CINCINNATI, OH -- Bill Baird, in only his second season on the tour, collected the lion's share of the $500,000-plus in year-end awards distributed at the 1999 ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series awards banquet here Saturday night at the Westin Hotel in ...
CINCINNATI, OH -- Bill Baird, in only his second season on the tour, collected the lion's share of the $500,000-plus in year-end awards distributed at the 1999 ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series awards banquet here Saturday night at the Westin Hotel in downtown Cincinnati, then announced that he would return to defend his title.
"It's hard for me to describe what this means to me to win this championship," said Baird on stage in the Presidential Ballroom of the Westin. "You've got to understand, I've never even won a race until this year, and to win five, plus the championship is more than I ever dared dream about. There's so many people to thank but without the time, let me just say, first off, thanks to my lovely wife of 31 years Jan, who's been my biggest inspiration through it all, and my best friend. To my crew chief Keith Strunk whose mind is as sharp as a tack, and one of the biggest reasons I'm standing before you tonight. Thanks to the whole crew whose dedication and work ethic paid off big time for Bill Baird. To my sponsors Saturn Machine, Spee Dee Pop, Valvoline, Alan's Body Shop, and all the rest, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To all the ARCA drivers I raced with all year; they're the best bunch I've ever been associated with. Special thanks to Ken Schrader who inspired me to go racing initially and really helped get me going in the superspeedway business. And special thanks to ARCA, the most versatile series in the world, who enables us to race at, not only the nicest superspeedways in the world, but some real awesome short-tracks too. Throw in the dirt racing and you've got one classy club. They're all super to work with and I really appreciate the opportunities they provide. It's grassroots racing at its best. I'd also like to thank Bill Gamblin of the Union County Advocate who gave myself and all the ARCA drivers the best coverage I've ever seen anywhere. And lastly, thanks to all the fans in support of Bill Baird and crew. You continue to give us the drive we need to chase this racing grind. We'll gladly be back to defend the title. With everything I have in me, I am truly blessed and proud to be the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series national champion."
Baird and company carried off over $100,000 in year-end monies including point fund contributions from Bondo/Mar-Hyde, ARCA track operators, Hoosier Racing Tire, Auto Value Parts Stores, Racing Electronics, 76 Racing Gas, Stuart RV Land/Coachmen, Motive Gear, Fastlane Footwear, Harris Torches and Regulators, Landrum Spring Service and Lincoln Welders. Strunk won the Cornwell Tools Crew Chief of the Year honors and Brian Elbhar, who built Baird's engines, won the Clevite Engine Parts Mechanic of the Year award.
Among the special honors Baird received were the Bill France Triple Crown which is a cumulative point total from three very diverse venues; Talladega Superspeedway, Salem Speedway and the dirt mile in Springfield, Illinois epitomizing the versatility of the ARCA series, the Auto Value Parts Stores Halfway Leader, the Talladega Pole award, the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Pole-Win bonus, the Motive Gear Maximum Performance award, the Racing Electronics Lightning Challenge and the Superspeedway Challenge Championship. Additionally, ARCA President Ron Drager presented Baird a congratulatory proclamation letter from the Governor of Kentucky, Paul E. Patton, saluting the champion's banner year.
Soddy Daisy, Tennessee's Ron Cox, who finished eighth in driver points, received the prestigious STP-Prestone ARCA Rookie of the Year award as well as the Prestone Advanced Formula award for improving the most positions throughout the year.
Championship runner-up driver Frank Kimmel and car owner Larry Clement saw their efforts net the team over $50,000 in awards and announced that Advance Auto Parts would return in 2000 as primary sponsor on their #46 Monte Carlos along with new associate sponsor ET Sharp Trucking.
1999 Daytona ARCA 200 winner Bobby Gerhart was honored as the third place driver and also announced the return of his title sponsor, Kewadin Casinos, for the 2000 season. Joe Cooksey wrapped up his season 4th in points, a career high-mark for the Centralia, Illinois driver, and also won the Thermo-Tec Durable Driver award for completing the most laps. Mark Gibson, who will join Cooksey in a two-car team effort in 2000, was honored as the fifth place driver while Andy Belmont, veteran Bob Schacht, Cox, Cavin Councilor and Norm Benning completed the top-ten honorees respectively. Benning also picked up the Hoosier Tire Midwest Hard Charger award.
Other awards presented included the ARCA Motorsports Media award to Toledo Blade columnist CJ Landry, the Reed Cams Most Improved Driver to Blaise Alexander, the HG Adcox Sportsmanship honors to Chuck Weber and the Spirit Award to current ARCA car owner and NASCAR legend James Hylton. Racing Electronics won the prestigious President's award and Dill Whittymore picked up the QuicShine 99 Best Appearing Car award for his Mt Olive Pickles paint scheme.
Next activity for the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series teams is testing at Daytona Int'l Speedway December 17, 18 and 19 in preparation for the Feb. 13th 37th annual Daytona ARCA 200.