SEMA News—January 2020


By Mike Imlay

A Night of Excellence

Highlights From the 2019 SEMA Show Industry Awards Banquet

More than 2,500 attendees packed the banquet hall of the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino on Thursday night, November 7, for the SEMA Show’s Industry Awards Banquet, a celebration of the aftermarket’s best and brightest. The annual banquet is among the Show’s most anticipated highlights.

Traditionally taking place Thursday night at the SEMA Show, the SEMA Industry Awards Banquet honors industry innovators, volunteers and personalities who make significant contributions toward the advancement of the automotive specialty-equipment aftermarket. Themed “How Do You SEMA?” and emceed by automotive television and podcast personality Kevin Oeste and motorsports announcer Jarod DeAnda, the 2019 banquet was held November 7 at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.

Always popular among Showgoers, the gala drew more than 2,500 attendees eager to celebrate the night’s award recipients in a variety of categories, including the SEMA Chairman’s Service Award, Manufacturer of the Year, Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year, Warehouse Distributor of the Year, and Gen-III Innovator of the Year. Recent SEMA Hall of Fame inductees Bob Chandler, Bruce Crower and Marla Moore were also recognized.

All of the above honorees are featured in the following pages, while Dan Kahn, founder of Kahn Media and the evening’s 2019 SEMA Person of the Year recipient, will be profiled separately in the February 2020 issue of SEMA News. Along with the awards, the ceremonies featured music and headline entertainment, the latter courtesy Las Vegas’ iconic Blue Man Group.

In his opening remarks to attendees, SEMA Chairman of the Board Tim Martin noted that the evening was “really a celebration of all the ways people contribute to 
this industry.”
“Together, we serve millions of enthusiasts around the world who are involved in automotive customization, restoration and motorsports, [and] our vehicles, products and lifestyle are promoted by marketers, influencers and educators,” he said, adding that the SEMA community is unlike any other group of product engineers.

After their opening remarks, SEMA Chairman of the Board Tim Martin (right) and SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting paid tribute to the late Jessi Combs, whom Martin honored with the Chairman’s Service Award for her many contributions to SEMA and 
the industry.

“We are constantly messing with something that already works okay; we can’t leave it alone,” he explained. “We want to change something to make it better; make it faster; make it do something it couldn’t do before; take something old and make it look brand new; or take something brand new and make it more beautiful and unique. The SEMA community embraces change, creativity and competition.”

Following Martin, SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting also addressed the audience, touching upon the industry’s roots with racers and other pioneers whose contributions spanned generations. The lesson, he said, was that anyone in the audience could make a difference through their ideas and passion.

“So this is about all of us, but it’s [also] about each of you,” Kersting said. “Your contribution, your innovation, your success will be the force that keeps our industry moving forward. And along the way, this [SEMA] association is here to 
help you.”

Following their opening addresses, Martin and Kersting paid special tribute to the late motorsports legend Jessi Combs, who had emceed the banquet and other SEMA events in past years.
“I am proud to award the SEMA Chairman’s Service Award to a woman who has inspired millions of people around the world, Jessi Combs,” Martin said. “In August, we lost one of our industry’s shining stars, but tonight this award celebrates her contributions to our industry. Whether you knew her personally, professionally or watched her light up the screen, you could not help but be inspired by her infectious spirit and electric smile.”

Hunter Engineering was named Manufacturer of the Year.

Manufacturer of the Year: Hunter Engineering

The Manufacturer of the Year award celebrates a specialty-equipment manufacturer demonstrating exceptional performance working with warehouse distributors, manufacturers’ reps and others in the retail community. In addition, the honoree shows leadership within both the overall industry and their aftermarket segment through their high standards in business practices, innovation and customer satisfaction.

The 2019 award went to Hunter Engineering, a SEMA Show exhibitor for more than 20 years (and usually represented at the Show by more than 100 staff members, including its entire regional management and executive team). Finalists for the award included Air Lift Co. and Hypertech Inc.

AllPro Distributing took Warehouse Distributor of the Year honors.

Warehouse Distributor 
(WD) of the Year: AllPro Distributing

The SEMA Warehouse Distributor of the Year award recognizes a WD that stands out through operational excellence, industry involvement and developmental support to clients and staff. Outstanding customer service and expert product knowledge are also key considerations. A SEMA member for more than 30 years, AllPro Distributing took home the 2019 honors for its major strides in growing its business through exceptional customer service. Finalists for the award included Keystone Automotive and last year’s winner, Turn 
14 Distribution.

Rep Agency
The Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year award went to Kunzman & Associates.

Manufacturers’ Rep 
Agency of the Year: 
Kunzman & Associates

When aftermarket manufacturers seek to boost sales, expand into new territories or introduce new products, they often turn to a manufacturers’ rep agency. Because such agencies can play a pivotal role in getting products into the hands of consumers, the SEMA Manufacturers’ Rep Agency of the Year award honors those that demonstrate exceptional performance and professionalism, product-line knowledge, communication with suppliers and client networks, along with training and education.

The 2019 award went to Kunzman & Associates, whose vendor relationships have averaged 17 years over the course of the agency’s 18-year tenure. Kunzman & Associates is also known for its service to the industry at large; every member of its team belongs to a SEMA council, select committee or task force. The year’s finalists also included Considine Sales & Marketing and PSKB Inc.

Gen 3
Chris Candido (right), co-founder of Turn 14 Distribution, received the Gen-III Innovator of the Year award.

Gen-III Innovator of the Year: Chris Candido, Turn 14 Distribution

A Gen-III Innovator is defined as an industry individual under age 40 who is making breakthroughs in new products, new approaches to business, or trendsetting achievements. Nominees for the award must demonstrate truly innovative thinking that helps lead the industry forward. Awardees are selected by a panel of SEMA Board of Directors members and Young Executives Network representatives.

Chris Candido of Turn 14 Distribution was named the 2019 recipient for his innovative use of technology to help reimagine wholesale distribution. An English major and self-taught software developer, Candido is also a recent SEMA News “35 Under 35” honoree. Justin Hartenstein of Oracle Lighting and Jason Kencevski of Speedmaster were the award’s other two finalists.

Jarod DeAnda congratulated recent SEMA Hall of Fame inductee Bob Chandler (right), the man behind Bigfoot and the Monster Truck phenomenon.

SEMA Hall of Fame 

SEMA inducted three industry leaders into its Hall of Fame during its annual Leaders and Legends Installation & Gala in July. At the SEMA Show’s Industry Awards Banquet, the inductees were reintroduced to the wider industry audience.

With more than 45 years in the industry, Bob Chandler is credited with inventing the Monster Truck phenomenon. After a serious motorcycle accident ended his plans to work in the family business, Chandler bought a pickup and opened a 4WD shop. But every weekend event saw him breaking something on the vehicle, prompting his general manager to nickname him Bigfoot because he couldn’t take his foot off the throttle. Chandler emblazoned the name on the side of his truck and it stuck. From there, his truck got bigger and bigger as he spawned the famous Monster Truck events that brought a new wave of truck enthusiasts into the industry.

Kevin Oeste (left) interviewed Barbara Crower (center), wife of the late Bruce Crower, another SEMA Hall of Fame inductee, along with the Crower’s grandson Lewis.

More than 60 years ago, Bruce Crower began making performance parts for fellow hot rodders. His passion to make things go faster made him an innovator in all things motorsports and resulted in Crower Cams and Equipment Co., a multimillion-dollar organization producing high-performance parts for a wide variety of applications. In addition, Crower is credited with advancing the industry’s speed and safety. Over his career, he was recognized with several awards, including the 1977 SAE Louis Schwitzer award for innovation and engineering excellence. Crower, who passed away in July 2019, was represented at the SEMA Show banquet by his wife Barbara and grandson Lewis.

Marla Moore
SEMA Hall of Fame inductee Marla Moore (center) was also applauded for her many years of leadership and service to the industry.

Marla Moore didn’t originally consider the automotive aftermarket to be her career path when she was brought into it as an artist-illustrator 35 years ago. But it quickly won her over and made her a lifelong industry enthusiast. She has been a tireless volunteer and advocate ever since, serving on a variety of SEMA councils and task forces and building a reputation as a trusted leader and mentor. The recipient of many industry awards and honors, Moore is currently the marketing director for the six companies and 10 brands that make up Legendary Companies, and she serves on the board of the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer, a SEMA Cares charity. But of all her accomplishments, one of her proudest moments was bringing her father to the SEMA Show and introducing him to all the industry icons who had invented and built the parts he had been using for years on his car projects.

Summing up the evening, Kersting said: “We are honored to recognize each year the individuals and companies who embody the spirit of our industry. The SEMA Industry Awards Banquet is a highlight of the SEMA Show and a great way to culminate an outstanding week of business. It’s always great to spend time with friends and family, celebrating the industry that we all love.”

Council and Network Awards
In addition to a variety of awards during the Industry Awards Banquet, the honorees of SEMA’s many councils and networks were also congratulated for their outstanding work and contributions to their particular industry categories. The honorees included:
  • Chris Crecelius, Edelbrock—Emerging Trends & Technology Network Ambassador Award
  • John McLeod, Classic Instruments—Hot Rod Industry Alliance Industry Recognition Award
  • Dino Perfetti, Automotive Concepts—Professional Restylers Organization Nat Danas Person of the Year Award
  • Jennifer LaFever, Roush Yates—SEMA Businesswomen’s Network Woman of the Year Award
  • Joel Ayres, Automotive Aftermarket Charity Foundation—Truck & Off-Road Alliance Hall of Fame Award
  • Tim Dietz, Standards Testing Laboratories—Wheel & Tire Council Hall of Fame Inductee Honors
  • Matthew Boice, MotorTrend Group—Young Executives Network Vanguard Award


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