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Sat, 29 Sep 2007, 08:38 AM

Froscher's Forum
By Norm Froscher





Some Words about "Arue-Ba":

Indy, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, with its surprises and excitment, is now behind us and we drag racing afficiandos, competitors, media and fans, move on to continue the Countdown to Four and to One.

Did you ever pause to think about those who bring you the news and features along the way, not only of the quarter pounders, but of all forms of motorsports competition?

Right here, let's turn the tables and allow you to read about an organization to whom many of those writers, photographers and broadcasters belong.

That's right, the media, or what when many of us broke in was simply known as "press".

Our subject is the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, or AARWBA. And in the interests of brevity, it is popularly known as "Arue-Ba". No, not to be confused with the Carribbean island.

It was the brainchild of the late Bob Russo and is the oldest racing media group (celebrating 52 years) with members who cover the sport, regardless of venue and we'll list some of the projects of the several-hundred member group in a minute, but first, what about AARWBA today?

AARWBA is now headed by Dusty Brandel of Burbank, Calif. and its past presidents include names such as the late Ray Marquette, Chris Economaki and even yours truly.

Brandel has the customary slate of officers who serve and in addition, has vice presidents from each section of the country, plus various committees for needed projects and developments.

***

What about Russo? We met many times over chow, swapped what are called war stories -- excuse me, Ollie North -- and worked together both in both drag racing and Indy racing.

And it was a thorn in my side for many years that he was not a member of the AARWBA Hall of Fame, known as Legends in Racing. The very founder of the group? Inexcusable!

That has been remedied to a degree now with the "Bob Russo Founders Award" which is presented each year.

President Brandel appointed Bill Marvel -- who was the founding secretary -- to chair a veteran committee to decide on the recipient of the award each year.

AARWBA, you see, was indeed Russo's idea and the rest of the founders agreed with him. That first meeting was in a local watering hole for the racing "fraternity" which is barely a mile from the IMS.

When USAC was being formed Tony Hulman and Joe Cloutier asked Russo to help them in the idea department with the media as he was at the time was more up to date on the USAC racing scene than anyone else from the media as far as all the AAA venues (midget, sprint and Championship Division).

He covered the full gamut for Speed Age magazine. Traveled with all the venues and also worked on the Mobil Gas Economy runs.

So now we have Russo honored.

***

Now, with that settled, but what else do these media folks do when not providing you with coverage?

First, they have a constitution and a "White Paper" which pinpoints media guidelines and rules of thumb at events, along with the same guidelines for promoters or a venue. That was issued in August of 1990 and revised in 2005 to keep abreast of various advances.

So much for responsibilities.

AARWBA was also the first to create that racing Hall of Fame, now called Legends in Racing, and created the first and ONLY All-America Racing Team, with participants from all forms of competition.

AARWBA alos was the first to gain recognition for women to enter NASCAR and USAC garage areas.

And each year the group presents the Dave Overpeck Scholarship, honoring one of its late fomer presidents, as well as the Gorsline Scholarship and gives out a number of awards and special recognition salutes -- such as the Angelopolous Award (named in honor of a former Marine Corps fighter pilot) and the Jigger Award (for hard luck at Indy during the month of May) at its annual meeting.

From time-to-time, AARWBA also honors competitors in addition to Legends in Racing and those other awards.

You've probably read where NHRA Funny Car driver Gary Scelzi will receive the "Good Guy" Award from Brandel at Pomona later this year. That's given to a competitor for cooperation with the media and not just in drag racing, if Indy's Rick Mears needs to be an example.

***

Oh yeah, it's not all complete work for the members.

From time-to-time, a sponsor backs a breakfast for the group and the single on-going one is the gathering at Indy just before the 500 race. Firestone and Honda have co-hosted that breakfast the past couple of years. That's when certificates and cash is handed out to members who have submitted stories, photos and broadcast tapes to be judged, all overseen by a very patient and exacting member, Jerry Miller.

Way back when, Jeff Byrd, now president and general manager at Bristol, started a tradition. When he was with Winston and R.J. Reynolds he had his company host a breakfast gathering before the Gatornationals drag races. STP also entertained the members at an AARWBA breakfast the week of the Daytona 500.

Finally, AARWBA's motto perhaps sums up its mission as well as anything:
"Dedicated to Increasing Media Coverage of Motor Sports".

There you have it, but if you want further information on some of the folks who are bringing you stories, pictures and broadcasts, call up http://www.AARWBA.org.





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