EMPA Awards Banquet
DIRT MotorSports was well represented at the Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) working convention and awards banquet held January 26-28 at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center with a trio of top drivers earning awards and officials addressing area media that participated in the annual weekend event. Recently crowned champions Alan Johnson and Tim McCreadie, along with the legendary Bob McCreadie were recognized with individual honors while Executive VP Operations Ben Giesler, VP Public Relations Chris Dolack, 360 OTC World of Outlaws Late Model Series PR Director Kevin Kovac and DIRT MotorSports NorthEast PR Director Tom Skibinski spoke on behalf of the DIRT organization.

A diverse group of well known names in the motorsports industry were inducted into the Eastern Motorsport Press Association Hall of Fame during the NASCAR-sponsored EMPA Hall of Fame Awards Dinner held Saturday night at the Radisson located in Trevose, PA. Past Winston Cup champion David Pearson, winner of 105 Cup races during his career, and sprint car racing legend Keith Kauffman joined DIRT Big-Block Modified standout Bob McCreadie as the drivers enshrined on this festive occasion. Pocono Raceway owners Drs. Joe and Rose Mattioli, with many family members on hand, were also inducted along with the late Trenton, NJ Evening Times motorsports writer Harry Blaze. World of Outlaws founder Ted Johnson was inducted posthumously.

“This is definitely a great honor for the entire team, every driver can tell you without a good car you won’t go too far in racing,” said Johnson, 49, after receiving the prestigious Richie Evans Memorial EMPA Northeast Driver of the Year honor. He steered the Jeff Rudalavage/Tony Laughing-owned no. 14J NativePoker.Com-WPC Associates,Inc.-Pine Line Auto Sales/Bicknell ride to his fifth overall Hoosier Tire-Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRT Championship for Big-Block Modifieds, scoring a personal best six Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series victories during DIRT MotorSports’ 31st season. “It means even more with Richie’s name on it. My dad (Milt Johnson, B&M Motors proprietor) used to build his motors and I remember as kid when he came into the shop my jaw nearly dropped to the floor meeting him in person. Back then he was the king of asphalt modified racing and he left quite an impression when I was real young starting out. Its kinda funny the way things worked out, I never had any desire to chase a career on the pavement.”

Harboring no regrets, ‘A.J. Slideways’ concluded his 34th season of open-wheel competition by capturing a division best 15 DIRT big-block feature wins at eight different tracks to extend his career count to an all-time DIRT-high 344 and retain 4th near the top of the all-time Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series win list with 45 extra-distance Modified victories. To this day, Johnson holds a record that can never be touched as he remains the only driver to win at least one Big-Block feature every year of DIRT’s existence beginning in 1976.

Tim McCreadie, winner of the 360 OTC World of Outlaws Late Model Championship, was honored as the Al Holbert Memorial EMPA National Driver of the Year. McCreadie 32, collected his award and also accepted the Hall of Fame statue for his father, ‘Barefoot’ Bob, who was unable to attend due to his continued recovery from injuries sustained in a severe off-track incident last summer. Bob McCreadie holds the DIRT organization's single-season mark with 43 Big-Block Modified victories posted in 1994. Twice earning Driver of the Year honors, the repeat Mr. DIRT Champion and three-time Advance Auto Parts Modified Super DIRT Series titlist was selected by fans as DIRT's Most Popular Driver four straight years.

“This is one banquet that my father really wanted to attend as Alan is the driver he has been the closest with for the longest time and all of us being honored together on the same night would have been pretty neat,” noted Tim, himself a 59-time DIRT Big-Block feature winner, who claimed a pair of nationally recognized short-track racing prized jewels ---Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. in January and the WoO LM Series title--- to attract instant attention in 2006. His success resulted in an invitation to participate in the General Motors Driver Development Program and opportunity to test a Busch Series car for famed NASCAR team owner Richard Childress. “I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t been the most positive towards press people in the past and that’s what probably makes me appreciate receiving this award even more. They (media) usually don’t play favorites so the fact they chose me really showed they respect what our team accomplished this year. And that probably goes the same for my dad and Alan. I think these awards also show how high the DIRT NorthEast circuit ranks, there’s definitely a lot of talent up here and it’s been like this for as long as I can remember.”

Tim revealed afterwards that his father had undergone surgery three weeks earlier and when doctors removed a plate in his kneecap another fractured bone was discovered; something that had impeded Bob’s rate of recovery during the past few months. Back on May 31, 2006, the elder McCreadie, now 56, was riding his motorcycle across the parking lot of the Medical Arts Building near his Watertown, N.Y. home where his doctor has an office and the driver of an SUV never saw him. The passenger-side front fender of the vehicle hit the right side of the bike and the accident resulted in Bob suffering a broken right femur, two broken ribs and a bone in his back. Ironically, the accident occurred just three days after he was inducted into the DIRT MotorSports NorthEast Hall of Fame.

In other EMPA award presentations, Marco Andretti flew in from a testing session to accept his T. Wayne Robertson Newsmaker of the Year award early on Saturday. Andretti, grandson of motorsports legend Mario Andretti, was Rookie of the Year in the Indy Racing League. James Hylton, at 72 years of age planning to try for a starting spot in the upcoming Daytona 500, received the Junie Donlavey “Spirit of the Sport” award. Donlavey was scheduled to make the trip from Richmond, VA to present the award personally but his wife’s illness forced him to cancel and veteran racer Andy Belmont did the honors.

Additional special awards included the Frank Blunk Memorial EMPA Journalism award going to Area Auto Racing News columnist Brett Deyo; the Ace Lane Memorial EMPA Photographer award went to Chris Budihas who has his work published in a variety of publications and websites. Budihas also took eight prizes in the Chad Sinon Motorsports Photo Contest. A new award this year presented to a rising star in the sport by John Holland from sponsor New England Racing Fuels, was the Young Guns award going to sprint car racer Lucas Wolfe. The young racer had an outstanding season.

Ernie and Marilyn Saxton continued their tradition of presenting the Jerry Glase Memorial award to a deserving member of the EMPA. The award is named in honor of their long time friend who was supporter of the organization and worked with them at Grandview Speedway. Herb and Terri Anastor received the award for their outstanding behind the scenes efforts on behalf of the organization.

Special appreciation awards were presented to Chad Sinon, the DIRT organization and Valvoline. All have been outstanding supporters of the EMPA. During the course of the three-day convention there were a variety of press conferences and other events. There was participation by DIRT MotorSports, Indy Racing League, NASCAR, SPEED, ARCA, Richmond Int’l Raceway, Dover Int’l Speedway, Andy Belmont Motorsports, Pocono Raceway, Watkins Glen, ARDC, NHRA, URC and others.

With first-place finishers earning a plaque and $200 while second-place collected $100, the top-two in each of five divisions of the Valvoline/EMPA Writers Contest were:
1st Place, Ron Hedger, “Is ‘Bad’ Publicity Better Than None?”
Motorsports Sponsorship Marketing News
2nd Place, Ernie Saxton, “Talladega Nightmare”, Inside Track Motorsports News
1st Place, Rob Fisher, “Wall Stadium Speedway”, Stock Car Racing Magazine
2nd Place, Ed Hilt, “5 Years After Death, Earnhardt Sr. stays connected to fans”, The Press of Atlantic City
1st Place, Lenny H. Sammons, “Stafford To Be TC’s Last Ride In Whelan’s No. 36”, Area Auto Racing News
2nd Place, Jerry Reigle, “Car Owner Hamilton Reaches Finish Line”, The Patriot- News
1st Place, Jim Donnelly, “Coiled For The Strike”, Hemmings Muscle Machines
2nd Place, Ed Hilt, “ Even As A Kid, Truex Jr. Was Moving Fast”, The Press of Atlantic City
1st Place, Lenny H. Sammons, “Pauch Pulls Off Spin- Then Win in Bridgeport Turkey Chase”, Area Auto Racing News
2nd Place, Kyle Hardner, “URC Finish Full of Thunder: Mares Crashes, Curt’s Penalized, Bitner Wins”, Area Auto Racing News.

The Peformance Racing Industry Magazine/EMPA Broadcasters Contest saw Raceline Radio Network (Canada) take top honors in the radio category while Ralph Richards and Grove Productions took the top prize in Video with their Vineland Memories. Each winner received a plaque and cash award.

In the Chad Sinon Motorsports/EMPA Photography competition top prizes (plaque and cash) went to:
ACTION: Todd Dziadosz, Beaverspring.com
ACTION SEQUENCE: Dave Dalesandro, Area Auto Racing News
CRASH ACTION: Marty Gordner, Sprint Car & Midget Magazine
FEATURE: Jim Smith, Wall Township Police Website
PICTURE STORY: Dave Dalesandro, Area Auto Racing News
PORTRAIT & PERSONALITY: Chris Budihas, Area Auto Racing News
BEST OF SHOW: Todd Dziadosz
The 2008 edition of the Eastern Motorsport Press Association Convention will be held on the final weekend of January, 2008 at the same Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Trevose, PA.

CONVENTION NOTES: USAC racer Tom Hessert announced that he will be going after Rookie of the Year honors on the Hooter’s Tour with sponsorship from Maaco. His crew chief will be Cup veteran David Iftt. Hessert will continue to run USAC Midget and Sprint events and plans to be part of the USAC Sprint Eastern Swing at Grandview Speedway on June 6th, Big Diamond Raceway on June 7th and Hagerstown, MD on June 9th ….. NHRA Pro Stock racer Max Naylor had the attention of all with his talk about the importance of sponsorship, more emphasis on the marketing and media relations, for racers ….. Billy Tanner talked about his plans to race on the ARCA circuit in 2007 starting with the Daytona 200 with CheapCaribbean.com as sponsor ….. Andy Belmont talked about his plans for himself and Bill Catania as they run the ARCA circuit. New sponsorship will come from NOS Energy Drink while FanZCrew.com returns as a sponsor ….. Attendees were given a complete update on DIRT MotorSports’ plans for 2007 ….. WPVI-TV, Channel 6, Philadelphia carried a news clip on the induction of Drs. Joe and Rose Mattioli into the EMPA Hall of Fame.
by Tim McCreadie