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IMS’s York Wins Jim Chapman Award

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Monday, November 7 2011

Bill York is the 2011 Jim Chapman Award winner. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

RacinToday.com

Bill York, whose half-century of work in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center earned him the respect and friendship of journalists from around the world, today was announced as winner of the 2011 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.

The Chapman Award 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 and was named Indy Car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s. Chapman died in 1996 at age 80.

The announcement was made by Michael Knight, chairman of the selection committee, and one of Chapman’s closest friends. The award is determined by vote of media members, most of whom knew Chapman, and is authorized by the Chapman family. PR representatives from all forms of motorsports are eligible for consideration.

“It is impossible to think of anyone more deserving,” said Knight, the longtime journalist/publicist and award rights-holder. “Bill York is more than one of Jim’s countless friends and admirers. Bill’s professionalism is in the example and spirit of Jim Chapman’s.

“Bill, like Jim before him, believes in the ‘old-school’ approach to working with the media – that it is essential to build one-on-one relationships with journalists. That’s too often missing today, when far too many PR representatives think an E-mail or text message constitutes ‘relationship-building.’ Jim was a true ‘people person’ and knew nothing could replace a handshake, a face-to-face conversation, or the sound of another person’s voice.

“Over many decades, Bill has shown he understands the value of actually talking to people and getting to know them, and that having those professional relationships best serve clients in good times — and bad.”

York began working in the Indianapolis 500 press room in 1958. As a popular goodwill ambassador with journalists, York filled many roles, including gathering statistics and managing the media center through 2008. He was instrumental in creating the Stark & Wetzel Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award. He served as a Speedway media liaison last May.

York has earned many auto racing honors, including the 2010 Bob Russo Founders Award for lifelong contributions to the sport. He’s also worked in the NBA Indianapolis Pacers and NFL Indianapolis Colts media rooms. The Pacers’ media center is named in his honor.

Chapman started as sports editor or managing editor of several Southern newspapers before joining the New York Times. He served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He entered 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. Chapman was one of only three friends at Ruth’s bedside when he died in August 1948.

In 1950, Chapman left Ford to start his own PR firm. One of his first clients was Avis founder Warren Avis. Chapman devoted much of his time to financial PR, which he once called his “favorite form of PR,” and helped companies get recognition among analysts and even gain admission to the New York and American stock exchanges.

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.

“Jim was one of the most innovative and imaginative PR men ever to grace a pit lane,” said Gurney. “Jim practically invented most of what is now considered routine sponsor PR work. He was the first, as far as I know, who thought of putting up a sponsor hospitality tent alongside a racetrack (at the old Riverside International Raceway), filling it with extravagant race car ice-sculptures, beautiful food and beautiful people from the business, sports and movie industries. He started an ‘open house’ tradition in Ozzie’s hotel suite in Indianapolis, where journalists could rub shoulders with John Wayne or (astronaut) Scott Carpenter.”

Chapman also coordinated Olsonite’s sponsorship of the Driver of the Year award, orchestrating 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 Editor’s Days, when he brought business and feature writers to the tracks for lunch, pace car rides, and driver interviews.

Indy Car Racing magazine named Chapman the sports’ “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.

“The true honor of this award is not the plaque,” said Knight. “The true honor is having your name forever associated with that of the great James P. Chapman.”

York will officially receive the 2011 Jim Chapman Award January 8, 2012, at the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association’s All-America team dinner in Indianapolis. Broadcaster Paul Page, a longtime Chapman friend and a member of the award selection committee, will make the presentation.

PREVIOUS 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

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Monday, November 7 2011
One Comment

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  • John Sturbin says:

    I first met Bill York as an Indianapolis 500 “rookie” writer in May 1980, when he was running the old “cinder block” infield media center and two interview rooms at Indianapolis Motor Speedway strictly by the book. The man who intimidated me back then has since become a wonderful friend, and one of the reasons why I always anticipate returning to IMS for the 500. Looking forward to more chats in the new media center, Bill. And congratulations, Mr. York, on a career well-spent and an award well-deserved.