NHRA CHAMPION DRIVER AND CREW CHIEF DALE ARMSTRONG: 1941-2014
Legendary NHRA crew chief and mechanical wizard Dale Armstrong died Nov. 28 from complications of sarcoidosis at his home in Temecula, Calif. He was 73.
As a driver, Armstrong won 12 NHRA national events – including three victories at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals – with a series of alcohol-burning dragsters, funny cars and altereds during the 1970s, but the 1975 Pro Comp national champion and former nitro Funny Car national record holder is perhaps best known for his many mechanical and technological breakthroughs while serving as crew chief for Kenny Bernstein.
Armstrong has been widely credited as the first Funny Car crew chief to use wind-tunnel testing and data recorders. He also pioneered the development of the lockup-style clutch, dual-source fuel-delivery system and dynamometer testing for nitromethane-burning racing engines.
As crew chief for Bernstein, Armstrong was the architect behind four NHRA Funny Car world championships (1985-’88) and provided the tune-up for drag racing’s first 300-mph run in 1992. Four years later Armstrong made history again by leading Bernstein to the 1996 Top Fuel world championship, giving Bernstein the distinction of being the first driver to win NHRA series crowns in Top Fuel and Funny Car.
Of his many accomplishments in NHRA drag racing, Armstrong once said that the speed-barrier-breaking effort in Top Fuel would always be his most cherished.
“Being the crew chief on the first car to run 300 means more to me than any national event win or any championship,” Armstrong said at the time. “There isn’t any question at all. People will forget what years we won the championship, but they’ll never forget when the first 300 was run and who did it.”
Following his record-breaking run with Bernstein, Armstrong continued his successful career, tuning Don “The Snake” Prudhomme’s Top Fuel dragster, and later serving as chief tuner for Jerry Toliver’s Funny Car. He recently worked as a tuning consultant, most notably for John Force Racing.
Armstrong, a native of Alberta, Canada, was inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1995, the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2010. In 2001, he was named No. 10 on the list of NHRA’s top 50 drivers during the sanctioning body’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Armstrong is survived by his wife, Susan Arnold; daughter, Tracy Walsh; son, Brad Armstrong; sister, Phyllis Fabian; and five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
TEXAS MOTORPLEX RELEASES 2015 SCHEDULE
30TH Anniversary AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals Moves to October
ENNIS, Texas (Nov. 12, 2014) – Texas Motorplex has released its 2015 schedule, with several changes for the upcoming 2015 season.
The biggest change is one fans have been asking for – the 30th Anniversary AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals will be held Oct. 15-18, 2015. The weather will certainly be cooler than the traditional September date, opening the chance for records to be set in the fourth of six NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing playoff events.
“The 30th Anniversary event is going to be one for the record books,” Texas Motorplex owner Billy Meyer said. “We have been planning this event for a few years and will unveil surprises for the best fans in drag racing in the months leading up to this monumental event.
“The date change is something we all wanted – especially our fans – and I’m happy we can finally deliver the later date to ensure cooler weather and even more vitally important playoff racing.”
The Motorplex made a big change to the street racing program, adding more Fast Friday street legal events and launching a new INSTANT GREEN STREET event to be held on Saturdays. Both street legal events will be open to anyone with a street legal vehicle and a valid driver’s license, allowing people to unleash their need for speed in a safer environment.
“Our street legal programs are so important because it allows people to get off the highways and other public areas where they can harm themselves and others and come out to a facility that is safer and more controlled,” Texas Motorplex General Manager, Gabrielle Stevenson, said. “We have the best track crew in Texas and they are willing to help first-time racers as well as seasoned veterans who are out to set personal records.
“The street legal programs at Texas Motorplex are a true benefit to our community as they keep would-be illegal street racers off public roads.”
The schedule also features fan favorite events including two NHRDA diesel racing events (Texas Diesel Nationals in April, World Finals in October), two Import Face Off events (spring in March, fall in November), car club events and of course, car shows: Mega Mopar Action series in March, Super Chevy Show in May and Fun Ford Series in November. Check www.texasmotorplex.com for updated schedule information, tickets and more.
Texas Motorplex was the first all-concrete stadium-style drag racing facility ever constructed. Built in 1986, Texas Motorplex has been the place of many drag racing milestones and world record performances. The Billy Meyer-owned facility hosts a number of racing and car show events between March and November each year and also features the Champion’s Club – an 11,000 square-foot facility – that serves fully catered events throughout the year.
2015 Texas Motorplex schedule of events
1: Import Face Off
6: Fast Friday
6-7: Knights of Columbus BBQ Cook-off
7: Bracket – points race 1
8: Bracket – points race 2
13: Fast Friday
14: Bracket – points race 3
19-21: PDRA Pro Mod National Season Kickoff
27: Fast Friday
28: Mega Mopar Action
29: Muscle Car Club Challenge
10: NHRDA Sled Pull
11: NHRDA Texas Diesel Nationals
16-19: NHRA Lucas Oíl Divisional
2: INSTANT GREEN STREET: Import vs Domestic
8: Fast Friday
9: Bracket – points race 4
15: Fast Friday
16-17: Super Chevy Show
22: Fast Friday
23: Memorial Day Bracket Bash – points race 5
24: Memorial Day Bracket Bash – points race 6
5: Fast Friday
12: Fast Friday
13: Bracket – points race 7
20: INSTANT GREEN STREET: Import vs Domestic
26: Fast Friday
27: Bracket – points race 8
10: Fast Friday
11: Bracket points race 9
18: INSTANT GREEN STREET: Import vs Domestic
24: Fast Friday
25: Bracket – points race 10
31: Fast Friday
1: Bracket – points race 11
7: Fast Friday
8: Bracket points race 12
15: INSTANT GREEN STREET: Import vs Domestic
21: Fast Friday
22: Bracket – points race 13
5: INSTANT GREEN STREET: Import vs Domestic
11-13: Jr Dragster E.T. Bracket Finals
20: Muscle Car Club Challenge
24-27: Summit E.T. Bracket Finals
2-3: NHRDA World Finals
15-18: 30th Anniversary AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals
1: Muscle Car Club Challenge
6: Fast Friday
7: Fun Ford Series
8: Import Face
14: INSTANT GREEN STREET: Import vs. Domestic
21: INSTANT GREEN STREET: Import vs. Domestic
The Super Chevy Show event series will join the Velocity Network as the newest TV program in the lineup of automotive-driven content with 13-episodes highlighting the 2015 season. Discovery Communications’ high-definition cable channel Velocity, will bring the same namesake Super Chevy Show into 62 million households across the U.S., and is scheduled to air on 13-consecutive weeks from October through December 2015.
With a focus on the car show, Velocity will follow the 2015 Super Chevy Show presented by Chevrolet Performance tour with stops at each event across the country for 12 high-octane 30 minute Chevrolet-packed episodes. The 13th episode and season finale will spotlight the best cars of the tour.
Lex Dudas, President of SCSW, LLC, parent company of Super Chevy Shows views the TV program in terms of growth for the series. “Velocity takes the Super Chevy Show program to the next level of exposure for our fans, participants, and sponsors. When the current track operators took over the series in 2010 they brought everything up a notch, and have continued to build the shows to the point that it will now reach millions of Chevrolet enthusiasts through a national TV audience.”
The exclusive Super Chevy Show programming will include exciting segments designed to give the audience a view of the best Bowtie show cars in the country in stunning HD and a chance to relive the thrills while looking to spot familiar cars or catch a glimpse of Chevy drag racing at its best.
As the newest show on Velocity’s schedule, the Super Chevy Show joins the lineup with popular shows such as, Overhaulin’, Chasing Classic Cars and Restoration Garage, that set the bar for diverse programming within the automotive genre.
The TV shows will be produced by Masters Entertainment, which provides a significant amount of content for Velocity and other networks reaching automotive enthusiasts. Executive Vice President of Masters Entertainment Group, Butch McCall, has worked with many of the Super Chevy Show promoters through other events previously, and is looking forward to working on the project since it has such a great following. “Masters Entertainment is excited to be working with the Super Chevy series in 2015. We look forward to bringing the best of the best Chevrolets to the Velocity Network.”
A member of the Manufacturers Series, the family-friendly Super Chevy Show tour showcases a car show, drag racing, manufacturer’s midway, swap meet and car corral, as well as autocross at select events. The events are hosted at top motorsports facilities throughout the U.S., along with the Fun Ford and Mega Mopar Action national series.
2015 SUPER CHEVY SHOW SCHEDULE
Palm Beach Int’l Raceway March 27 – 29
Memphis Int’l Raceway April 10 – 12
Southwestern Int’l Raceway May 1 – 3
Texas Motorplex May 16 – 17
Virginia Motorsports Park May 15 – 17
US 131 Motorsports Park May 29 – 31
Maple Grove Raceway July 17 – 19
Bandimere Speedway August 14 – 15
Bristol Dragway September 25 – 27
Rockingham Dragway October 9 – 11
Gateway Motorsports Park October 9 – 11
Auto Club Famoso Raceway November 7 – 8
About the Super Chevy Show
The Super Chevy Show tour is the premier national event for all Chevrolet enthusiasts offering something for everyone. From high-powered Chevy racing action to the spectacular show cars at the top NHRA and IHRA tracks across the country. The Series boasts one of the nation’s finest Performance & Restoration Midways for GM products, as well as a Swap Meet and Car Corral. Kids are always welcome to take part in the free Revell Make ‘N Take activity each day to build their own model car to keep. The Super Chevy Show is widely considered the best brand-specific event in the country. For more information, visit: www.superchevyshow.com
About Manufacturers Series
Designed to offer something for everyone in a family atmosphere for American “Big Three” automotive brand enthusiasts, the Super Chevy Show, Fun Ford Series and Mega Mopar Action Series are all members of the Manufacturers Series with 34 events in 2015. Each Manufacturers Series event is wholly owned by its respective host track and showcases a car show, drag racing, manufacturer’s midway, swap meet and car corral, as well as autocross at selected events. For more information or for event schedules, visit: www.mfgseries.com
Elon Werner, who directs the publicity and communications for drag racing’s biggest star, John Force, and Force’s championship team, today was announced as winner of the 2014 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 and presentation were made at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before Sunday’s NHRA national event by Michael Knight, chairman of the selection committee, and one of Chapman’s closest friends. The award is determined by a vote of national media members, most of who knew Chapman, and is authorized by the Chapman family. PR representatives from all forms of motorsports are eligible for consideration.
Werner not only works directly with the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion, but also Force’s rising-star driver daughters. Ashley Force Hood twice won the U.S. Nationals before stepping aside to start a family. Courtney Force has won eight Funny Car races while Brittany Force was last year’s top NHRA rookie in the Top Fuel class. Robert Hight, Force’s son-in-law, was the 2009 Funny Car titlist.
“Elon’s work in developing successful relationships with the media is reminiscent of Jim Chapman and so this honor is most appropriate,” said Knight, the longtime journalist/publicist and award rights-holder.
“Jim set the ultimate standard of professionalism, class and dignity. He knew that building good one-on-one professional relationships with journalists was important in good times and absolutely essential in bad times. That’s too often missing today in a communications age where an E-mail or text message or over-reliance on social media is incorrectly considered ‘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.
“John Force has been NHRA’s greatest cheerleader for decades, working to create new fans and new customers for his sponsors. Elon has done more than coordinate the numerous interview requests for John. Just as importantly, he’s provided wise guidance to Ashley, Courtney, Brittany and Robert, as they have followed John’s example. Elon’s outreach to motorsports-oriented reporters, and well as to those in the mainstream media, has helped produce a vast amount of news coverage for the sport, Force and his team, and their corporate partners.”
Werner worked for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks before joining the Texas Motorplex as PR manager in 1993. He eventually became that track’s general manager. After positions with several Dallas-based sports agencies and coordinating media for a number of motorsports clients, he became John Force Racing’s PR director in 2007.
Significant national media placements have included Courtney Force’s ESPN The Magazine cover, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CBS Sunday Morning, National Public Radio and virtually every major motorsports publication. Werner also has built JFR’s social media presence.
With longtime Force publicist Dave Densmore the 2007 Chapman Award winner, this is the first time that the honor has been earned by two people from the same racing organization.
Knight also announced that, as has happened before, the selection committee has chosen two equally-deserving Chapman Award recipients this year. Announcement and presentation of that person will be made next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
Established in 1991 by media and publicists within the CART series, the Chapman Award originally focused on achievement in CART. After a hiatus of several years, the award was resumed in 2004, with eligibility expanded to anyone working in racing PR.
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 and then officially announced Ruth’s death to the press corps that had maintained an around-the-clock vigil at New York’s Memorial Hospital.
Chapman proudly showcased several photos of Ruth in his office. One was inscribed: “To a pal that is a pal.” Chapman also displayed a framed letter, written on Ruth’s personal stationery from Memorial Hospital, dated July 13, 1948, inviting him to the July 26 premier of the film, The Babe Ruth Story. That letter read, in part, “That evening would not be complete without your being my guest. To you, Jimmy, I say you must be with me that evening.”
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 directed Olsonite’s sponsorship of the Driver of the Year award. He orchestrated all the details, including the media panel voting, and an annual luncheon at New York City’s famed ‘21’ Club. That gathering was considered so prestigious it was routinely attended by leaders of all the major U.S. sanctioning organizations regardless of what series the Driver of the Year competed in.
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 Editors’ Days, when he brought business and feature writers to the tracks for lunch, pace car rides, and driver interviews.
In 1982, Chapman negotiated a landmark sponsorship for PPG with then- Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Joe Cloutier, which formally made the Indy 500 a points-paying event in the PPG Indy Car World Series, an arrangement that continued through the 1995 season. “That was one of the most satisfying moments of my career,” Chapman recalled. “Roger Penske, among others, told me it was the best thing that had ever happened to CART.” In addition to a major contribution to the prize fund, PPG later became sponsor of the $100,000 Indy 500 pole award, and paid a special winner’s bonus in the early years of NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
“With Jim, when he says ‘jump,’ we just ask ‘how high?,” Indy 500 winner and PPG Cup champion Al Unser Jr. said on behalf of his fellow drivers. “And we do it right then.”
Indy Car Racing magazine named Chapman the sport’s “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.
Chapman’s professional achievements earned him vast recognition. The mayors of Detroit and Long Beach, Calif., presented him proclamations and the key to each city. In 1993, Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh named him Sagamore of the Wabash, the state’s highest honor. He served as president and/or director of more than 30 Michigan and Detroit-area civic and charitable organizations. Chapman became active in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and represented the Detroit Urban League and United Negro College Fund in several controversial situations. He admitted to shedding “buckets of tears of joy” when Willy T. Ribbs became the first African-American driver to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1991.
“The true honor of this award is not the plaque,” Knight concluded. “The true honor is having your name forever associated with that of the great James P. Chapman.”
PEAK® Antifreeze + COOLANT and BlueDEF® Diesel Exhaust Fluid BRANDS DRIVE JOHN FORCE INTO THE 2015 SEASON AND BEYOND WITH PRIMARY SPONSORSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT
PEAK® Antifreeze + COOLANT and BlueDEF® Diesel Exhaust Fluid BRANDS DRIVE JOHN FORCE INTO THE 2015 SEASON AND BEYOND WITH PRIMARY SPONSORSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT
Las Vegas, Nev. (November 1, 2014) – John Force Racing and PEAK announce today a new agreement with its PEAK Antifreeze + Coolant and BlueDEF brands serving as a primary sponsor for John Force during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and beyond. Under the agreement, PEAK Antifreeze + Coolant and BlueDEF will be the primary sponsor of John Force’s Funny Car for a majority in the 2015 season as well as continuing as a major associate sponsor on Robert Hight, Courtney Force, and Brittany Force’s cars.
“I’m committed to continuing to lead a championship team and PEAK has proven a similar commitment to the NHRA. Thanks to PEAK Antifreeze + Coolant, I won’t be hanging up my hat from this sport anytime soon,” said John Force, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion and CEO of John Force Racing, Inc. “Not only does PEAK provide high quality automotive products for American families like mine, but they’ve proved to be a valued partner on and off the track. I’m so grateful that they’re supporting me, my team and all the fans out there who love drag racing.”
PEAK’s expanded relationship with the 18-time NHRA Mello Yello championship team builds on its status as a major associate sponsor of all three of John Force Racing’s Funny Cars and the JFR Top Fuel Dragster since February 2014.
“We’re honored to be behind John Force and JFR for the 2015 season and beyond,” said Bryan Emrich, Chief Marketing Officer for Old World Industries, which includes the PEAK Antifreeze + Coolant and BlueDEF brands. “PEAK chooses partners that exude the same passion and personal character of hard work that our company upholds. After working with John over the past year, it was clear that he and his family are a great fit for our company, allowing us to make the decision to step up and ensure John keeps racing for many more years to come. He is an icon in this sport and a fan favorite and we are lucky to be tied with such a great championship winning organization.”
PEAK has been actively involved in motorsports for more than 30 years, showcasing the excellence and competitive quality of its products through the NHRA, NASCAR, and other motorsports series important to its customers. In 2013, PEAK entered into a multi-year agreement with the NHRA, naming PEAK Antifreeze, BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid, and HERCULINER® truck bed liner kits as official sponsors of the NHRA. Additionally, in 2013 PEAK kicked off its Sportsman’s program with NHRA championship drivers, including Jay Payne, Duane Shields, Dan Fletcher, Sherman Adcock and Tony Fuller.
For more information about John Force Racing and PEAK’s winning partnership, please visit peakauto.com/force.
Photo credit Richard Shute/AutoImagery.com
About John Force Racing
John Force Racing, Inc., based in Yorba Linda, Calif., and Indianapolis, Ind., is a professional sports dynasty, one that has earned 18 Mello Yello championships and claimed 237 professional tour victories. Led by team owner and driver John Force, a 16-time Funny Car Champion, 1996 Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing, and 2011 International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee JFR is additionally comprised of Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang, 2009 Funny Car Champion and 2005 NHRA Rookie of the Year; Courtney Force, driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang and 2012 NHRA Rookie of the Year and Brittany Force driver of the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster and 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year. For more information, please visit johnforceracing.com.
About Old World Industries
Old World Industries, LLC is among the largest privately-held companies competing in the automotive aftermarket. The Northbrook, Illinois-based company enjoys a presence in various consumer and commercial product categories in more than 50 countries worldwide. Old World’s brands include a full line of PEAK® automotive products including Antifreeze + Coolant, Motor Oil, Washer Fluid, Electronics and Wiper Blades; BlueDEF® Diesel Exhaust Fluid and equipment; SIERRA® Antifreeze; Fleet Charge® Heavy Duty Fully Formulated Antifreeze + Coolant; Final Charge® Heavy Duty Global Extended Life Antifreeze + Coolant; SmartBLADE™ Premium Wiper Blades; and HERCULINER® Truck Bed Liner Kits. For more information, please visit peakauto.com and PEAKHD.com.