NASHUA, N.H. (Jan. 15, 2000) Brad Leighton of Center Harbor, N.H., celebrated his first career NASCAR Touring championship Saturday night at the Sheraton Tara at the season ending Busch North Series championship banquet.
Leighton and the entire Grizco Racing team were honored during the gala affair. Car owners Steve and Peg Grizwold accepted the championship car owner award, while Brian Latuch and Carl Osha accepted the awards for championship co-crew chiefs and team.
"I don't know what to say about our team," stated Leighton during his championship address. "Their dedication and hard work is incredible and my car owners, Steve and Peg Grizwold, are not only great owners they are great friends."
The championship was Leighton's first NASCAR Touring title and came after a season in which he scored six wins and 14 top-5 finishes. Leighton clinched the championship in impressive fashion by winning the second-to-last event of the season at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon.
Leighton finished second to Mike Stefanik in the 1998 championship standings and claimed the Raybestos Brakes Rookie of the Year Award in 1996.
"It feels great to stand before you all tonight and I feel very fortunate," Leighton said. "Winning any NASCAR championship is definitely a wonderful accomplishment and a dream come true."
In an emotional moment Dave Dion of Hudson, N.H., was awarded the 1999 Most Popular Driver Award, while Jeff Taylor was awarded the Sportsmanship Award. Dale Quarterley was awarded the Most Improved Driver Award by Busch North Series Director Bunk Sampson.
Mike Bruno of Bomoseen, Vt., captured the Raybestos Brakes Rookie of the Year Award and delivered an emotional speech after accepting his award from series champion and past rookie champion Leighton.
"Dreams do come true," Bruno said. "I believe it. This season proves it. It wasn't long before the season opener that I didn't know what I would be doing and it all came together so quickly. I can't tell you what it feels like to stand before you tonight."
Tom Carey Jr. walked off with the season-long Bud Pole Award from Anheuser-Busch, Incorporated. Kip Stockwell was honored as Flowmaster Star of the Year and presented with a check for $7,500.
Leighton also captured the season long Gatorade Front Runner Award from Gatorade's Ed Shull. Shull also announced increases and a new program for the NASCAR 2000 season.
"In the year 2000 the program will change to honor the driver that leads the most laps," Shull said. "More information will be on the way shortly, but the increases will be substantial. We are proud of our NASCAR Touring program at Gatorade and we hope to show that with our continued support."
Sampson presented Anheuser-Busch with a sponsorship appreciation award. Rick Leininger, Eric Heil from Anheuser-Busch headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., Tom Brown from New Hampshire distributors and John Young, Anheuser-Busch representative accepted the special award.
Leininger, manager of sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch, Busch brand delivered the sponsor's speech and noted the success and growth of the series.
"We at Anheuser-Busch stand fully behind the Busch North Series," Leininger said. "In 2000 we will once again offer several new programs and new initiatives that will continue to grow and develop what we feel to be the best regional touring program in the nation."
The Busch North Series banquet was the final NASCAR banquet honoring champions from the 1999 season.