FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Jan. 18, 1998
IHRA honors Snap-on Tools World Champions
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The International Hot Rod Association officially brought the 1997 Snap-on Tools Championship Drag Racing Series season to a close Saturday, Jan. 17, as 12 Snap-on Tools World Champions were honored and many special appreciation awards were presented at the 27th annual Championship Awards Banquet, held at the historic Grove Park Inn.
It was also an evening that will be remembered as the beginning of a new era in IHRA drag racing. New IHRA President Bill Bader addressed the crowd in the Grand Ballroom via videotape to announce his plans for the future of the organization. Bader was unable to attend due to a schedule conflict with the Norwalk Raceway Park awards banquet, held the same evening.
"We will make IHRA a successful franchise, and it will take a great effort from everyone involved," Bader said. "The NFL and NASCAR weren't built in a year. It will take time, but we can do it."
In addition, Bader noted that the sanctioning body headquarters will relocate to Norwalk, Ohio. Bader's comments drew a standing ovation and set the mood for the remainder of the awards ceremony.
Paul Romine, driver of the CARQUEST Auto Parts dragster, was honored for his Top Fuel World Championship. Romine, of Indianapolis, earned four wins, one runner-up finish and established many performance records during the season to claim the title.
"I feel very fortunate to have accomplished one of my life-long goals," Romine said. "While these awards put the spotlight on one individual, I definitely couldn't have accomplished this without the tremendous dedication and support from my Aerolite Racing crew."
Romine's crew chief, drag racing legend Clayton Harris, was honored as the Snap-on Tools Wrench of the Year for his contributions to the team's success.
Other World Champions who were recognized included Shannon Jenkins, Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Pro Modified); Floyd Cheek, Chattanooga, Tenn. (Pro Stock); Jimmy Rector, Vernon, Ala. (Alcohol Funny Car); Roy Holcomb, Harrison Township, Mich. (Top Dragster); Ronnie Davis, Lilburn, Ga. (Top Sportsman); Anthony Bertozzi, Richmond, Va. (Modified and Super Stock); Harold Gault, Pacolet Mills, S.C. (Stock); Kevin Scales, Spartanburg, S.C. (Quick Rod); Rusty Cook, Cynthiana, Ky. (Super Rod); B.D. Parker, Florence, S.C. (Hot Rod).
Carl Johanson, director of motorsports marketing for series sponsor Snap-on Tools, headed the list of special award winners. Johanson, who has been very instrumental with Snap-on Tools' involvement with IHRA for many years, was presented with the Jim Ruth Memorial Award, recognizing IHRA's Man of the Year. He also accepted the Sponsor of the Year award for three- time winner Snap-on Tools.
IHRA's coveted Rookie of the Year title was presented to Kingsport, Tenn.'s Tom Lee, driver of the Charlie Hunt-owned Tennessean Ford Probe.
Other special award winners included: Track Operator of the Year -- Scott Gardner, Cordova Dragway Park; Track of the Year -- U.S. 43 Raceway; Don Carlton Memorial Award -- Quain Stott; Snap-on Tools Sportsmanship Award -- Michael Barclay; PTS Award -- Howie Dalton and Ron Orr; Samaritan Award -- Paul Crowe; Professional Sponsor of the Year -- Sunoco Race Fuels; Sportsman Sponsor of the Year -- Holley Performance Products; Loretta Callahan Memorial Award -- George Walter; Manufacturer of the Year -- Huntsville Engine and Performance; Brenda Rutherford Memorial Award -- Bryan Epps; and IHRA Media Award -- Bruce Biegler, Performance Racing News.
In the popular Sunoco Bracket World Champion Reaction Time Shootout, Ontario, Canada's Wil Steckly produced a .508 reaction time average to win one of the closest contested shootouts in the four year history of the competition. All six Sunoco Bracket World Champions participated in the event. Steckly's effort earned him a Sea Rayder boat valued at $23,000.
Steckly, representing Grand Bend Motorplex, and John Kyle of Northwood, Ohio, (Norwalk Raceway Park) were honored as Sunoco Bracket World Champions from IHRA's North Star Division. Eastern Region bracket World Champion representatives included Jimmy Brashier, Piedmont, S.C. (Ware Shoals Dragway) and Robert Nelson, Bristol, Tenn. (Bristol Dragway). Southern Region bracket champs were John McKinney, Sevierville, Tenn. (English Mountain Dragway); Lowell Thomas, Waterloo, S.C. (Ware Shoals Dragway).
The 1998 IHRA Snap-on Tools Championship Drag Racing Series will begin March 27-29 at the DeSoto Memorial Dragway, Bradenton, Fla.
Keep up with all the latest IHRA news and information on the internet at ihra.com.