Tuesday, January 15, 2008


My congratulations to Dave Densmore and Bob Carlson, announced as recipients of the 2007 Jim Chapman Award at last Saturday night's 38th AARWBA All-America Team ceremony presented by A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at the Indianapolis Hyatt.

For the first time in the award's history (it dates back to 1991), two honorees were chosen in the same year. The Chapman, for excellence in motorsports public relations, is decided by AARWBA media members who knew and cared about the legendary PR executive. I have the honor of chairing this committee and, as usual, went to the podium to remember Jim, who was my best friend and had a profound influence on my life and career.

Paul Page (right), now anchoring ESPN2's NHRA coverage, came up to announce and present to Dave. As I've written before, Densmore (center) endured the unendurable in 2007, after decades as John Force's main publicist and media guru. I also know Dave to be a wonderful resource to journalists as a drag racing historian.

Then, the AP's Mike Harris stepped to the stage to announce Bob. The longtime Porsche PR ace was unable to attend as he continues to recover from cancer surgery. The week before, I had the pleasure of telephoning Bob with the happy news. Bob and I worked together on the Porsche Indy Car project in 1988, and mutually went through the experience of our friend Al Holbert's fatal airplane crash that September. Bob sent along this message that Mike read to dinner guests:

"I’m terribly disappointed at not being able to personally accept this wonderful award from you this evening. I’m in the final stages of recuperation from successful cancer surgery and expect to be up and about within the next month. At the same time, I’m very pleased to have my old friend Mike Harris accept this award on my behalf.

"I can’t begin to tell you how much this prestigious award means to me. I knew Jim Chapman during the years Porsche raced on the CART circuit. My initial impression was how much he enjoyed supervising the all-female PPG pace car program. He always had a smile on his face and was an extremely popular man at the track.

"But Jim was much more than a host. Jim Chapman was the consummate public relations professional. He was always truthful and credible. Jim added a great deal to the CART series. It was clear he loved what he did and was always willing to do what it would take to enhance the
series for everyone’s benefit. He was willing to put as much INTO racing as he received FROM it. I believe this was one of his criteria for being a public relations professional. And that is why I am so honored and grateful to receive this award named after Jim Chapman.

"I would like to thank the voting committee for their support. I would also like to thank Michael Knight for organizing and maintaining this award that honors Jim Chapman’s memory and highly professional work ethic. And finally, I would like to thank Porsche and Porsche Cars
North America for allowing me to represent them and provide counsel to them for the past 23 years. For me, this is truly a dream job.

"I look forward to seeing you at the races this year."

Jim would fully agree with Dave and Bob as winners of the 2007 Chapman Award. The honor for Dave and Bob is not the plaque. The TRUE honor is having their names forever associated with that of the great James P. Chapman.
Congratulations, too, to Dario Franchitti, winner of AARWBA's Jerry Titus Memorial Trophy. The Titus goes to the driver who receives the most votes for the All-America Team and is named in memory of the late AARWBA member journalist-driver.

Dario made a great effort to be with us. His schedule has been in tremendous flux as he prepares for NASCAR. It would have been very easy for him to simply tell me "no" -- and there were times that happened as Dario actually expected to be out-of-the-country last weekend. As a professional, though, Dario kept AARWBA in mind as circumstances changed. In addition to the Titus and his Horsepower Trophy as a Team member in the open-wheel category, Dario received his Indy 500 winner's ring from Speedway President Joie Chitwood during our new pre-dinner Shav Glick Newsmakers Forum. Plus, his image on the Borg-Warner Trophy was unveiled. As the dinner chairman, I can say it was fantastic for AARWBA to play host to this traditional IMS ceremony.

AARWBA also greatly benefitted from the persistent effort of Dario's new team publicist, Kelby Krauss. To "Doctor No" and the other NASCAR team/sponsor publicists who routinely reject media requests faster than their drivers make a lap, please take note of how Kelby hung-in-there with AARWBA and helped make it happen. Thank you, Kelby!

(Photos courtesy of my friend Dan R. Boyd.)

[ more on the AARWBA ceremony next Tuesday . . . ]