Linda Vaughn, who as Miss Hurst Golden Shifter and “The First Lady of Auto Racing” became one of the sport’s greatest world-wide ambassadors, today was announced as the first recipient of an honorary Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.
The Chapman Award, established in 1991, 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, Dan Gurney, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti, Bill France Sr. and Avis Rent-a-Car founder Warren Avis among many others. Chapman, named Indy Car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s, died in 1996 at age 80.
The announcement was made at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the annual American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association breakfast meeting. Michael Knight, chairman of the selection committee and one of Chapman’s closest friends, made the presentation.
This first-ever honorary Chapman Award is the result of several suggestions and endorsement of the Chapman family and approval of members of the national media selection committee. Vaughn has earned PR awards from NHRA and SEMA and is in several Halls of Fame.
Sheryl Kammer, Chapman’s daughter, said: “I know Dad liked and respected Linda. She would also have to be much more than pretty to win Dad’s approval. This first honorary Jim Chapman Award is a terrific idea.”
“There is absolutely no question, and I know from my own conversations with him, that Jim had great respect for Linda,” said Knight, the long-time journalist/publicist and award rights-holder. “Jim was a true ‘people person’ and so is Linda.
“Linda went from being Miss Atlanta Speedway and Miss Pure Firebird to learn and become an accomplished public relations representative and marketer for Hurst. She became a friend and confidant to drivers and their families. She helped the media and introduced many journalists, including me, to drivers, owners and executives. She probably has been in more victory lanes than anyone on Earth. And she remains one of racing’s greatest international ambassadors, making fans for the sport everywhere she’s traveled."
Established in 1991 by media and publicists within the CART series, the Chapman Award originally focused on achievement in CART. After a hiatus of several years, the award was resumed in 2004, with eligibility expanded to anyone working in racing PR.
The award honors Chapman’s legacy as one of the public relations profession’s greatest and most innovative professionals.
Chapman was a journalist before entering the PR business in 1946, as regional PR director for Ford Motor Co. in Detroit.
Soon thereafter, Chapman hired Ruth as consultant to the automaker’s sponsorship of American Legion Junior Baseball. They traveled together for more than two years for personal appearances and became close friends. In 1950, Chapman left Ford to start his own PR firm. One of his first clients was Warren Avis and he devoted much of his time to financial PR, which he called his “favorite” form of PR.
Chapman’s first venture into motorsports was in 1951, when he joined with NASCAR founder Bill France to promote the Motor City 250. The race was part of Detroit’s 250th birthday celebration, a Chapman client. In 1967, Chapman entered Indy Car racing with client Ozzie Olson’s Olsonite sponsorship of Dan Gurney’s team, which later featured Bobby Unser as driver.
Chapman also directed Olsonite’s sponsorship of the Driver of the Year award. He orchestrated all the details, including the media panel voting, and an annual luncheon at New York City’s famed ‘21’ Club.
Chapman’s greatest professional acclaim came from 1981-1992, as director of CART series sponsor PPG Industries’ program. Chapman was instrumental in raising PPG’s prize fund from $250,000 to more than $3.75 million at the time of his retirement in February 1993. The all-female PPG Pace Car Driving Team was another Chapman innovation, as were the PPG Editors’ Days, when he brought business and feature writers to the tracks for lunch, pace car rides, and driver interviews.
In 1982, Chapman negotiated a landmark sponsorship for PPG with then- Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Joe Cloutier, which formally made the Indy 500 a points-paying event in the PPG Indy Car World Series. That arrangement continued through the 1995 season. In addition to a major contribution to the prize fund, PPG later became sponsor of the $100,000 Indy 500 pole award, and paid a special winner’s bonus in the early years of NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
Indy Car Racing magazine named Chapman the sport’s “most influential” man of the 1980s, saying he turned “a public relations assignment into an art form.” After his retirement, Chapman continued to consult PPG, and agreed to Mario Andretti’s personal request that he serve as honorary chairman of Andretti’s “Arrivederci, Mario” farewell tour in 1994.
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.
Later this year, the national media selection committee, most of who knew Chapman, will nominate and vote for PR representatives from all forms of motorsports for the 2015 honor. The award is authorized by the Chapman family.
JIM CHAPMAN AWARD HONOREES:
1991 – Michael Knight
1992 – Tom Blattler
1993-94 – Deke Houlgate and Hank Ives
1995 – Kathi Lauterbach
1996 – Marc Spiegel
1997 – Mike Zizzo
1998 – Tamy Valkosky
1999 -- Carol Wilkins
2000-2003 – (Award not presented)
2004 – Doug Stokes
2005 – Susan Arnold
2006 – Kevin Kennedy
2007 – Dave Densmore and Bob Carlson
2008 – Judy Stropus
2009 – (Award not presented)
2010 -- Jim Hunter
2011 -- Bill York
2012 -- Judy Kouba Dominick and Nancy Wager
2013 -- Anne Fornoro
2014 -- Jon Edwards and Elon Werner