|Michael Andretti will enter the EMPA Hall of Fame next year|
When the Eastern Motorsport Press Ass’n holds its annual convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia, Pa., five racing icons from as many branches of the sport will be inducted into the EMPA Hall of Fame.
Michael Andretti,the 1991 CART PPG Indy car champion and former Formula One competitor who, as a car owner, has won the Indianapolis 500 five times along with three series titles, led the membership voting. He was trailed closely in the final tally by sprint car ace Fred Rahmer, who topped a Hall of Fame career in modifieds with another in sprint cars that saw him retire as the all-time leading winner at both Williams Grove Speedway and the Central Pennsylvania sprint circuit overall.
New York native and drag racing icon Shirley Muldowney, who won three NHRA Top Fuel championships and a single AHRA title and was a pioneer in the advancement of females in the sport, joins Andretti and Rahmer in the EMPA Hall of Fame along with the husband and wife promoting team of Bruce and Theresa Rogers and NASCAR great Randy LaJoie.
With Bruce trackside and Theresa in the office, the Rogers family steadily built Grandview Speedway from a local bullring to a modern, nationally recognized facility that remained true to its roots. LaJoie, a Connecticut native who learned his trade at the famed Danbury Racearena, is a NASCAR North and two-time NASCAR Busch (XFINITY) series champion. He is also highly respected for his pioneering efforts in developing and promoting safer seats for all forms of auto racing.
Barely missing election were former NASCAR standout Jimmy Spencer, road racer Sam Posey, supermodified star Joe Gosek and stock car/midget driver Ray Brown.
Other awards to be presented at the Jan. 13 NASCAR/EMPA Hall of Fame banquet following membership voting include Richie Evans Memorial Northeast Driver of the Year, which went to 41-race winner and Super DIRTcar Series titlist Matt Sheppard, and Al Holbert Memorial National Driver of the Year, won by New Jersey native and 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.
Sheppard bested Lance DeWease, Matt Hirschmann, Ryan Preece and Dave Shullick Jr. while Truex topped Ron Capps, David Gravel, Josef Newgarden and Josh Richards.
Voting in the hard fought John Blewett III Young Guns category saw multi-series talent Brandon Grosso edge Chase Dowling, Anthony Macri and Tanner Gray, with the Chris Economaki Newsmaker of the Year Award going to NASCAR star Kyle Larson over DIRTcar star Brett Hearn by a single vote.
Larson brought national attention to short track sprint car racing with his numerous wins and close second place finish in the Knoxville Nationals while Hearn topped the 900-win mark in 2017, a feat often claimed but with the exception of Hearn, rarely documented.
The Junie Dunleavey Spirit of the Sport Award, selected by the EMPA Board of Directors, will be presented to a pair of long-time supporters of numerous racers and the sport in general.
“Dover Dave" Cruickshank, best known for his decades-long support of father and son teams Buzzie and David Reutimann and Bobby and Danny Varin, will be joined onstage by lifelong Central Pennsylvania sprint car racing team and event sponsor Chubby Chiarocchi of CnB Mushroom fame. Both men have devoted a lifetime to building the sport, with their efforts often behind the scenes and unknown to the general public.
The Jerry Reigle Memorial Award, presented yearly by the World Racing Group in memory of the late writer and sprint car lover, will be awarded to Port Royal Speedway in recognition of their facility improvements and ambitious schedule of high-purse events.
Additional honors to be announced at the annual banquet include the Jim Hunter Memorial Writer Award, the Ace Lane Sr. Memorial Photography Award, the Howie Hodge Memorial Peer Vote Photography Award and the Ernie and Marilyn Saxton Dedication to EMPA Award along with winners in the Brice NAPA Photo Contest, the Honda Video Contest and the Pocono Raceway Writing Contest.
Along with the NASCAR/EMPA Hall of Fame banquet, convention highlights include Friday’s Champions Night program, press conferences featuring speedways and racers from around the region announcing 2018 plans, a seminar on promoter/media relations and the annual EMPA business meeting. Speedsport.com