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Firestone Indy Lights: Lefty's Kids Club 100

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Jim Chapman Award For Excellence in Motorsports Public Relations

Firestone Indy Lights: Lefty's Kids Club 100

Anne Fornoro
A.J. Foyt
Michael Knight
October 19, 2013


FONTANA, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR: We have a very special announcement we're getting ready to make. I'd like to turn it over to Michael Knight.
MICHAEL KNIGHT: In an age of hype and exaggeration, two simple sentences stand as unchallenged fact: James P. Chapman was a great man and a legend in the public relations business, not just racing PR, because as I'll explain here over the next couple of minutes, Jim was involved in a wide variety of PR activities.
Jim lived the great American life, which was filled with interesting and successful experiences. That life and that career is to be admired and respected. His unmatched professional skills set the standard for everyone in the PR business, and thus are to be strived to emulate.
So once a year we honor Jim's memory and his legacy with the presentation of the Jim Chapman Award For Excellence in Motorsports Public Relations.
Jim was my closest friend and he had a profound influence on my life and career. His life story is too vast to fully explain in the few minutes available to me, but I would encourage you to read the news release distributed at the end of this announcement.
Jim began his professional life working for southern newspapers, and his newspaper career end up at the New York Times. He served in the Air Force during World War II. He entered the PR business in 1946 as Ford's regional director of PR, based in Detroit.
While there, he hired Babe Ruth to be Ford's ambassador for its sponsorship of American Legion Junior Baseball. Jim and the Babe became close friends. As a matter of fact, Jim was one of only three friends at Babe Ruth's bedside when he died in 1948.
Jim was there in his role as Babe Ruth's friend. But then he went to the lobby of Memorial Hospital in New York City, and as a professional, announced Babe's death to the media who had kept and around-the-clock vigil in the hospital's lobby.
Jim was also heavily involved in financial public relations which he once called 'my favorite form of PR.'
In 1951, Jim had his first involvement in auto racing. His client was Detroit's 250th birthday celebration. Jim teamed with Bill France, Sr. to promote a 250-lap race at the Detroit fairgrounds.
In 1967, Jim first became involved in IndyCar racing with his client Ozzie Olson who sponsored Dan Gurney's team. As Dan once said, Jim practically invented most of what is now considered routine sponsor PR work.
Jim, amongst many other things, held an open house in Ozzie's hotel suite in Indianapolis prior to the 500, where among his many guests over the years were Hollywood legend John Wayne and even original Mercury 7 astronaut Scott Carpenter, who just died here a week or so ago.
Jim also organized Ozzie Olson Olsonite Corporation sponsorship of the Driver of the Year award, annually hosting a luncheon at New York's 21 Club. The event was considered so prestigious that the heads of all the major U.S. sanctioning organizations would routinely attend no matter what series the Driver of the Year regularly competed in. That was the level of respect they had for Jim and for the award.
Jim's greatest professional acclaim came from 1981 to 1992 as director of racing for the CART series sponsor PPG Industries. Jim was instrumental in raising PPG's sponsorship from $250,000 to $3.75 million at the time of his retirement.
Jim created many activities that benefited CART and the series. He created the all-female PPG Pace Car Driving Team and had editors days where he brought business and feature writers to the track for lunch, interviews and PPG pace car rides, amongst many other innovations.
In 1982, Jim negotiated a landmark sponsorship with then Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joe Cloutier which made the Indy 500 a points event in the PPG IndyCar World Series. PPG not only contributed money to the prize fund but later became sponsor of the $100,000 pole award and the victory trophy in the early years of the Brickyard 400.
At that time when many PR people have trouble getting their drivers to cooperate, Al Unser, Jr. once said, When Jim Chapman says jump, we drivers say, How high?
At the end of his career, IndyCar Racing Magazine named Jim IndyCar racing's most influential man of the 1980s and wrote that he turned a PR assignment into an art form.
Even after he retired, Jim accepted Mario Andretti's personal request that he serve as honorary chairman at his retirement tour.
Jim was involved in much more than business and auto racing. He was very involved in the community and served as president or director of more than 30 Michigan or Detroit area charities or civic organizations. He received vast recognition for his accomplishments, including the keys to the city of Long Beach and the state of Indiana's highest honor.
Jim died in 1996 at age 80, ironically of throat cancer, just like Babe Ruth.
The bottom line to Jim's personal career and success was that he knew that one-on-one relationships with the media were important in good times and essential in bad times. He knew that even as technology evolved, nothing, absolutely nothing, could replace a conversation, the sound of the human voice, a handshake, a look in the eye, and the pat on the back.
All of us, whether we're in public relations or the media, in an age of email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, should remember that example from Jim's life.
The Jim Chapman Award was created in 1991 by media and publicists working in the CART series. Since 2004, PR reps from all forms of motorsports have been eligible for consideration. The winner each year is determined by a vote of a blue panel media selection committee, all of whom knew Jim Chapman, so they are the best to decide the winner.
The award is authorized by the Chapman family. I have the honor of serving as the award rights-holder and chairman of the selection committee.
The bottom line for the Jim Chapman Award is simply this, and I say this in all sincerity to this year's winner as I do every year: The true honor of this award is not the plaque you're going to receive, the true honor is that you'll forever have your name associated with that of the great James P. Chapman.
On behalf of the Chapman family and the selection committee, I have the great honor of announcing that the 2013 recipient of the Jim Chapman Award For Excellence in Motorsports Public Relations is Anne Fornoro.
Anne, let me read the plaque. It says, Jim Chapman Award presented to Anne Fornoro in recognition of her career-long excellence in motorsports public relations. Anne honors the standard and spirit of the great Mr. Chapman, a true legend. This is extra special because Anne knew Jim, Jim liked and respected Anne.
Anne, congratulations and enjoy the moment.
ANNE FORNORO: Thank you very much.
Well, I am very touched and honored by this award. I'm usually not in the spotlight. Anybody who knows me knows that I like to stay out of the spotlight. But this means quite a bit to me because of who Jim was and because of the past award winners, every one of whom I respect and most of whom I know personally.
Michael didn't say this, but he was the first recipient of the Jim Chapman Award, and he set the standard for PR reps not only in IndyCar racing but in motorsports in general. So thank you very much.
I think one reason why I won this award is because of who I've worked with for so long, A.J. He has put me through my paces. But I've learned so much having worked with him. It's just been a terrific adventure and a wonderful, wonderful experience. I wouldn't trade anything for it.
A.J. FOYT: She's had to put up with a hell of a lot of crap with me. Congratulations, Anne. No one deserves it more than you.



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