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John Massingberd Memorial Award Presented at Drag Strip Memories

The John Massingberd Memorial Award has been presented by the Pro Modified Racing Association (PMRA) to a new, deserving individual, who represents the same commitment, dedication and passion that John Massingberd conveyed for the sport of auto racing.

Massingberd, a long-time motorsports media personality, was instrumental in promoting Canadian motorsports until his passing in December of 2008 after a long and courageous battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

This year’s award was presented on April 14 at the Drag Strip Memories show at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope, Ontario, to Erik Tomas.

Erik caught the racing bug when his father took him to dirt tracks in the Niagara Region of Ontario when he was seven years old, and the sport has followed him everywhere since.

While broadcasting news, sports and play-by-play hockey on Niagara radio stations CHSC, CKTB and CJRN in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, “ET” started announcing the racing action at Merrittville Speedway, Ransomville Speedway and Cayuga Speedway through the 1970s.

In the 1980s, Erik brought his broadcasting talents to the Toronto market, broadcasting news and sports for 680 CFTR (now 680 News) and CKFM/Mix 99.9 (now Virgin Radio 99.9).  He also had a stint as a play-by-play TV announcer for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs on CHCH-TV and Global Television in the mid-1980s.

Getting back to his auto racing roots while still working radio in Toronto, Erik took on the role of anchor, writer and co-producer for the Raceline Motorsport Television series on TSN, owned and produced by Bruce F. Mehlenbacher and the late John Massingberd’s Promark Motorsport International.

Massingberd was inducted into the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame posthumously in 2022 and was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame posthumously in 2023. The Mehlenbacher family was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1998, and Bruce F. Mehlenbacher was inducted into the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2023.

When the CART IndyCar Series came to the streets of Toronto, ET brought his track announcing experience to The Molson Indy from the first race in 1986, as track announcer.

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Erik’s auto racing passion turned into a full-time gig as anchor, producer, writer, and affiliate relations for the Raceline Radio Network, starting in 1992. Erik was Canada’s lone full-time auto racing broadcast journalist, and Raceline Radio remained Canada’s only nationally syndicated motorsport radio program until Erik retired from professional broadcasting in December 2023.  He dedicated 48 years to sports broadcasting and 31 years to the Raceline Radio Network.

The Network comprised affiliates in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Hamilton, and Niagara/Western New York State. Many affiliates aired Raceline Radio twice weekly, with an additional audience obtained through podcasts. Total weekly audiences exceeded 175,000 listeners.  2023 marked the 31st Anniversary of The Raceline Radio Network.

During his career, Erik has interviewed some of the biggest and most influential stars in racing.  This includes Mario Andretti, Shirley Muldowney, John Force, Don Garlits, Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal, Tom Carnegie, Nigel Mansell, Al Unser Jr., Dale Earnhardt, Kenny Bernstein and Bob Jenkins. 

Raceline Radio has won numerous international motorsport journalism awards, with Erik at the helm.  Erik was a regular contributor to Inside Track Motorsport News.

Erik Tomas was deservedly inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2020. 

The John Massingberd Award honours a national ambassador of Canadian motorsport in all disciplines, through his keen insight and entrepreneurial creativity. 

In the late 1980s, John co-established Promark Motorsport International, which included Raceline Motorsport Television and SnowTrax Television with Bruce Mehlenbacher, two media ventures responsible for bringing Canadian motorsport to a greater audience and well-deserved prominence.  Along with coverage of drag racing, stock car racing, road racing, and tractor pulls with Promark Motorsport International and Raceline Television, he co-founded and co-anchored Raceline Radio in 1992.

John was the executive producer of Canada’s first nationally syndicated motorsport radio program, the Raceline Radio Network, along with Erik Tomas.  Raceline Radio was Canada’s first and only nationally syndicated motorsport radio program that celebrated 31 years on the air in 2023 as Canada’s National Radio Motorsport Authority.

All who knew John quickly recognized his larger-than-life stature. With his warm, friendly but firm handshake, quick wit and genuine charm, John had a fantastic ability to never be at a loss for words.  He pioneered his field, breaking new ground in radio and television coverage of Canadian motorsport.

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In keeping with the spirit of the Pro Modified Racing Association, it is appropriate and altogether fitting to recognize John Massingberd with this annual award.

Past Recipients:

Carl Spiering, Fred & Betsy Smith, R.W. (Bob) Slack, Vern Christy, John Waldie, Tim Miller, Bruce Biegler, Harvey Silverthorne and Rob Potter.

This story was originally published on April 18, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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