NASHVILLE, Tenn. (December 9, 2000) -- A landmark season for the American Speed Association was brought to a close on Saturday, December 9, 2000 at Opryland Hotel Convention Center with a record-setting evening for the ASA National Awards ...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (December 9, 2000) -- A landmark season for the American Speed Association was brought to a close on Saturday, December 9, 2000 at Opryland Hotel Convention Center with a record-setting evening for the ASA National Awards Banquet.
The 2000 season marked the first time a stock car sanctioning body had incorporated a fuel-injected, factory produced engine to short track racing, as the GM Vortec ASA 5700 engine was utilized exclusively in 2000. Additionally, BFGoodrich Tires introduced ASA to racing on radials as it introduced the BFGoodrich Traction T/A for ASA use in 2000. The inaugural season for the GM Vortec ASA 5700 engines and BFGoodrich Traction T/A tires was closed with the banquet which saw a record $1 million points fund payo ut take place in front of a record-setting crowd. It was the fourth consecutive year the series gathered at Opryland Hotel Convention Center for the Banquet.
The primary honoree at the ASA Banquet was 2000 National Champion Gary St. Amant, who drove the Bud Gebben-owned Wynn's/GM Goodwrench Plus Chevrolet to the title. St. Amant, from Columbus (Ohio), claimed the title by 497 points over Kevin Cywinski, the lar gest margin of victory for a champion in ASA history. The previous record was set in 1990 when Bob Senneker outpaced Harold Fair by 366 points.
"I want to dedicate this championship to my friends Adam (Petty), Kenny (Irwin), Tony (Roper), Scott (Baker), Mark and Steve (Evans), and especially my friend Larry Nuber," said St. Amant, who proceeded to offer a moment of silence for his fallen friends. thank Bud Gebben, Bill McGowan, my entire crew and my parents for putting me in a position to win this championship."
St. Amant received a $200,000 check for his championship efforts, a record payout for the ASA Champion. He will return to defend his title in 2001. The title was St. Amant's second in the last three seasons.
"I remember championship checks totaling $5,000 dollars about 10 years ago," said St. Amant. "Wow, how times have changed. Now the ASA ACDelco Series is the premier short track series in the country. And is home to the best short track drivers in the world . I haven't thought about, or want to think about, going anywhere else, not even down south."
Cywinski, who drove the LaFavre Racing Teams Chevrolet to 10 top-five finishes in 2000, finished in the runner-up slot. The 2000 season marked a return to ASA by Cywinski after he left series following his championship season of 1997 when he held a 235-poi nt margin over runner-up St. Amant.
"I don't know how Gary (St. Amant) won the sportsmanship award, because he made us all look stupid throughout the entire season," said Cywinski, referring to an earlier award that St. Amant picked up.
Cywinski will aim to finish one position higher in the points chase in Cthe 2001 season and try to collect his eighth career ASA victory, a Cgoal that escaped him in 2000. Cywinski will have Mike Chaffee as his Ccrew chief in 2001. The last time Cywinski and haffee worked together Cwas in that championship season of 1997.
Cywinski will also carry a new sponsor for the 2000 season, announced during the Banquet weekend, as Texas Roadhouse, which sponsored Cywinski for several races in the late parts of the 2000 season, will again team up with the LaFavre driver for a full yea r of competition.
"We are really pleased to be associated with Texas Roadhouse and all the fine people affiliated with the company," said Cywinski. "I think the relationship will help us drive people into their stores to watch the number 21 Chevrolet win several races and h opefully our second championship."
Three-time ASA National Champion Butch Miller returned to the series in 2000 after spending several seasons in the Craftsman Truck Series. In 2000, he captured his 40th career victory while driving for LeRoy Throop. Miller won three races during the first season featuring the BFGoodrich Traction T/A Radial Tires and the GM Vortec ASA 5700 engines while finishing third in points.
"Hi, I'm Butch 'I hate doing these banquet things' Miller," said Miller, starting off his speech like his now famous introductions during TV telecasts. "I'd like to tell all you drivers out there how to win a championship. I know how to win a championship; I've seen it done. The way you do it is, watch Gary (St. Amant) and Bud (Gebben). They ran 20 perfect races."
Defending ASA Champion Tim Sauter put forth a gallant effort in 2000 driving the Alec Pinsonneault-owned Chevrolet, but the effort of the 1999 titlist fell short, despite winning three races, adding seven additional top-five finishes and leading in excess of 500 laps. He ended up fourth in the points chase.
"I want to thank Simpson Race Products for helping me out with helmets and supporting the Dave Anspaugh benefit," said Sauter. "That is truly a great cause and I think we really need to look at that and support him as much as we can. We, as drivers, are ju st lucky we are not in that position."
Mike Garvey won four races, collected five other top-five finishes, earned five pole positions and led a series-best 856 laps, but ended up fifth in points.
"I was probably one of the most concerned what would come out of the new engines and tires prior to the start of the season," said Garvey. "We had a good year in 1999 and I wanted to keep it going in 2000. I was very impressed with what both Vortec and BFG oodrich brought to the series and a lot of credit should go to their engineers. I could never in my wildest dreams imagine how well they would work."
Joey Clanton, who finished eighth in points, was also honored as the 2000 Pat Schauer Memorial Rookie of the Year at the National Awards Banquet. Clanton drove for Steve Dale Motorsports and earned one victory and six additional top-five finishes en route to collecting the Rookie of the Year honors.
"What makes this night so special is I am somehow standing here while so many other drivers are sitting down there," said Clanton. "What I mean by that is drivers like Robbie Pyle and Scott Wimmer and the other rookie drivers who battled me all year long a nd pushed me, who, with a break or two, could have been up here accepting this award. I tip my hat to them for a great season.
"And this year's champion, Gary (St. Amant), who midway in the season took time to give me some pointers on my driving style. He taught me a lesson on patience that changed my perspective for the better. It takes a special person to take note of another pe rson's dreams and take interest in it, especially a competitor."
Several special awards are presented annually in ASA. The top-30 car owners and drivers in the series vote the awards on.
Earning the "Hard Luck" Consolation Award in 2000 was Tim Taylor, from Indianapolis.
"This is an award that nobody likes to get but I am pretty proud of getting it, because it lets you know that everyone recognizes you throughout the year," said Taylor. "Even though it was bad luck, it was some luck."
The Extra Mile "Special Dedication" Award went to car owner Denny Crookston from Kalamazoo, Mich., for his efforts at Montgomery Motor Speedway in helping repair the track when it started coming apart in the hot weather.
"There were a lot of people that helped us in Montgomery," said Crookston. "There are about 12 other people I am accepting this award for that helped do it too. I would like to thank my children, Miles and Mackenzie, for graciously donating their college money to support this year."
Three Outstanding Sportsmanship Awards are presented each year, with National Champion car owner Bud Gebben being honored with the owner's award, St. Amant picking up the driver's award for the fourth time in the last five years and fifth time since 1990, and Howie Lettow collecting the crew chief's award. Indianapolis second-year driver Russ Tuttle was named the Most Improved Driver in the series.
Salem Speedway was named as the Promoter of the Year. The facility in Salem, Ind., is owned by Owen and Beverly Thompson who have made a number of improvements to the historic oval in recent years.
In a points battle that carries as much pride as the championship chase, Chevrolet won the Manufacturer's Cup championship for the third-consecutive year. Chevrolet won the Manufacturer's Cup in 1993, then Pontiac won the award for four-consecutive seasons prior to Chevrolet earning the award in 1998.
Also honored at the Banquet were GM Vortec, GM Racing and BFGoodrich Tires with ASA Founder's Achievement Awards for innovation, support and dedication to ASA. BFGoodrich Tires was also named the Sponsor of the Year in 2000.