The Raceline Radio Network and The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Have Deep and Parallel History!
Miss Janice and I threw on some better bib and tuck to attend the latest induction ceremony for The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in Toronto, as six new people enter the hallowed hall to honour and recognize their monumental contributions to motorsport in Canada.
As we watched Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Scott Maxwell, Diana Carter, John Magill and Norris McDonald take the stage this year, it got me thinking about the indelible connection between The Raceline Radio Network and The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.
The connection is deep, as Raceline and the Hall’s resurrection happened just about at the same time, in 1993.
Gary Magwood and Lee Abrahamson decided the Hall should come out of mothballs, and Raceline jumped on the story from moment-one, not just to cover it, but to get involved with the Hall of Fame itself.
Len Coates prepared the biographies after the selection committee’s labours to put Bill Brack, John Cannon, Billy Foster, Imperial Tobacco, Bob McLean, Chuck Rathgeb, Peter Ryan, fellow Niagaran Bill Sadler, Gilles Villeneuve and Eppie Wietzes into the Hall that year.
Yours truly had the honour of serving as Master of Ceremonies for those ’93 and the 1994 inductions.
My tuxedo and checkered sneakers combo is still talked about as the fashion misstep of the century!
Since the early 90’s, Raceline’s contributions have taken a more audio-visual approach, as I am deeply proud to provide the voice-over recording of each inductee’s biography at the induction Gala, words crafted by another good friend and Hall supporter, Tim Miller of The Hamilton Spectator.
From this point forward in this edition of “Tomas Tales, I will let a very good friend and celebrated motorsport and hockey writer, one of the best in the country, Dan Proudfoot, to give you his spin on the Hall of Fame process, and how and why making sure we never lose touch with our racing past is so important to us.
Dan’s article appeared in the Hall of Fame program, and he has kindly allowed me to include his words in “Tales”. Thanks Dan!
Behind the Scenes with Alan Sanders, CMHF Induction Gala Producer
On this occasion we all share emotions, those of us seated in the auditorium and those we’ve come to celebrate, the inductees on stage.
Here and now, you don’t need to be Nigel Mansell to wear your heart on your sleeve. Or Paul Tracy, to speak your mind exactly, or Scott Maxwell to analyze a challenge and make the most of it. We’re all part of this Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame induction. We all feel a collective rush.
Inductees themselves sometimes shiver or tear up while witnessing their greatest moments flashing by one after another on screen during their turn at centre stage. Gaining a place in the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame is powerful beyond horsepower.
And this show supercharges it with immediacy. Tony Stewart’s heartfelt tribute to inductee Jimmy Carr arrived via smart phone 72 hours before last year’s induction. “It contributed so much because Tony was so over-the-top over Jimmy being named to the hall,” says Alan Sanders, the induction show producer and a former CMHF board member. “We make changes even during the show if new information becomes available.”
Sanders begins each year in early summer reviewing each inductee’s nomination information, collecting images and testimony that will bring career highlights alive in tonight’s audio-visual presentation. In the case of Carr and Stewart, he drove to Ohsweken Speedway to get to know them at a World of Outlaws show.
“People will put their whole life into a shoebox and I’ll start by sifting through the print material, the video, all their photos for our audio-visual presentation. In the end, I always like to ask the most important question: what is the biggest moment in your career?”
Sanders is an unpaid volunteer. As is everyone else behind tonight’s program. “Logistics and storage is what I do for my day job, with a couple of main clients, nothing really glamorous,” says the president of Trillium Specialty Logistics. The hall’s 13 cars, three motorcycles, and archives are stored in a TSL warehouse pending establishment of a new home.
Eric Tomas contributes the audio for Sanders’ visual. His is a voice with a track vibe. Even in its lower register it bursts with the excitement of hundreds of races he’s worked, from the 1970’s as track announcer at Merritville, Ransomville and Cayuga speedways.
Tomas’s Raceline Radio, in its 22nd season, comprises 16 stations across the country. Tomas was co-announcer of the original Molson Indy from 1986-1993. In radio and television he’s worked Champcar, World of Outlaws, DIRT series, and been pit reporter on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. He’s been the face of television coverage of various Canadian series including CASCAR/NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and The Can-Am Midgets.
And with all this behind him Tomas’s voice introduces real feeling to his recitation of inductee’s accomplishments. He and script writer Tim Miller have known each other for decades and combined on this show for years.
“My role has been to provide the cold facts and figures and not write about them in a subjective manner,” explains Miller, longtime motorsports writer for The Hamilton Spectator and
author, who works with material provided by Sanders as well as his own research.
Take note that every volunteer fell prey to motorsport a long, long time ago. For Max Sanders, Alan’s dad, in charge of tonight’s ticket sales, the original Can-Am Challenge Series was the hook. He managed the team campaigning John Cannon, who went on to be inducted as a CMHF member, in a McLaren M1B that famously won in the rain at Laguna Seca, CA, in 1968.
Norris McDonald, known far and wide for championing motorsport in The Toronto Star’s Wheels section, raced himself at upstate New York’s Oswego Speedway. The only reason McDonald isn’t serving as master of ceremonies tonight, of course, is because he’s being inducted.
Ralph Luciw, the enduring CMHF board member and induction stalwart, ran Honda’s long-running Civic series years after racing Porsches in the era of airport circuits. Alan Sanders first met Luciw while crewing for a Civic team; later, Luciw was a prime mover in developing the induction ceremonies when Sanders began contributing to the hall as a volunteer during its time at Bay and College.
Alan Sanders got on track himself in kart racing at the age of 30, competing in Brian Stewart’s regional championship and going as far afield as Florida. “Now 1,000 per cent of my effort goes into my son’s racing,” he says of 11-year-old Gavin.
Racing against 15-year-olds, Gavin Sanders has finished as high as third at Goodwood in the Eastern Canadian junior championship and anticipates improving with experience. “He wants to make a career of it – but not as a driver, he knows dad hasn’t got the resources for that, but more on the engineering or team side of thing.”
The torch passes on. Sid Priddle is in his fourth year as interim general manager of the hall, following many years as a public relations specialist working with race organizations and sponsors. His son, Jerry Priddle, also a communications specialist with racing roots, is a member of the board.
The torch passes on, but tonight we pause to salute those who’ve carried it with spectacular ability.
ET… with contribution from Dan Proudfoot, CMHF.2014