The Chapman Award is considered by many in the industry as the highest honor in racing public relations. It is named in memory of Chapman, the legendary PR executive and innovator, who worked with Babe Ruth and was named Indy Car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s. Chapman died in 1996 at age 80.
Layton, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has spent his entire adult life in motorsports and now is in his 22d year representing Honda in the IndyCar series. He began as a crew member for an SCCA amateur team while still in college. After graduation he combined a career as a driver with freelance writing assignments for racing publications, including Autosport, On Track and National Speed Sport News. He founded SugarCreek Productions in 1987, serving as communications director for Vicki O’Connor’s Pro-motion organization, promoter of the Formula Atlantic and Pro Sports 2000 championships. Other clients included IMSA, Shelton Racing and Pagan Racing at the 1994 Indy 500. His current duties encompass Honda Racing and Acura Motorsports activities in IndyCar, IMSA and the Pirelli World Challenge.
Chapman, who was born in Macon, Georgia, started as sports editor or managing editor of several Southern newspapers before joining the New York Times. He entered the PR business in 1946, as regional PR director for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit.
Chapman's professional achievements earned him vast recognition. The mayors of Detroit and Long Beach, Calif., presented him proclamations and the key to each city. In 1993, Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh named him Sagamore of the Wabash, the state's highest honor. He served as president and/or director of more than 30 Michigan and Detroit-area civic and charitable organizations. Chapman became active in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and represented the Detroit Urban League and United Negro College Fund in several controversial situations. He admitted to shedding "buckets of tears of joy" when Willy T. Ribbs became the first African-American driver to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1991.