USAR: 2005 Awards Banquet report

Awards Banquet Caps Banner Year Longs, SC-After a great year both on and off the race track in '05, the Hooters Pro Cup Series put the finishing touches on the banner year at the Annual Hooters Pro Cup Series Awards Banquet at the Grande Dunes...

Awards Banquet Caps Banner Year

Longs, SC-After a great year both on and off the race track in '05, the Hooters Pro Cup Series put the finishing touches on the banner year at the Annual Hooters Pro Cup Series Awards Banquet at the Grande Dunes Marriot in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

And Benny Gordon was the man of the evening.

After two seasons of coming ever so close, Gordon and his Predator Performance teammates finally took their seat at the head table.

"I feel relieved to have finally won this title. I'm relieved, but I'm not complacent. We're going to be tough next year, too" said Gordon, who took home nearly $350,000 in winnings. "I'm proud of everybody on the team. This was a complete team effort, and I'm proud to have so many of my guys that have helped me throughout my career here tonight."

To show his appreciation, Gordon, with the support of team owner, Dennis Raybuck, presented the members of the Predator Performance team with bonus checks and custom leather jackets.

But the awards for the Predator Performance team were just getting started.

For the second time in his career, Todd Gordon, Benny's brother and crew chief, picked up Hooters Pro Cup Series Crew Chief of the Year for guiding the No. 66n Ford to six wins and the overall title. Raybuck took home the Hooters Pro Cup Series Car Owner of the Year Award.

Woody Howard, who finished fourth in overall points, and his Dean Motorsports teammates picked up the Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award and $59,000 in bonus money from Miller Lite.

"I came to this banquet last year just to watch," said Howard. "I can't believe I'm standing here tonight. I wouldn't be here without my team or my car owners. Jim and Dee Dean are the best car owners in the world. They didn't make any excuses and gave me everything I needed to succeed this year."

Michael Faulk, driver of the No. 53s Liftoff By Freefizz.com Ford, picked up his Southern Division Miller Lite Rookie of the Year trophy and $14,000 in bonuses from Miller Lite.

Shane Huffman, who drove the No. 81s Knight's Companies Ford, grabbed a $25,000 bonus for being the Southern Division Champion and took home an extra $50,000 for finishing second overall.

"I'd be lying if I wasn't upset that I didn't win the title," said Huffman, who won a series-high nine times but finished 18 points behind Gordon. "There were a few sleepless nights after the final race. We just had some bad luck not of our doing, and that cost us, but Benny and his team deserve the title. They got a great team, and Benny's a great racer."

While the announcements of the overall Hooters Pro Cup Series champion, divisional champions, divisional rookies and the overall Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award was a mere formality, there were several surprise award winners at the season-ending gala.

The Four Champions Award is one of the most prestigious and emotional awards given during the banquet. The award is dedicated to the memory of Alan Kulwicki, Dan Duncan, Charlie Campbell and Mark Brooks, who were all lost in a plane crash on April 1, 1993. The award is presented to the Hooters Pro Cup Series driver that best exemplifies the winning spirit in the face of adversity. In 2005, George Brunnhoelzl III was that driver.

"I'm shocked," said Brunnhoelzl III, driver of the No. 20s Tucson/Island Construction Ford. "I can't thank Mr. Brooks enough for giving us this great series to race in, and I'll always cherish this award. I wouldn't have been able to keep going every week if not for my team. They worked hard putting these cars together for each race and kept their heads up. I have to thank my dad, because he's the main reason that I get to race. Actually, I have to thank my step mom for letting my dad spend the money he does and stay gone all the time."

Brunnhoelzl's award brought a warm round of applause from the large crowd, but the Hooters Pro Cup Series Humanitarian of the Year award winner brought the crowd to their feet.

Last season, Bobby Joe Woodley raised over $10,000 for Autism research, and his charitable work didn't go unnoticed. Woodley was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year Award for his efforts.

"I didn't have a clue to why I was invited to the banquet," said Woodley, driver of the No. 98s Shuttle Packs/Platts Air & Heat Chevrolet. "This award was well worth the trip. Hopefully, we can raise more money next season. And when you 'Think Autism, Think Cure.'"

SPEED51.com's Jeremy Troiano was on hand to present the Hooters Pro Cup Series Most Popular Driver Award. In a very tight race, Jody Lavender won the SPEED51.com MPD Award for the Hooters Pro Cup Series.

"I have to thank the fans for voting," said Lavender, whose vote total was the largest total of any MPD awards that SPEED51.com hosts. "We had a great year, and we've developed a large and loyal fan base. We're keeping the same team together, and I think we'll be just as good or better."

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Series Stock car
Drivers Jody Lavender , Michael Faulk , Shane Huffman , Alan Kulwicki , George Brunnhoelzl III