OF FAME HONORS
PUBLIC RELATIONS SPECIALIST ERNIE SAXTON
Nationally recognized public relations, motorsports marketing and promotions
specialist Ernie Saxton has been named recipient of the 2009 Leonard J.
Sammons Jr. Memorial Award which recognizes outstanding contributions to
auto racing. Saxton will be honored when the 18th annual Northeast Modified
Hall of Fame driver inductions and special award ceremonies take place
Sunday, May 24 on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in conjunction with the
annual Memorial Day Weekend holiday show at the adjacent speedway.
When it was first announced that Saxton was to receive the Sammons
Award, being surprised was just one of the emotions that he felt.
“I am humbled to have been selected for this award,” said the
67-year-old publisher of the highly-regarded Motorsports Sponsorship
Marketing News upon being told of this honor. “After writing so many columns
and articles and working for so many speedways and organizations, I still
enjoy what I do. And as long as my health holds out, I plan to continue
doing this, although I might phase a few things out in the years to come.
But I am really looking forward to the activities at Weedsport.”
Saxton has a long history in the professional business world of
motorsports. But just like anyone else, his first involvement with racing
came as a fan. As a kid growing up in the 1950s, he enjoyed the excitement
of open-wheel racing. He went to local tracks – including the legendary
Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway – and soon began to follow one of the big stars of
that era, Johnny Thomson.
Saxton liked the way that “The Flying Scot” handled himself on and
off the race track so much that he organized and became the president of the
Johnny Thomson Fan Club, and he had fun running the fan club and watching
his favorite driver race. But after Thomson was killed in a Sprint Car race
in September of 1960 at Pennsylvania ’s Allentown Fair, he looked around for
another way to stay involved in the sport that he loved.
For a short time, he took on the duties of a racing
photographer. But the proximity of the cars whizzing by him as he tried to
capture their images caused him to rethink that idea and he turned to
writing. And that change proved to be the perfect fit.
In the mid-1960s, Saxton began writing for the old Illustrated
Speedway News and even as the youngest columnist on that staff he was trying
to improve the working conditions of those who covered racing. It was
because of this that in 1969 he, Al Consoli, John Ernesto and Red Kirsch
founded the Eastern Motorsport Press Association.
The goal of EMPA was “to bring about a better understanding of the
sport and to bring more professionalism to the coverage of motorsports” and
through his long tenure as the EMPA president – a position that he will
relinquish at the end of this year – Saxton has worked tirelessly in that
behalf. But he has also helped the media to gain increased access to the
valuable information that is supplied by promoters and racers, and he was
instrumental in the establishment of a press release format that is widely
Prior to opening his Langhorne-based Ernie Saxton Communications
business in 1989, he got a closer look at the automotive industry during his
13 years as the Manager of Marketing and Advertising at the Chilton Book
Company. And the relationships that he developed then and since have enticed
many of the top personalities in racing to come to the annual EMPA
Convention and give attendees a unique and insightful look into the business
A columnist with Area Auto Racing News for some 28 years, Saxton
has written or still writes for such varied publications as the Bucks County
Courier Times, Inside Track Motorsports News, Stock Car Racing, NASCAR
Magazine, Speedway Illustrated and National Dragster.
The director of public relations and communications at Grandview
Speedway in Bechtelsville , Pa. , for 43 years, Saxton also served in that
capacity at New Jersey ’s Bridgeport and Trenton International Speedways,
and he was the press liaison for six years at Pennsylvania ’s Pocono
Saxton’s résumé lists the position of public relations director for
the United Racing Club, American Racing Drivers Club and American
Three-Quarter Midget Racing Association; once handling those three jobs all
at the same time. And he has also been a regular contributor and/or host on
auto racing programs that were broadcast to local and regional radio
The public at-large also got a different look at this man of many
talents from 1986 until just a couple of years ago when he served as the
popular MC for the “Ms. Motorsports Contest” at the annual Len Sammons
Motorsports Auto Racing & Trade Show. But due to other mounting duties at
the show – which include the coordination of the event’s “Promoters Summit”
– he was forced to relinquish that enviable position to DIRTcar television
host Shane Andrews.
Its obvious to see that Saxton is the type of person who gets
things done. He is also someone who is never hesitant to speak his mind and
that has sometimes made him controversial. Yet, the focus of what he has
written or said has always been on what is good for racing and some of his
previously criticized ideas and opinions are now widely accepted.
As an announcer, he has worked at 174 tracks across the country. He
has been behind the microphone at Grandview for 41 years and also called the
racing action at such unique locations as the old Ascot Park in California ,
New York City ’s Madison Square Garden , the old John F. Kennedy Stadium in
Philadelphia , and the Scope Arena in Norfolk , Virginia .
As a writer, Saxton brings clear thought to his columns and an
interesting slant to his stories. And, as an authority on public relations,
marketing, sponsorship and the business aspects of racing, he champions the
idea of seeing that everyone -- from fans, competitors and sponsors to the
race tracks themselves-- gets the best value for the money, time and effort
that they have put into the sport.
At the upcoming ceremonies later this month you can be sure that
Ernie Saxton will acknowledge the help that his wife Marilyn has given him
over the years. And their relationship in this light is well-known
throughout the racing community. But so is his leadership in motorsports and
he is well-deserving of this singular recognition.
Source: Herb Anastor
/ Northeast Modified Hall of Fame Selection Committee