with them.

As for the PR business, I must thank old friend Stuart Rowlands, the late Bob Russo, the International Kart Federation, Mickey Thompson, the Kazarian family, and Jim Williams, all people and organizations who let me "play on their fields". They gave me great things (shows, projects, products, events, ideas, facilities) to work with and then stepped back and let me try to tell the media why they should write column inches or spend air time on our particular stories.

My entire job interview for Perris Auto Speedway consisted of a single question: "Do you know Shav Glick?" To have Shav himself present the Chapman Award to me last night was simply perfect.

Of course I thank everyone on the AARWBA board for the great honor of being the newest recipient of the Chapman in the past few years. Reviving this award is brilliant idea, and for future awardees, I thank you. Jim Chapman's legacy is one that truly deserves preservation.

I would be remiss if I did not single out one of the true super stars of PR Michael Knight. Michael's warm handshake and hug on the podium last night were very special to this fan (of his).

Once again, I am greatly humbled by this award, thank you all for your kindness and such generous recognition. I only hope that I can live up to the high standards that Jim Chapman set for all of us in this business.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

-STOKES

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