– DECEMBER 14TH, 1979 – PAGE 10 & 11 –
WILL THE REAL PROMOTER OF THE YEAR PLEASE STAND UP?
The November 23rd issue of SPEEDWAY SCENE carried an article entitled; “Nominees Selected As Voting Begins For Promoter of the Year,” which ran beneath the photos of the ten men who’d been nominated by their constituents.
Selected as candidates for the award to be presented during Daytona Speed Week ’80 in February are Earl Baltes and George Eisenhart of Ohio, Hugh Deery of Illinois, Bob Barkhimer of California, Jack Gunn of Maryland, John Marcum of Michigan, Roger Holdeman of Indiana, Don Martin of Pennsylvania plus Glenn Donnelly and Dick O’Brien of New York.
RPM (Racing Promotion Monthly), a newsletter printed each month for oval track and drag strip promoters and businessmen, is the publication behind the award which is presented annually by the Thermo King Corporation.
The honoring of a promoter each year is a great idea as these are the people who work long hours week in and week out during the on and off season to keep their little part of the racing industry in operation.
Joe Fan, who the promoters work so hard to entice to his or her speedway each week, has no idea how many hours these people work at their job. They only see them on race day and then in most instances its in the infield observing the show.
In many cases the promoter is the general manager, public relations person, racing director and at one time or another can be found doing a dozen or so other odd jobs as they come up.
Many competitors and fans alike have the feeling that promoters show up to unlock the gates, turn on the lights and for doing this they get to see the show for free. Most promoters wished it was that easy. Very few competitors work as hard as a dedicated promoter. Oh yeah! There’s always the exception to the rule like in anything such as the “dud” that almost put Thunder Road International Speedbowl into total oblivion a year and a half ago or the one who decided to bail out at Monadnock Speedway this past season after making numerous enemies amongst both competitors and fans alike.
That’s the way I feel a promoter who does a super job in his or her field should definitely be honored for what they’ve accomplished.
RPM’s idea of paying tribute to a promoter is a great one, but a lot of people, including myself, do take exception to some of the qualifications and criteria established for nominating and voting for a “Promoter of the Year.”
There are four qualifications set forth by the publication, so let’s look at each one individually.
1. Success and longevity of his operation …. Personally, I feel a promoter should also be considered for the accomplishments of the immediate year. If a promoter takes over a speedway or a racing related organization on the down hill slide and in one year has great success in pumping life back into the facility, then he or she should be eligible for “Promoter of the Year” honors. They shouldn’t be penalized for being a new promoter or for how long they’ve been involved with a certain speedway. How many times has a “Driver of the Year” been selected because he’s driven ten or fifteen years? Never! He’s given the honor for his accomplishments of the immediate year. Would they give Carl Yastrzemsky “Player of the Year” honors in the American League just because he’s had a great career with the Red Sox? Of course not! They’d give it to a man who’s had an outstanding season for that specific year.
2. Image of his operation …. If the promoter’s speedway has had a successful season then the facility will in all likelyhood have a most favorable image.
3. Personal reputation and character …. I don’t totally agree with this item as who cares if the promoter is a jerk or a crook or an …hole. If the speedway this person is involved with has had a very successful season then who cares as to whether the promoter is a good guy or a bad guy. I don’t as I feel his accomplishments are on trial not his reputation or character.
4. His concern with betterment of the industry …. This qualification I’m in total agreement with as I believe a promoter has to have consideration for the sport, fans, competitors, other speedways and his contemporaries.
Personally, I feel that several people have been overlooked for this year’s RPM award and it has really bothered me with such names as Dick Williams, Dale Campfield, and Tom Curley not even being mentioned.
Williams has had an outstanding year with Westboro Speedway increasing both attendance and purse structure while Campfield took over at Shangri-La Speedway and proceeded to have the best season in many a year. Curley took a floundering Northern NASCAR and turned it into a super successful NASCAR North Tour in just one year.
Others in the Northeast who could be considered for nomination are N.E.M.M.A. (New England Mini Modified Association) president Dan Messervey who had a heck of a season promoting the organization and C.J. Richards who has put Albany-Saratoga Speedway back on the map. What about C.O.D.A. (Claremont Owners & Drivers Association) and myself who doubled the attendance at Claremont Speedway in 1979 and at the same time brought about an increase purse and a substantial point fund. There’s Charlie Elliott at Hudson Speedway.
As far as that goes, what about a couple of fellows outside of the Northeast? Ted Johnson who has had a tremendous success in promoting his World of Outlaws series for sprint cars and N.D.R.A. (National Dirt Racing Association) promoter Robert Smawley who success with his dirt stock car travelling show is now well known across the country. There’s probably plenty of other promoters around the U.S. who are deserving of the award but these are the only I know of outside the Northeast.
The ten individuals selected may all be deserving, especially Glenn Donnelly who is probably overdue for the award after seeing hist Dirt of Central New York operation in motion at Super Dirt Week in Syracuse. I do know O’Brien but having not made it to Oswego Speedway yet I can’t give an opinion. Baltes ripped up the asphalt at his New Breman Speedway returning the facility to dirt and then played to standing room only crowds for the remainder of the season. He did what he had to do to make his track a winner and that’s what it takes to be an outstanding promoter.
The thing I’d like to see RPM do is break the United States into ten regions, therefor presenting regional “Promoter of the Year” awards. The ten nominees would then be eligible for National honors. A map accompanying this column shows by shaded area the over emphasis to one area of the U.S.. What about the Western, Midwestern, Central, South and Southeastern part of the country that are not even represented? There has to be a promoter in all these areas that is equal to any of the ten finalists.
The map shows ten regions in bold outline with the approximate number of speedways and drag strips located in each state. Alaska and Hawaii are included with the Far West Region.
It’s definitely got to be a tough job to select ten, let alone one outstanding promoter of the more than 900 tracks and drag strips across the USA. I feel the Minnesota based RPM has the right idea in honoring a promoter each year, but again there has to be a fairer way to go about it.
Let’s honor each region individually giving a better overall picture of the American Auto Racing promoter, then maybe people like Williams, Campfield, Curley and others mentioned before might have a fair chance at the honor. Of course, they may not even get recognized then, but it would seem to be a better way of picking outstanding promoters on a more regional basis.
This is the fourth year of RPM’s promoter award and in that time there has only been eighteen different nominees. A couple questions I’d like to ask are how can six of this years candidates be four year repeaters including 1976 winner Deery. One of the men has been selected for the third straight year. J.C. Agajanian, 1977 winner, promotes Ascot Park Speedway in Gardena, California just outside Los Angeles and plays to packed 10,000 seat audiences. Hell! Mickey Mouse could promote a track just outside a city the size L.A.. I’m still trying to figure out how last year’s winner got the award after what Williams accomplished at the Waterford-New London Speedbowl. I guess it’s who you know, but it shouldn’t be this way.
My idea may not be the right one, but RPM has to take a serious look at the system it presently uses in selecting the “Thermo King Auto Racing Promoter of the Year.“
Until this happens; “Will the real Promoter of the Year please stand up!“
Till next time; “Don’t forget the FASSR and also give a friend a Christmas present, get him or her a subscription to SPEEDWAY SCENE!“
* * * * *
– FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28TH, 1979 – PAGE 3 –
“RACING PROMOTION MONTHLY” EDITOR STRIKES BACK AT ECHO
Mr. Val LeSieur,
Editor & Publisher
Northeaston, Mass. 02356
Since you devoted the better part of two pages in the 12/14 issue of SPEEDWAY SCENE to Robert Echo’s critique of the Promoter of the Year awards program, I can only assume that you are in agreement with what he wrote. I find that regrettable, but can’t argue with your right to give space to whom you choose — even to the occasionally rabidly-prejudiced views of Dean Nardi.
I don’t know much about Echo or his background in racing. I’ve read his stuff since his “NERF’ers Corner” column appeared in NESS. My most notable recollection of his writings is that he once suggested that fans should start a non-fan club and demonstrate against a certain driver he didn’t like. Echo may have some qualifications beyond that of an unpaid “hobby columnist,” but his views of the ARPY program are so flawed and tainted with naive regional prejudices that I feel compelled to comment.
First, the ARPY voting is conducted (via Racing Promotion Monthly) among our 1,800-plus readers — who include virtually every promoter, track and drag strip owner/operator, racing association officials and members of the racing press. On the first nominating ballot, they can name any ten individuals they wish as nominees. There are no restrictions, regional or otherwise, although we do suggest the minimal criteria he mentioned. The ten promoters who receive the highest number of nominating votes become the nominees for each year’s award. They are listed on a final ballot in another issue of RPM, on which the same 1,800-odd people can vote for one of the ten nominees as their choice for Promoter of the Year.
Regarding Echo’s evaluation of the nominating criteria: (1) Success and longevity of the operation. He feels more weight should be given to success in the current year. While that should certainly be taken into consideration, we feel that continued successful operation is a much more logical measure of the ability of a promoter. The ARPY awards seek to honor individuals who are making continuing contributions to our sport, not just those who have had a successful first year or a great season.
(2) Image of his operation. This means simply what people think of that promoter’s operation — its continuing reputation as a credit to the sport — again, not just on the basis of a given or current season, although those factors should be considered.
(3) Personal reputation and character. Here Echo is dead wrong. We feel strongly that the personal character of a nominee is of prime importance, in that when he is nominated he becomes, in effect, a representative of the sport and of his contemporaries. Those in Echo’s categories of “jerks, crooks or …holes” are seldom nominated, and we are perfectly happy with that.
(4) His concern with the betterment of the industry. Echo says he is in total agreement with this qualification — and he is thereby hoist by his own petard. First because he is in conflict with his statements on #3 (jerks and crooks seldom contribute anything to the sport), and secondly and more importantly, because This criterion is key to why most promoters are nominated: BECAUSE THEY ARE VISIBLE AND ACTIVE IN THE INDUSTRY. Not just at their own tracks or in one area, but in addressing matters of concern to all track operators; in attending meetings of their contemporaries and taking part in discussions and actions effecting the general well being of racing. In doing so, a promoter becomes more visible, and becomes known among his fellows.
Echo names several promoters he thinks should have been among the nominees for Promoter of the Year. By strange coincidence, they are all from the northeast. We’ll forgive him this regional chauvinism, but point out that those promoters were not necessarily forgotten in the voting. As an example, Dale Campfield got a substantial number of nominating votes; not enough to become one of the top ten in the country, but knowing Dale, I’d guess he would be the first to say he doesn’t feel he should be one of the top ten promoters in the country based on a successful first season.
In any voting conducted among their fellow promoters, visibility in the industry is going to be a highly significant factor in the outcome. Of the eight promoters Echo said he thought should have been nominees, three, to our knowledge, have attended national meetings of promoters, where they gather to share problems and solutions, get to know each other, and become known by others in the trade (incidentally, two of the promoters he thought should have been considered did get some votes, but their operations got more bad press than good during this year — which makes one wonder where Echo has been hiding).
As for his query about how, “last year’s winner got the award after what (Dick) Williams accomplished at (his track), the answer is very simple; he got more votes. With all due respect to Williams and what he did at the Waterford Speedbowl, does Echo really think more people across the country are aware of Williams and his operation than of a D. Anthony Venditti? As for Echo’s remark, “I guess it’s who you know,” that is stupid and insulting. More accurately, it is who knows YOU.
Finally, Echo reveals his lack of knowledge of today’s race promotion with the asinine remark that “Micky Mouse could promote a track outside the city of L.A..” (Suggesting that J.C. Agajanian shouldn’t be a ARPY nominee because he has an easy promotion at Ascot). For Echo’s information, the difficulty in promoting successfully increases in proportion to the population factor, for many reasons; costs of all phases of the operation (advertising in particular), plus the hundreds of things competing for the entertainment dollar in major markets. In California in particular, there are not only more professional sports and attractions, but the huge, year round outdoor recreation industry (more cycles and off road vehicles than all other states combined). Echo’s suggestion that a track in any major metro area should be an automatic success is 100% out of phase with what’s happening.
The method of voting for the Thermo King Promoter of the Year awards was established for the initial five-year period of the program. Because the permanent awarding by the voting in each of the five years, the methodology cannot be changed during that period. Like any such program of voting, it probably has its short comings, but we believe it has provided outstanding nominees and, to date, three most worthy Promoters of the Year in Hugh Deery, J.C. Agajanian and D. Anthony Venditti. At least the program is an honest attempt to offer long-overdue recognition to people whose hard work in racing is largely unrecognized.
Very truly yours,
Racing promotion Monthly
* * * * *
Directly under the RPM Editor-Publisher’s letter in SPEEDWAY SCENE was the following reply by SPEEDWAY SCENE’s Editor-Publisher Val LeSieur.
* * * * *
– FRIDAY, JANUARY 4TH, 1980 – PAGE 4 –
More Accurately, It Is The WHO Knows YOU Popularity Contest
After reading Stew Reamer’s reply to my column of December 14th entitled, “Will the Real Promoter of the Year Please Stand Up.”, I see no alternative, but to counter some of the things this editor-publisher of Racing Promotion Monthly had to say.
In the opening paragraph of his letter to SPEEDWAY SCENE’s Editor-Publisher Val LeSieur last week, Reamer said something about the rabidly prejudice views of Dean Nardi. What I can’t understand is how the name of Mr. Nardi got into the subject. Nardi has been gone from this publication for at least six months, in fact no one has seen or heard from him in all this time and the last I knew he was in France or somewhere in that general vicinity. Personally, I think Mr. Reamer has been waiting for his chance to get a shot at Nardi and picked this as the inappropriate time…..for shame!
Mr. Reamer should talk about rabidly-prejudice views for it is he who did a three part assassination attempt in RPM on Mike Adaskaveg and the Journal Inquirer after their controversial award winning articles on safety at Thompson Speedway.
Mr. Reamer stated that my views of the ARPY program are so flawed and tainted with naive regional prejudices that he felt compelled to comment. He later stated, and I quote, “..we’ll forgive him (me) this regional chauvinism..”, unquote ….. Well, Mr. Reamer …. Don’t! If you’d have read my column closely you’d have realized that I’m primarily a Northeastern racing enthusiast and I’m interested in the readership within SPEEDWAY SCENE’s coverage area which just so happens to be the Northeast by coincidence, but I also stated in the column, and I quote, “There’s probably plenty of other promoters around the U.S. who are deserving of the award.”, unquote… yes, you could say I’m prejudice to the Northeast since my column is entitled, “NERF’ers Corner” which, just by chance, stands for, “North East Auto Racing Fans Corner.”
You shouldn’t guess as to what a person might say if he was to be confronted with the questions as to whether he thinks he’s deserving of the award. I asked the person in question and the answer I got might surprise even you Mr. Reamer. One of the men listed in your final top ten feels the same as the editor of this publication, that being that your award is only a “popularity contest.” You stated it yourself in your reply, and I quote, “More accurately, it is WHO KNOWS YOU!” unquote…. Need I say more?
As far as the two promoters I mentioned in my column who got more bad press than good during the year…. Well, are we looking at the end result which is in the number of cars in the pits and people throughout the gates or are you more interested in bad press about three of the individuals listed in your final ten nominees for 1979? If you’re interested in bad press then you’d better drop these three people from the voting, in fact you might think about withdrawing RPM from the ARPY program because you’ve got some bad press lately.
One promoter told me after reading your reply, that your remark about it being tougher to promote a track in a high population area than it is in a less populated region is totally asinine.
I’ll say it once again, the sport of auto racing needs a “Promoter of the Year” award, but I think RPM and Stew Reamer could find a better way of selecting the ARPY winner like the regional method I pictured in the map which accompanied my earlier column. I also feel Mr. Reamer has to take a serious look at the criteria for selecting the ARPY Award winner each year… Year?
Remember, RPM has titled the award, “Auto Racing Promoter of the Year” not of the twenty years or thirty-two years or one hundred years, but “..of the Year!“….. You did say “of the Year” didn’t you Mr. Reamer?
Till next time, Introduce a friend to SPEEDWAY SCENE….
* * * * *
This was the first time I had the privilege of reading “Will the Real Promoter of the Year Please Stand Up”, the RPM Editor-Publisher Stew Reamer’s response, Val LeSieur’s response to Mr. Reamer’s letter, and the rebuttal to Stew Reamer’s response by the NERF, “More Accurately, It Is The WHO Knows YOU Popularity Contest”. Boy the nominee announcement kicked off plenty of a buzz.
Looking through the the old SPEEDWAY SCENE editions I have, it should be noted that Robert Echo was only one of many who questioned certain promoters being passed over. Among the numerous columnists of the times who commented on it was Bones Bourcier who mentions in his Modified Madness column from December 14th, “Can’t figure out how those who nominated this year’s “Promoter of the Year” candidates overlooked Dick Williams for the job he did at Westboro, Dale Campfield of Shangri-La, Tom Curley of NASCAR North, Danny Meservey of NEMMA (New England Mini Modified Assoc.) and several other folks who deserved at least a nomination…”
Another note.. “Personally, I think Mr. Reamer has been waiting for his chance to get a shot at Nardi and picked this as the inappropriate time….” This line struck a familiar chord due to a present time issue with an mad blogger out of Connecticut who’s first verbal attack on yours truly and used his chance to take a shot at a few other media folks with whom, at the time, I was only somewhat familiar with. Inappropriate perfectly describes it when the shots the angry one took should have only involved myself. How do you describe someone who is clearly searching for drama by throwing others into the fire in an issue where only one individual is involved?
The NERF took on this subject because it was indeed one close to him. He had just finished a successful season promoting at Claremont Speedway in New Hampshire and his new Public Relations position with SPEEDWAY SCENE was essentially the promoter’s position for the publication.
Let it never be said that SPEEDWAY SCENE and it’s Editor-Publisher, Val LeSieur didn’t give his writers a platform that allowed them to freely speak their peace whether he agreed or disagreed with what they wrote. It was a publication by the fans for the fans and most certainly The Racer’s Voice by Choice.
*All photos in these republished works were taken were published with the original pieces in SPEEDWAY SCENE.