Allen Wolfe’s Grand Prix of Long Beach spirit lives on with award to Honda’s T.E. McHale – San Bernardino Sun



Allen Wolfe and T.E. McHale had three things in common: They loved newspapering. They loved auto racing. And they were beloved by all who knew them.

It is only fitting, then, that their paths will cross at this year’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach — though it will be posthumously.

Wolfe, the Press-Telegram’s late, legendary auto racing writer, lived for this time of year, when the Grand Prix started revving up and the deafening roar of race engines could be heard on Long Beach’s downtown streets.

From the first Grand Prix in 1975 and for the next 23 years, Wolfe became known as the “Grand Master of the Grand Prix.” He got so excited about the race that we in the P-T newsroom used to call April, “Allen Wolfe time.”

Unfortunately, Wolfe was working tirelessly as usual on the race in 1999 when his heart gave out and he died at 51, one week before the start of the Grand Prix. Eventually, the Grand Prix and the P-T created an honor bearing his name — the Allen Wolfe Spirit of the Grand Prix Award.

McHale, meanwhile, was a veteran sportswriter for the Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal from 1978 to 1996. But then he changed gears and turned his love of motorsports into a second career as a racing executive with Championship Auto Racing Teams and the Trans-Am Series. In 2003, Honda hired him to be its manager of motorsports communications. He moved to Torrance for the Honda job and became a regular and respected figure at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He retired in 2019.

He died in December from colon cancer. He was 68.

McHale will posthumously receive the Allen Wolfe Spirit of the Grand Prix Award on Saturday, April 9, at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. McHale’s brother, Terry, is expected to be at the event to receive the award on his sibling’s behalf, said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.

“T.E. was truly a gentle soul who made his greatest impact due to his steady, reasonable approach to life,” Michaelian said. “He had a quiet demeanor, but, when he spoke, his words always commanded everyone’s attention.”

McHale played a valuable role in completing the title sponsorship agreement between Acura and the Grand Prix Association in 2019, Michaelian said. Acura is the luxury car division of Honda.

In Wolfe’s honor, the Press-Telegram (curently part of the Southern California News Group) and Michaelian created spirit award, given each year to a person who made a significant contribution to the race. McHale was richly deserving of the award, Michaelian said.

McHale and Wolfe, the Grand Prix leader said, were “giants in their fields. Both had a strong affinity for the world of motorsports.”

Wolfe had a rocky start in life when he and a twin brother were born prematurely in Honolulu. His brother died two days after birth. Wolfe weighed 4.5 pounds and spent his first month in an incubator. Later, doctors discovered he had a congenital heart defect — but he never let that slow him down. He was an avid golfer and skier.

Wolfe started his career as a writer when he joined the student newspaper at Long Beach’s Millikan High School. When he was 17, he got a part-time job at the Press-Telegram answering phones.

And so began his 33-year career at the newspaper.

Wolfe also wrote for the school papers at Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach during his tenure at those campuses.

His love of sports led him into auto race reporting.

Jim McCormack, former sports editor of the Press-Telegram during what he called “the Allen Wolfe era,” said Wolfe was a reliable, professional and quiet editor on the desk during the auto offseason.

“During Grand Prix time, it was like he had received fresh batteries,” McCormack said. “His story output was legendary and his energy endless.

“He would virtually single-handedly put out our Grand Prix special section and, at the same time, would be all over the day-to-day coverage advancing and then covering the race,” McCormack added. “He knew everyone of significance in the Grand Prix racing community, and he was respected by everyone. The Press-Telegram sports department had a remarkable collection of exceptional journalists and, when it came to auto racing, Allen was among the best.”

The American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association recognized Wolfe with a plaque in the Deadline Media Center at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his dedication to increasing the coverage of motorsports.



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