IRWINDALE, CA., Nov. 20- Irwindale Speedway management honored all the 2004 track/series champions Saturday night at the sixth annual track championship awards banquet. More than 600 persons attended the Twin Palms-catered chicken and beef buffet dinner, held for the third consecutive year in a huge tent near the track's administration building.
Banquet attendees saw a professional video shot this summer about Irwindale Speedway racing operations. Track COO/General Manager Bob DeFazio gave welcoming remarks at the podium and introduced emcee Bruce Flanders, IS chief announcer. He called the ten oval track champions and four IS drag strip champions to the stage for their awards and trophies during the two-hour presentation of awards.
Each champion was shown in racing action and in pre-taped comments about his championship season. Two large screens adjacent to the stage and four televisions located around the room brought the video close to everyone in the audience. On stage each champion spoke to the audience for the allocated two minutes and thanked sponsors, teams, track officials and families.
In order, track champions called to the stage were:
* Jimmy Rouse (AMF Bowling Pure Stocks) + top five in points.
* Chris Johnson (West Coast Pro Trucks) + top three.
* Rod Proctor (Pick Your Part Figure 8s) + top three.
* Greg Tucker (Mini Stocks) + top ten.
* Bob Landreth (King Taco Legend Cars) + top ten.
* Ron Peterson (NAPA Auto Parts Super Trucks) + top ten.
* Andrew Phipps (Grand American Modifieds) + top ten.
* Craig Rayburn (Vista Paint Super Stocks) + top ten.
* Doug McComb (Auto Club Late Models) + top ten.
* Greg Pursley (Lucas Oil Super Late Models) + top ten.
The NHRA Summit Racing Series Drag Strip winners were:
* Leo Glassbrenner (Pro Street champion)
* Doug Gibson (Sportsman champion)
* Jim Bette (Trucks/SUV champion)
* Tony Pellettera (Pro Bike champion).
Pursley also was honored as Dodge Weekly Racing Series Sunbelt Region and National Champion. He received his championship ring. Legend Cars series sponsor King Taco recognized the top 20 drivers in Legends points with a $10,000 point fund. Wendi Westbrook, IS Marketing Director and a past Legends racer herself, introduced the top 20 Legends drivers in attendance.
Rick Lalor, of the Auto Club of Southern California, presented for the third year in a row a vacation trip for two to Hawaii to Auto Club-sponsored Late Model Series champion McComb. He said McComb will be a guest in the Auto Club suite at California Speedway for the Auto Club sponsored NASCAR Nextel Cup race on February 27, 2005. Late Model second and third place drivers Deryk Ward and Tim Huddleston received choice tickets at the starting line courtesy of the Auto Club for the same Nextel Cup race.
ROOKIES OF YEAR: Honored as series rookies of the year were Mike Price (Super Late Models), Dan DiGiacomo (Late Models), Jamie Barnett (GAM), Johnny White (Super Stocks), Eric Hardin (Super Trucks), Rod Schmitt (Mini Stocks) and Evin Powell (Legends).
MOST IMPROVED: Drivers recognized as most improved in their respective series were Ed Hoffman (SLM), Todd Conrad (Late Models), Joe Ruggles (GAM), Bryan Harrell (Super Stocks), Billy Helgeson (Super Trucks), Kevin Bernhardt (Mini Stocks) and Kevin Wong (Legends). Other awards went to Chris Greaney (crew chief of McComb's No. 48 Late Model) as IS crew chief of the year. Sean Vincent (No. 99 super stock) was recognized as NASCAR Sunbelt Region mechanic/crew chief of 2004.
Lee Ladd, a long-time driver, car owner, sponsor, received the track sportsman of the year honors. The IS 1999 Mini Stock and 2003 Super Stock champion and second-ranked driver in 2004 S/S points fielded the championship GAM for Phipps and the AutoZone Southwest Series car for Rip Michels. Competitors in all divisions respect his unselfish assistance to anyone in need of mechanical advice, parts or equipment.
This season Ladd also loaned his backup Camaro to Pat Rummerfield, a former paraplegic, to race at Irwindale twice and realize a long-time dream.
COO/GM DeFazio again spoke to the audience and said IS is the theatre, but the racers are the show. He thanked all competitors, sponsors (series and billboards), IS staff, racing officials, intern Mauricia Grant, drag strip staff, track announcing staff, communications director Doug Stokes, photo/PR staff, the families of competitors and track owner/chairman Jim Williams. DeFazio said Irwindale Speedway has been called and is the finest short track in the country and has been honored to host the first two NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdowns and the annual USAC Thanksgiving Midget Grand Prix.
As ceremonies neared the conclusion, IS chairman Williams said behind every successful man is a woman. He called to the stage Heidi Pursley, wife of the 2004 Dodge Weekly Racing Series National Champion, and presented her a dozen red roses. Williams thanked everyone for making Irwindale Speedway so great and for living up to the vision he had in getting the track built for the 1999 inaugural racing season. Attendees adjourned at 8:45 p.m for bench racing. The 2005 IS nine-month racing season will begin in March.