Lenny H. Sammons
The first child of an EMPA Hall of Fame member – Leonard J. Sammons Jr. (1927- 1991) – to also be so recognized, Lenny H. Sammons (1954- ) is the Editor and Publisher of Area Auto Racing News and his growth as an individual and motorsports journalist has been accomplished in a parallel fashion with the last weekly-published auto-racing trade newspaper.
Just nine years old in 1963 when Leonard Jr. decided to produce a weekly, four-page newspaper that covered the Stock Car races that were taking place at Flemington (N.J.) Speedway, Nazareth (Pa.) Raceway, Old Bridge (N.J.) Stadium, Vineland (N.J.) Speedway and Wall (N.J.) Stadium, Lenny has seen all of the development of AARN on a first-hand basis and for all of his adult life he has been the guiding force of the Trenton, New Jersey-based publication.
As might be expected of someone who has been part of a family business, among Lenny’s early duties was that of salesman at the various race tracks where the early 12-page editions of AARN were available for 25 cents.
AARN filled a void for racing fans that previously had to depend on whatever reporting was available to them in the local or regional news media. And as the coverage of events in AARN increased, so did Lenny’s involvement with what was taking place at the-then rented office at 2829 South Broad Street in Trenton where the paper is still produced today.
Although this is not generally known, early investors in the paper were Modified Stock Car legends Frankie Schneider and Al Tasnady who could see that the elder Sammons had a good idea. And while he eventually bought-out his famous partners, the need for funds to produce the paper was one that saw other aspects becoming part of the young Sammons’ job.
Getting in the race-track novelty business was one way that the cash kept flowing and as part of those efforts a teenaged Lenny – who was also shooting race-track photographs for AARN publication – followed the old All-Star Racing League circuit of special mid-week dirt and asphalt events where he and some of his friends handled program and T-shirt sales.
In addition, when his father suggested that it might be an idea to create “Driver Buttons” featuring the cars and likenesses of some of the era’s top drivers, Lenny supervised a basement operation of neighborhood kids making those items for as many as 10 different tracks. And his share of that business proved to be quite profitable as his “button money” allowed him to buy a 1972 Mustang Mach I when he got his driver’s license.
When the elder Sammons’ health began to fail, Lenny was now a high school senior and he took on a more-responsible role in the actual production of the paper. First he was a press assistant, then press operator and then plant manager. He then started doing page layouts and writing and when Editor Pat Singer left in 1977 to work at the old Philadelphia Journal, 22-year-old Lenny Sammons took his first steps as the paper’s editor-in-chief.
Under Lenny’s watch, AARN became the first auto-racing trade newspaper to run a color cover when it did so for the 1979 Super DIRT Week edition and in 1984 it began to feature color photos quite regularly in its weekly editions. And during these times Lenny also developed into one of the most adroit writers and columnists in motorsports whose news stories, feature articles and opinion pieces brought new levels of color and insight to their readers.
But AARN – which also is available to subscribers at no additional cost in an online edition – is not the only thing that Lenny is involved with.
His Len Sammons Motorsports Productions has brought to the forefront such popular happenings as the mid-winter Motorsports Race Car and Trade Show – the most-successful event of its kind in the Northeast which he first organized in 1984. And LSMP also produces a varied series of Indoor Auto Racing events that fill major Northeast sporting areas with top-notch Three-Quarter-Midget-style cars and drivers and enthusiastic crowds.
And, in the past, Lenny has also been the proud father/race-car owner for his sons Danny (Production Manager) and Davey (Photo Editor), who in addition to their AARN work are actively involved with all aspects of the growing family business.