USAC Champions Rake in Year-End Bonuses at 49th National Awards Ceremony in Indianapolis The United States Auto Club celebrated its 49th season of auto racing Friday night (Dec. 10) at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Ind., saluting...
USAC Champions Rake in Year-End Bonuses at 49th National Awards Ceremony in Indianapolis
The United States Auto Club celebrated its 49th season of auto racing Friday night (Dec. 10) at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Ind., saluting its champions and special award recipients before a capacity audience in the Hotel's Marriott Ballroom.
National driving champions Dave Steele of Tampa, Fla., Jay Drake of Val Verde, Calif. and Bobby East of Brownsburg, Ind. topped the list of recipients of year-end cash and commemorative awards, each claiming his initial USAC National Driving Championship. Each also received a "Key to the City" of Indianapolis, while Drake was honored as USAC's 2004 "Super License Champion," earning more National points than any other driver.
Steele won the 2004 Weld Racing Silver Crown title, while Drake was the Valvoline National Sprint Car Champ and East virtually ran away with the National Midget crown. National car entrant champions were East/Stewart Racing (Weld Racing Silver Crown), Dynamics, Inc. (Valvoline National Sprint Car) and Steve Lewis (National Midget). The titles were East/Stewart's third in a row, Dynamics' record eighth and Lewis' record 10th!
Friday night's "Champions Night" was held in conjunction with this year's Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, held in the adjacent Indiana Convention Center, where USAC unveiled on Thursday morning its revolutionary brand-new Weld Racing Silver Crown Championship pavement car, scheduled to debut in the year 2006.
USAC National Sales & Marketing Director Steve Farmer addressed the audience regarding USAC's corporate involvement and prospects for 2005 and 2006 television contracts.
Other driving champions honored Friday night were: Tony Hunt of Fair Oaks, Calif. (Valvoline Western Sprint Car), Johnny Rodriguez of Elk Grove, Calif. (Western Midget), Rip Williams of Yorba Linda, Calif. (Valvoline CRA Sprint Car), Jim Waters of Salt Lake City, Utah (Port O'Call Rocky Mountain Sprint), Beau Binder (Southwest Sprint), Tate Martz of Rushville, Ind. (Midwest Ford Focus Midget), Chase Scott of Concord, N.C. (Carolina/Virginia Ford Focus), Bradley Galedrige of Los Altos, Calif. (California North Ford Focus), Chris Rahe of Placentia, Calif. (California South Ford Focus), Sondi Eden of Crawfordsville, Ind. (Blossom Chevrolet Indianapolis Speedrome Regional Midget), Dakoda Armstrong of New Castle, Ind. (Kenyon Midget) and Brice Kenyon of Lebanon, Ind. (Blossom Chevrolet Indianapolis Speedrome Ford Focus).
Eden reigns as USAC's inaugural female driving champion, while Armstrong became USAC's youngest-ever driving champion at the age of 13!
Car entrant champions honored Friday night also included Western Speed Racing (Valvoline Western Sprint Car), Rodriguez (Western Midget), Sharon Jory, JR Racing (Valvoline CRA Sprint Car), Waters (Port O'Call Rocky Mountain Sprint), Binder (Southwest Sprint), Gregg Steele (Midwest Ford Focus Midget), Real Race Cars, Inc. (Carolina/Virginia Ford Focus), Al Galedrige (California North Ford Focus), Jon Rahe (California South Ford Focus), Eden (Blossom Chevrolet Indianapolis Speedrome Regional Midget), Craig Armstrong (Kenyon Midget) and 3-K Racing (Blossom Chevrolet Indianapolis Speedrome Ford Focus).
Friday night's function was emceed by renowned auto racing announcer Bob Jenkins and floral decorations were provided by Jockish Flowers of Indianapolis. Tim Spillman of Auto Racing Ministries delivered the invocation, while his wife Ginny sang God Bless America and the National Anthem.
In addition to year-end point fund cash awards, top drivers and car owners also received cash and product certificate awards from the University of Northwest Ohio, Valvoline, K & N Filters, Mechanix Wear, Racing Electronics, JE Pistons and Weld Racing.
Hank Dertian, Supervisor Performance Equipment for Ford Racing represented his company in making the Ford Focus presentations along with USAC National Ford Focus Coordinator Eric Bunn, and Weld Racing President Greg Weld, a former USAC National Sprint Car Champion, made the presentations of his company's awards to the Silver Crown Series recipients.
Robert Writesman, Manager of Circle Track Motorsports for Holley Performance Products, Inc., presented the company's Earl's Fast Qualifier Awards to USAC's 2004 qualifying champions, while Orlando Morales, Sales & Marketing Manager for the Indy Racing League and the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, presented year-end Indy Racing League awards to USAC's 2004 driving champions. Irish Saunders, pavement race tire manager for Hoosier Racing Tires, also presented distinctive Hoosier jackets to each USAC driving champion.
The USAC President's Award was awarded posthumously to former USAC President/CEO Dick King who passed away last month. The award was accepted by his son, David.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Jarvis, President of the Universtiy of Northwestern Ohio, was the recipient of USAC's Special Individual Recognition Award, while Weld Racing was honored as USAC's Special Corporate Recognition Award winner.
Former ACCUS Chairman of the Board and current ACCUS Director John Cooper accepted USAC's prestigious Eddie Edenburn Award from USAC President Rollie Helmling an behalf of the winner, retiring ACCUS President Burdette Martin.
Nelson Stewart, father of USAC Triple Crown Champion Tony Stewart accepted the prestigious Roger McCluskey Awrad of Excellence for his son, who was unable to attend due to prior commitments, then served as a presenter in his son's absence to surprise long-time auto racing writer and columnist Crocky Wright with the Jim Blunk Award for contributions to the sport of Midget racing.
A special salute was also conducted for Eldora Speedway race organizers Earl and Berneice Baltes who recently sold the facility to Tony Stewart after hosting USAC events for 43 years!
USAC National Series Coordinator Jason Smith presented USAC's "Race Organizer of the Year" award to Rob Johnson, who each year presents the USAC "Rocky Mountain Classic" at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo. Accepting for Johnson was PPIR PR Manager Clark Curtis.
Rookies of the Year honored by the University of Northwest Ohio included Todd Beach of Donnelsville, Ohio (Bob Stroud National Midget), Josh Ford of Camarillo, Calif. and Josh Wise of Riverside, Calif. (Valvoline National Sprint) and Aaron Pierce of Muncie, Ind. (Weld Racing Silver Crown). Rex Norris III of Knightstown, Ind. was honored by Jenmarco as the 2004 Midwest Ford Focus "Rookie of the Year." Andy O'Neal, Dean of the College of Technologies, represented the University of Northwest Ohio, while Jenmarco owners Mark & Jennifer Frechette represented their company.
Josten's "Most Improved Driver" awards were distributed to Davey Ray of Davenport, Iowa (National Midget), Dickie Gaines of Mitchell, Ind. (Valvoline National Sprint Car) and Bud Kaeding of Campbell, Calif. (Weld Racing Silver Crown).
Cory Kruseman of Ventura, Calif. was a surprise recipient of Valvoline's 2004 "Jimmy Caruthers Award" in recognition of his spirit and determination. Making the presentation were Judi Malone Caruthers and Valvoline's Mikel Hartman.
Bobby Delcoco, Motorsports Marketing for Lincoln Electric, presented his company's Mechanical Achievement Awards to Matt Draskovic (National) and Larry Smith (Western). Draskovic served as Bud Kaeding's crew chief, while Smith worked for 2004 Valvoline CRA Sprint Car Champ Rip Williams.
Ford Focus Midget Car Chief Mechanics of the Year were also recognized: Larry Martz (Midwest), Derrick Schwabauer (Carolina/Virginia), Al Galedrige and Jon Rahe (California).
Eric Gordon of Greenfield, Ind. accepted yet another distinctive "Little 500 Winners Award" from Anderson Speedway race organizer Rick Dawson, celebrating his record sixth victory in the 500-lap sprint car classic.
Long-time USAC official Jim Nell III was presented the USAC Winners Circle's Ross Hadley Memorial Achievement Award.
Quarter Midgets of America Grand National Champions also were presented USAC Performance certificates by National QMA Director Eric Bunn in recognition of their 2004 championships.
USAC Vice President/Competition Director Mike Devin presented Appreciation certificates to Interns from the University of Northwest Ohio who assisted USAC officials in the field during 2004. They included Josh Watson, Brett Brandon, Eric Quigg, Randy Baden, Jared Mowery, Christina Howe, Josh Rodenhouse, Dave Thomas, Steve Driscoll, Chris Hawley and Dave Moore.
Second and third-place drivers and car entrants in various USAC racing series also received their year-end recognition and awards. They included Weld Racing Silver Crown runners-up Bud Kaeding (driver) and Team Six-R (entrant), and third-place Dave Darland (driver) and Contos Racing (entrant); Valvoline National Sprint Car drivers Bud Kaeding (runner-up) and Cory Kruseman (third) and entrant Tony Stewart Racing (second and third); Western Sprint Car runners-up Midhael Lewis (driver) and Western Speed Racing (entrant) and third-place driver and entrant Brad and Roy Bumgarner; National Midget runners-up Josh Wise (driver) and Wilke/Pak Motorsports (entrant) and third-place Tom Hessert III (driver) and Tony Stewart Racing (entrant); and Western Midget runner-up driver and third-place entrant Jerome Rodela and runner-up entrant and third-place driver Wally Pankratz.
Concluding the night's proceedings was the official unveiling of USAC's commemorative 50th anniversary artwork painting by renowned artist Ralph Steele of Jasper, Ind. On hand for the unveiling was Dick Wallen, who is authoring USAC's 50-year history book and also developing the commemorative 50-year video, both expected to be released in early-2006.