EARNHARDT JR., RAHMER, AND OTHERS HONORED AT EMPA CONVENTION
TREVOSE, PA January 10, 1999 . . . Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Fred Rahmer earned the two top awards presented by the Eastern Motorsport Press Association at their annual convention. Earnhardt Jr. was honored for his NASCAR Busch Series Grand National championship season and received the prestigious Al Holbert Jr. Memorial/EMPA Driver of the Year award. Fred Rahmer, the winningest sprint car driver in the nation with 33 feature wins (two with the Pennzoil World of Outlaws), was honored as the Northeast Driver of the Year.
The annual convention took place at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Trevose, PA with more than 150 media and invited guests on hand. Awards were presented at the Winston Hall of Fame Dinner on Saturday evening.
EMPA President Ernie Saxton was introduced by banquet MC Earl Krause and made a few brief remarks. He then called his wife Marilyn to the front to accept a dozen roses from the organization. Saxton said, "She really is the one that works the hardest to make this convention come together each year. I just happen to get most of the credit." Saxton also got a "special award" from Dr. Joe Mattioli of Pocono Raceway. The award was a "rare photo" of Saxton presenting an award without a tie or jacket.
Six well known names in motor sports were inducted into the Eastern Motorsport Press Association Hall of Fame. "Big Daddy" Don Garlits lead the list of Hall of Fame inductees. Garlits was just recently named one of the top ten drivers of the century by SPORT magazine for his more than 50 NHRA top fuel wins. Modified racing greats Elton Hildreth and Gerald Chamberlain had their names added to the Hall of Fame. Martha O'Rourke was trapped in Florida by bad weather and was unable to be on hand to acccept the Hall of Fame statue for her late husband Bob O'Rourke, the man who was NASCAR modified racing on Long Island. Ed Darrell, the man who kept midget auto racing alive in the Mid-Atlantic region for several years, founded the All Star Outlaw midget organization and first brought sprint car racing (URC and World of Outlaws) to Grandview Speedway was inducted in the Hall. His "daughter" Marilyn Saxton accepted for the late race promoter and midget official. In turn Marilyn turned the statue over to Darrell's long time crew chief Bill Miller. And five time United Racing Club sprint car owner champion George Nesler was inducted.
Ron Hedger, columnist/writer for National Speed Sport News, Stock Car Racing Magazine and The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, NY, received the prestigious Frank Blunk Memorial Award for his outstanding journalistic efforts on behalf of the sport.
Ace Lane Jr. became the first two time winner of the Ace Lane Sr. Memorial award for his photography work and outstanding efforts on behalf of the sport. The award is named in honor of Ace's late father.
And Vicki Gehris received the Art McHugh Memorial Award given to a member of the organization that does outstanding work behind the scenes for the organization.
The first annual T. Wayne Robertson Memorial Newsmaker Award was presented to the late president of Sports Marketing Enterprises. Chad Willis of R.J.Reynolds/SME accepted the award on the Robertson family's behalf.
Robby Unser was on hand to talk about his Pep Boys Indy Racing League season and earned rave reviews for his efforts. Jeff Simmons, 1998 Barber Dodge Series champion, talking about his plans for the future. Simmons hinted that he was heading to the Indy Lights Series for '99 but was unable to make an announcement during the convention. Andy Belmont and Rick Skinner announced plans for a second team on the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde circuit with Polaroid involved. Publicist John Snyder and Bridgeport, NJ Speedway promoter Bob VanSciver represented the DIRT organization. Doc Watson spoke of his plans for the 1999 season with ARCA and has Glenn Brewer as his crew chief.
Al Robinson represented Dover Downs International Speedway while Pocono Raceway was represented by Dr. Joe and Rose Mattioli along with Bob Pleban. Nazareth Speedway plans were outlined by Keith Green (new public relations person) and Bill Miller (new general manager).
Doug Starrett and Bryan Kobylarz (1998 champion) represented the American Racing Drivers Club and spoke of ARDC's 60 years. DIRT Modified racer Dave Adams outlined new sponsorship plans which includes the Pennco Automotive Schools.
Sprint car racer Jeff Shepard talked about his plans for at least 100 sprint car race events this season. Shepard indicated that he has his sights set on a Winston Cup career and hopes to move up to the next level soon. Shepard's plans for this season are the same as last year. The team will run the money races in '99. Russ Brown and car owner Skip Timpano outlined their American Pride Race Team plans for the NASCAR Busch Series North season.
Championship Auto Racing Teams T.E.McHale outlined the season schedule for the FedEx Championship Series.
NASCAR Busch Series North racer Bill Hoff made a sponsorship announcement and detailed his plans for the new season. Hoff will move to the Hooters Pro Series plus run a couple of ARCA events with some sponsorship support from Pep Boys.
National Hot Rod Association public relations represenative Anthony Vestal outlined plans for 1999. And Century 21 Real Estate announced their sponsorship plans for the new season with NHRA Pro Stock racer Tom Martino. Century 21 unveiled their Pro Stock car at the convention and had several key executives there.
Dino Oberto filled attendees in on plans for a switch of nights for racing at Mahoning Valley Speedway and a working agreement between Mahoning and Evergreen Speedway.
Grandview Speedway again sponsored their annual hospitality room at the convention a tradition that goes back at least 10 years.
Supporting the convention were Pocono Raceway, STP, Goodyear, Century 21, Tosco 76, Performance Racing Industry Magazine, NHRA, Winston, NASCAR, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Indy Racing League.
First place awards in the Performance Racing Industry Magazine/EMPA Broadcast Contest went to Erik Thomas/Jim Massingberd of RACELINE Radio Network in the radio division and to Len Sammons for his Area Auto Racing News Season Wrap Video in the video division.
In the STP/EMPA Writers Contest, Scott Walsh of the Scranton, PA Sunday Times earned first in the Daily Column division. Walsh was first in the Daily Feature division also. Ron Hedger earned the top prize in the Daily News division with the Daily Gazette of Schenectady, NY. Richard Huff of the New York Daily News took first in Daily Personality Profile and Daily Race Report.
In the magazine division Bones Bourcier tabbed a first in the column category representing Stock Car Racing Magazine. Bruce Bennett took first in Magazine Feature for an article in Stock Car Racing Magazine. Eddie Smith earned a first for a news article in Trackside Magazine while Bones Bourcier was tops in the Magazine Personality Profile for an Open Wheel Magazine article on Doug Wolfgang. First in Magazine Race Report went to Bruce Bennett of Open Wheel Magazine.
In the weekly publications J.R. Kennerup got a first for his weekly column in Area Auto Racing News. In fact Area Auto Racing News had a clean sweep with John Snyder getting a first in Weekly Feature, Mike Lloyd was first in Weekly News, Kyle Hardner was tops in Weekly Personality Profile and Eddie Smith got a first for Weekly Race Coverage.
In the Tosco 76 Photography Contest, first places went to Mel Stettler (Area Auto Racing News) for Action Photo, David Pratt (Trackside Magazine) for Action Sequence, Dan Schafer (Speedway Scene) in Crash Action, Jack Kromer (Open Wheel Magazine) in Feature photographs and Harold Hoch (Reading Eagle) with Picture Story. Additional Tosco 76 photo award winners were Bob Yurko in Potrait & Personality with Area Auto Racing News, Richard Grunert in Unpublished Black and White while David DeAngelis got a first in Unpublished Color. Harold Hoch (National Dragster and Boyertown Times) earned Best of Show and David Dalesandro got the Portfolio of the Year award.
Judging in all contests is done by outside judges who are professionals but are not actively involved in motorsports and do not have any interest or financial gain based on results of any of the contests.