Tioga Motorsports Park celebrates 2002 season, announces major changes. "We entered the 2002 season as rookies on this side of the business. We know we could have done better at promoting the track. But our goal was taking care of you racers...
Tioga Motorsports Park celebrates 2002 season, announces major changes.
"We entered the 2002 season as rookies on this side of the business. We know we could have done better at promoting the track. But our goal was taking care of you racers and, from what you've told us, we did," racer-turned-promoter Chris Zacharias said on behalf of his family at the 1st Annual Tioga Motorsports Park banquet at Donoli's in Apalachin, NY.
"I want to tell you up front tonight that we're making some changes for next season. The first is that the track is being paved. That deal is done." That news received thunderous applause from the crowd on hand. "Businessman Dave French, who has sold tires at the track for many years, is giving something back to the place by paving the half mile. He's also coming on board to handle the business end of this, to promote our races and the track the right way," Zacharias added. Still to be worked out, according to Zacharias, are the length of the lease and the night Tioga will be running. "We expect those announcements in the next two weeks."
Zacharias and his announcing partner Carol Houssock emceed the event. They also handed out hardware to the top 10 finishers in the track's four divisions and presented several special awards.
Lee Sherwood picked up his 4th Tioga Motorsports Park Modified track championship after a solid season. Sherwood also won the track's Late Model title in 1985 before moving up to the headline division. He took the point lead from runner-up Dave Pecko late in the season but did not clinch the title until the final week. "I have so many people to thank for keeping me in competitive equipment. It's all about my sponsors and crew. There are plenty of young talents coming along and this gets harder and harder every year," Sherwood stated.
Sherwood's stats for the year include 2 wins, 9 top 5's, 14 top 10's, and 5 heat wins in the 15-race schedule. "I'll be back to defend the title next year with a new program and new car owner, Vic Hooker. We hope to be stronger than ever."
Don Hanbury's division-leading 5 feature wins helped propel him to the 2002 B-Modified title. He took the point lead mid-season from his sister, Patti Pruitt, the held off eventual runner-up Dean Rypkema. Hanbury locked up the title with his 3rd sweep in the final point race of the year. "I've never run for a championship, but my finishes this year made it happen for me," the all-time leader in B-Modified wins told the crowd.
During the 16-race season Hanbury had 12 top 5's, 15 top 10's and won 4 heats. Hanbury's plans for next season will not focus on driving. "I'm done in a B Modified. Next year I'll help Lee Sherwood with his modified program. He and my nephew (Tony Hanbury) are teammates, and the plan is for me to drive Tony's back-up car in selected Modified races," Hanbury stated.
"Crazy" George Swansborough has raced for years but never ran for a track championship, until this year. The 2002 Late Model champ led all Tioga drivers in feature wins (7), but he and rookie Carl Bittenbender entered the season finale tied for the point lead. The championship wasn't decided until the closing laps of the last race, when "Crazy" George put several cars between himself and Bittenbender.
"I had a great season but searched four states to find a car capable of winning," Swansborough said. "This year my son (JR) concentrated on my program, next year I'm concentrating on his." Swansborough and Dave Jackson won all 10 Late Model features in 2002.
Chuck Frisbee proved that determination, perseverence, luck, and a ton of talent can lead to a title. The veteran Street Stock competitor had to wait for the season finale point tabulation before he celebrated his inaugural track championship. His season was a good one, with 3 feature wins, 16 top 5's and 17 top 10's in the 17 features.
He also won 4 heats in what he said was his final year of competition. "This feels great after competing for so many years. But racing really takes its toll on the family. It's time to put them first and do some other things," Frisbee explained. This track champion will also join Lee Sherwood's Modified operation in 2003.
Special awards went to:
* Rookie of the Year: Tony Hanbury (Modified), Richie Vanderpool (B- Modified), Carl Bittenbender (Late Model), Chris Daugherty (Street Stock)
* Most Improved Driver: Ed Conoran (Modified), Terry Potrzebowski (B- Modified), Kevin Doebler (Late Model), Matt Visingard (Street Stock)
* Best Appearing Car: Ken Canestrari (Modified), Chris Clark (B-Modified), Carl Bittenbender (Late Model), Chris Daughtery (Street Stock)
* Not Very Good Luck: Ben Reynolds (B-Modified)
* Mechanic of the Year: George Scherer
* Car Owner of the Year: Vic Hooker
Chris Zacharias said that Tioga's agreement with Chemung Speedrome for dual track titles was never formalized, but Tioga still honored three top drivers who competed regularly at both facilities all season. Those awards went to Tony Hanbury (Modified), Scott Conover (B-Modified), and Dave Jackson (Late Model).
Zacharias then announced that Tioga is adding a new entry-level division to its 2003 program. The Factory Stocks will be just that, and rules will be posted on the track's website: www.tiogamotorsportspark.com. He encouraged everyone to consult the website and trade publications over the coming weeks for more information.
In closing, Zacharias said the banquet is more than just awarding winners. "This is to thank all the teams and crews for supporting racing at Tioga Motorsports Park. You put on a great show for the fans, and we thank you for always giving it your best. Tonight is also about your family members who, we know as well as anyone, are a vital part of the picture that makes dreams come true."
Sunoco Modifieds: LEE SHERWOOD, Dave Pecko, Tony Hanbury, Rusty Smith, Daren Scherer, John Markovic, T.J. Potrzebowski, Ken Canestrari, Mike Morollo, John Gage.
Factory Direct B Modifieds: DON HANBURY, Dean Rypkema, Terry Potrzebowski, Patti Pruitt, Richie Vanderpool, Scott Conover, Chris Clark, Cody Gregg, Ben Reynolds, Ronnie Smith.
Tops Late Models: GEORGE SWANSBOROUGH, Carl Bittenbender, Dave Jackson, Kevin Doebler, Brent Cross, Joe Cwener, Joe Schneider, Chuck Miller, Joe Beretta, Joe Doebler.
Pepsi Street Stocks: CHUCK FRISBEE, Matt Visingard, Tom Sunderland, Billy Coyle, Chris Daugherty, Randy Davenport, Tom Iannone, Derrick Tarbox, Matt Held, Daryl Canfied.