Professional members of the Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA), along with Associate members and corporate sponsors, reminded each other of the passion each has for motorsports during the annual EMPA convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Whether it was track or sanctioning body representatives providing information on their upcoming seasons, or track champions re-living their 2013 seasons, everyone spoke with the passion that has kept motorsports alive and well.
Now living the dream, as he said, he is a pit reporter on MRN’s Sprint Cup broadcasts and co-hosts the “NASCAR Performance Live,” “Winged Nation” and “Fast Food” shows. He is also a reporter for “NASCAR USA,” contributes to “Raceline,” hosts “Diecast Review” on YouTube.com and serves as track announcer for Charlotte Motor Speedway’s “Summer Shootout” series.
His presentation was all about passion—how the sport was built on it, and how race fans will sit out rain delays and drive hours to watch events because of their passion for racing. He urged those in attendance to continue to work with the passion that he knows each has, and to use social media and other means of appealing to a broad and more tech-savvy fan base.
Ricky Yetter and Lewis Gruppo returned to the event for a special panel discussion on various legal issues press members and photographers may face in conducting their work. They also spoke about identity theft and the value of protecting one’s personal property, such as websites, an issue at least one EMPA member faced this past year.
Fred Rahmer, who retired in 2013 after an illustrious sprint car racing career, was on hand to accept two awards: the Richie Evans Memorial Northeast Driver of the Year, and the Jerry Reigle Outstanding Contribution to Sprint Car Racing, presented by New England Racing Fuel. Rahmer spoke about mutual respect.
“All I ever wanted to do was to be respected,” he told the crowd during the Saturday night banquet. “This award is special because it is named after one of the best, Richie Evans.”
Rahmer recalled the late Jerry Reigle as one of his favorite reporters because he wasn’t afraid to come over and get the real answer.
“I respected him for that.”
Mike Colsten, who beat medical odds this past year and won the Modified championship at Five Mile Point Speedway, accepted the EMPA President’s Award. He referred to the honor as a humbling experience that means so much to him.
“The racing community was there for me—some I knew, some I didn’t know, and some I thought didn’t even like me,” he told the crowd. He said the many prayers from the racing community are the reason he survived and added that “this is on top of the list of my awards I’ve received.”
Don and Marilyn Toal were named the Junie Donlavey Spirit of the Sport Award winners for raising more than $1 million in lap money over many years for drivers in the prestigious Race of Champions. ROC owner/promoter, Andrew Harpell, presented the award.
“This is our passion,” Marilyn Toal stated. “We started in 1965 and we’ve kept doing it out of love for the sport.”
Marilyn added that they are pleased that their daughter and granddaughter help them and will continue the Toal tradition.
Both Tony Stewart, the T. Wayne Robertson Newsmaker of the Year, and Daryn Pittman, the Al Holbert Memorial National Driver of the Year, sent videos thanking the membership for their awards. Mike Mahaney, winner of the John Blewett III Young Guns Award, was in attendance and called it a huge honor.
“This goes to an up and coming superstar, like last year’s winner Kyle Larson, and I hope I can do the same,” he said.
Five legends of the sport were added to the EMPA Hall of Fame. Bad weather kept three of the winners, or their family members, from attending (Jim Reed, Dave Lape and Ron Bouchard) but family members of Len Boelher and Fred DeSarro were on hand. Mike Boehler said his father would have been 76 that night and he spoke of his duct-taped shoes and shirts with the names of others his late father often wore. Gary DeSarro said his father was “addicted to the sport.”
During the Sunday business meeting EMPA members elected Earl Krause, Dino Oberto and Brett Deyo to the five-person Board of Directors. Ron Hedger will continue on as President, with Oberto as Vice President. Jeff Gromis and Carol Houssock were appointed as Treasurer and Secretary, respectively. Next year’s convention will take place from Jan. 2-4 at the same location, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia.