NWRS celebrates champion Webb's stellar year
By Dave Rodman
ORLANDO, Fla. (Nov. 17, 2000) NASCAR's grassroots racing family held its ultimate celebration Friday night as Gary Webb of Blue Grass, Iowa, was honored as the 2000 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series national champion.
Webb, 51, a 29-year racing veteran, was feted at the Peabody Hotel's Grand Ballroom by more than 1,000 of his peers, including competitors, track operators, officials, sponsors, family and friends.
"Age -- what a mythical thing," said Webb, who walked off the stage with a huge trophy, a check for $153,550 and the champion's diamond ring presented by NASCAR executive vice president and secretary Jim France. "A young driver races with no fear, lightning reflexes and a bright future.
"A driver with 10 years experience has reached his prime. A driver over 50 that is still winning races may just be called a savvy old veteran who realizes his days are numbered.
"In my 29-year career I have run this spectrum and to be the 2000 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series champion is an overwhelming accomplishment."
While he also competed with success in the O'Reilly Auto Parts All-Star Series, NASCAR Touring, Webb dominated the Mid-America Region of the NWRS. He began the NASCAR 2000 season with 15 straight victories and ultimately won 16 times in 18 starts. In his career he has earned a lot of respect from everyone from fans and officials to his fellow competitors.
"To be a champion of any kind you had to give a lot of commitment to your sport," said 1986 NWRS national champion Joe Kosiski, the 2000 Midwest Region champion, in praise of Webb. "I have raced against Gary on many occasions and he contributes to the sport in only positive ways. It is a pleasure having Gary as our national champion."
"A driver alone can seldom win championships," said Webb, who thanked his wife Cindy, his son Brian and his crew. "My car owner, Larry Moring, has provided us with the equipment, resources, leadership and the moral support that this team needs to compete."
"Larry enjoys every aspect of this sport," Webb said of the owner that also won the inaugural NWRS national championship with Tom Hearst in 1982, "and he brings that into every faction of our team. He has also made this a complete family effort."
On the evening, more than $1.7 million in point fund and contingency money was distributed to drivers from the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series and the Exide ShorTrack Series by NASCAR. Representatives from the 92 NWRS short tracks located throughout the country participated in the event. Track operators from the facilities hosting regional and national champions also received appropriate awards.
Champions from each of the 10 NWRS regions were recognized and rewarded with point fund and contingency checks totaling more than $40,000 each. The top-10 drivers in each geographical area were also honored.
Jerry Robertson won the Great West Region championship racing in the Late Model division at Colorado National Speedway in Erie. He raced to 10 victories in 18 starts.
"We took an 11-year-old chassis and started from scratch and my good friend Kelly Boen offered us a trailer and an engine," Robertson said. "After all I've been through this year maybe I'll write a book on how to win races and championships with nothing more than resourcefulness, hard work and a handful of good friends."
Finishing second through 10th in the Great West Region were Kyle Berck of Eagle Raceway in Lincoln, Neb.; Lynn Hardy of Rocky Mountain Raceways in West Jordan, Utah; John Bender from Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash.; Steve Thompson of Tri-City Raceway in Kennewick, Wash.; Jason Jefferson of Yakima (Wash.) Speedway; Steve Jones of Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls, Idaho; John Nesmith of Kalispell (Mont.) Raceway Park; Jody Tanner of Portland (Ore.) Speedway; and Nick Behn of South Sound Speedway in Tenino, Wash.
Dick Cobb capped a career of more than 30 years by winning the Sunbelt Region championship racing in the Late Model Division at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Cobb needed his fifth victory of the season on the final night of racing to clinch the regional title.
Finishing second through ninth in the Sunbelt Region were Larry Hunter of Sandia Motorsports Park in Albuquerque, N.M.; Tony Bennett of Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Ga.; Norman Uptain Sr. of Thunder Raceway in Show Low, Ariz.; Jerry Williams of Summerville (S.C.) Speedway; Charles Wares of Tucson (Ariz.) Raceway Park; Donny Horleka of San Antonio (Texas) Speedway; Michael Murrer of Jax Raceways in Jacksonville, Fla.; and Kent Strickland of Oglethorpe Speedway in Savannah, Ga.
Versatile Ted Christopher, who has driven everything from NWRS Modifieds to NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars and everything in between in the last several years, won the New England Region championship racing in the SK Modified division at the Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Conn. Christopher won nine times in 18 starts.
"Capturing this year's NASCAR Weekly Racing Series New England Region championship is something very special," Christopher said. "I'm proud to accept this award tonight and it will always be one of my highlights when my racing days are over."
Finishing second through 10th in the New England Region were Dennis Gada from Waterford Speedbowl in New London. Conn.; Larry Gelinas of Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway; Dwight Jarvis of Claremont (N.H.) Speedway; Jeff Strunk of Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa.; Roger Raymond of Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H.; Roger Godin of Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway; Mike Maietta Sr. of Beech Ridge Speedway in Scarborough, Maine; Fred Astle of Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway; and Bobby Gahan of Star Speedway in Epping, N.H.
Jim Leka, whose nephew Jeff Leka won the 1999 NWRS national championship, won the Heartland Region championship racing in the dirt Modified division at Macon (Ill.) Speedway. He won nine times in 18 starts.
Finishing second through ninth in the Heartland Region were 1998 Heartland Region champion Joe Buford of Nashville (Tenn.) Speedway USA; Chad Lyle of Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.; Jeff Klem of I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo.; Jerry Lee of Louisville (Ky.) Motor Speedway; Robbie Dean of Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway; Andy Bozell of Kalamazoo (Mich.) Speedway; Kris Stump of Kil-Kare Speedway in Xenia, Ohio; and Tim Swearengin of Lebanon (Mo.) I-44 Speedway.
Richard Mitchell won his second straight Northeast Region championship driving in the Late Model division at Motordrome Speedway in Smithton, Pa. While he dominated the division in 1999, in NASCAR 2000 he waited until the last night of competition to clinch with a second place finish. He won 10 times in 20 starts this season.
Finishing second through ninth in the Northeast Region were T.J. Potrzebowski of Tioga Speedway in Owego, N.Y.; Jim Crawn of Five Mile Point Speedway in Binghamton, N.Y.; J.R. Kent from Spencer Speedway in Rochester, N.Y.; Steve Whitt of Flemington (N.J.) Speedway; Frank Vigliarolo of Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway; Keith Hoffman of Big Diamond Raceway in Minersville, Pa.; Barry Awtey of Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway; and Matt Alix of Holland (N.Y.) International Speedway.
Wade Day won the Blue Ridge Region championship racing in the Late Model Stock Car division at Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway. He won 14 times in 20 starts.
"Racing is such a team sport," Day said. "What happens at the race track is such a small part of what determines the outcome of our sport, and fans do not have the opportunity to see what happens at the shop -- the sweat, hard work and the fellowship. My crew puts in long hours at the shop and without them I couldn't be here."
Finishing second through ninth in the Blue Ridge Region were Chad Harris of New River Valley Speedway in Radford, Va.; Mark Vineyard of Atomic Motor Speedway in Knoxville, Tenn.; Gene Morgan of Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C.; Jason York of Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C.; Kevin Love of Concord (N.C.) Motorsport Park; Todd Massey of Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C.; Junior Miller of Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Jason Welsham of Smoky Mountain Motor Speedway in Knoxville, Tenn.
Mark Welch won his second consecutive Pacific Coast Region title racing in the Modified division at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway, where he won 14 times in 21 events.
Finishing second through ninth in the Pacific Coast Region were Jim Pettit of Madera (Calif.) Speedway; Bobby Scott of Watsonville (Calif.) Speedway; M.B. Duncan of Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif.; Jeff Anthony of Altamont Raceway Park in Tracy, Calif.; Greg Voigt of Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway; Gary Tamborelli of Cajon Speedway in El Cajon, Calif.; Corey Lacosta of North Star Speedway in Palmer, Alaska; and Greg Scheidecker of Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Calif.
Kosiski went across the NWRS Awards Banquet stage for the 16th straight time after winning the Midwest Region championship racing in the dirt Late Model division at Sunset Speedway in Omaha, Neb., where he won 11 times in 19 starts and had only one finish outside the top-5.
Finishing second through ninth in the Midwest Region were Mark Noble of Crawford County Speedway in Denison, Iowa; John Anderson of Park Jefferson (S.D.) Speedway; Webb of West Liberty (Iowa) Raceway; Dave Storck of Madison (Minn.) Speedway; Jeff Aikey of Farley Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Rick Thoennes of Viking Speedway in Alexandria, Minn.; and Denny Osborn of Butler County Speedway in Allison, Iowa.
Nick Woodward won his first Atlantic Seaboard Region championship racing in the Late Model Stock Car division at Southampton Motor Speedway in Capron, Va., where he won 14 times in 18 starts.
Finishing second through ninth in the Atlantic Seaboard Region were Mark McFarland of Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Va.; 1988 NWRS national champion Robert Powell of Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway; Eddie Johnson of Southside Speedway in Richmond, Va.; Barry Beggarly of Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C.; James Kelley of Southern National Speedway in Kenly, N.C.; Phil Warren of Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va.; Rodney Sawyers of South Boston (Va.) Speedway; and Mack Best of Coastal Plains Raceway in Jacksonville, N.C.
Finishing second through ninth in the Mid-America Region were Bert Cheatham of Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill.; Bobby Wilberg of Rockford (Ill.) Speedway; Donald Reuvers of Elko (Minn.) Speedway; Carl Edwards of Capital Speedway in Columbia, Mo.; Kevin Nuttleman of LaCrosse (Wis.) Fairgrounds Speedway; Steve Murgic of Raceway Park in Shakopee, Minn.; Michael Cothron of Peoria (Ill.) Speedway; and Darrell Garman of Rockford Speedway.
Mike Reynolds of Nashville Speedway USA won the Exide ShorTrack Series national championship trophy and a check for more than $6,500. The Exide ShorTrack Series by NASCAR recognizes a second division at each NWRS facility with regional and national championships.
"Nashville Speedway USA in my opinion is the best short track in America," Reynolds said, citing the sport's rich heritages. "To put my name in the Nashville Speedway record book alongside past champions like Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin, NWRS national champion Mike Alexander, Bobby Hamilton and Jeff Green puts me in very elite company."
Exide ShorTrack Series regional champions included Mid-America Region's Rodney Bowman from the Modified division at Peoria Speedway, Great West Region's Lex Johnson from the Street Stock division at Evergreen Speedway, Northeast Region's Wayne Lent from the Sportsman Modified division at Tioga Speedway, Midwest Region's Mary Whyman from the Modified division at Corning (Iowa) Speedway, New England Region's Jay Stuart from the American Challenge Series at Waterford Speedbowl, Blue Ridge Region's Kevin Kenly in the Mini Stock division at Southern National Speedway, Atlantic Seaboard Region's Jamie Goode in the Grand Stock division at Langley Speedway, Sunbelt Region's Jamie Driggers in the Street Stock division at Summerville Speedway and Pacific Coast Region's James Westin in the Late Model division at Irwindale Speedway.
Darrell Poe of Caraway Speedway won the True Value Mechanic of the Year Award, which was voted by the NASCAR membership. Each of 10 regional award winners gets $1,500, while the national award winner gets an additional $5,000.
"This award provides the opportunity to say 'thank you' to the people behind the scenes of each of the champions seated here tonight," said Poe, who also won the Atlantic Seaboard Region mechanic's award, "as well as the hundreds of race teams who compete in this wonderful sport we call auto racing."
The True Value regional award winners included Terry Meads of the Great West Region, Debbie Bedard of the Sunbelt Region, Jim Crowell of the New England Region, Bob Korn of the Heartland Region, Ralph Werley of the Northeast Region, Timothy Evans of the Pacific Coast Region, Scott Koraleski of the Midwest Region, Richard Bowers of the Mid-America Region and Lane Goodwin of the Atlantic Seaboard Region.
Among other awards that were distributed was the Gatorade Front Runner Award, which was presented to McFarland, who led the NWRS national championship point standings at the midway point of the season.
Two longtime NASCAR Weekly Racing Series promoters who passed away in 2000 -- Pete Blackwell of Greenville-Pickens Speedway and Al Frieden of West Liberty Raceway, Farley Speedway and Dubuque Speedway -- were remembered during the affair.
As the celebration ended, outgoing 1999 NWRS champion Jeff Leka offered a postscript to Webb and his fellow competitors.
"Gary, congratulations on your national championship" Leka said. "I know what it is like to stand in your shoes. Look out into the audience and take a look, remember it and cherish it.
"It's an honor to do this once in a lifetime and it's something we will always aim to do again. Congratulations." -nascar.com-