KAEDING/LEFFLER TEAM TAKES SPOTLIGHT AS USAC CELEBRATES 2006 CHAMPIONSHIPS
Bud Kaeding and the Leffler/BK Racing Team, Champions of USAC's 2006 Silver Crown Championship Series presented by K & N Engineering, highlighted honorees at Friday night's 51st USAC "Champions Night" at the Westin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.
Emcee Rob Klepper, USAC's Chief Announcer, saluted driver and car owner champions, Rookies of the Year, Most Improved Drivers and numerous special award recipients during the festivities in the hotel's Golden Ballroom.
National driving champions Kaeding of Campbell, Calif., Josh Wise of Riverside, Calif., Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Ariz. and Michael Faccinto of Hanford, Calif. topped the list of recipients of year-end cash and commemorative awards. Each also received a "Key to the City" of Indianapolis, while Wise was honored for the second consecutive year as USAC's "Super License Champion," earning more National points than any other driver.
Kaeding won the Silver Crown title, while Wise was the National Sprint Car Champ, Coons claimed the National Midget crown and Faccinto was the National Ford Focus titlist. National car entrant champions were Leffler/BK Racing of Indianapolis (Silver Crown), Tony Stewart Racing of Indianapolis (National Sprint Car), Keith Kunz Motorsports of Columbus, Ind. (National Midget) and Gary Scelzi Motorsports of Fresno, Calif. (Ford Focus). The titles were the first respectively in each series for drivers Kaeding, Wise, Coons and Faccinto.
Other driving champions honored Friday night were Tony Hunt of Lincoln, Calif. (Western Sprint Car); Jerome Rodela of El Monte, Calif. (Western Midget); Cory Kruseman of Ventura, Calif. (USAC/CRA Sprint Car); Jimmy Wysong of Salt Lake City, Utah (Young Automotive Rocky Mountain Sprint); Tate Martz of Rushville, Ind. (Midwest Paved Ford Focus); Jordan Noblitt of Columbus, Ind. (Midwest Dirt Ford Focus); Chase Scott of Concord, N.C. (Carolina/Virginia Ford Focus); Tim Skoglund of Fresno, Calif. (California Paved Ford Focus); Bobby Michnowicz of Torrance, Calif. (California Dirt Ford Focus); Ryan Smith of Kunkletown, Pa. (Northeast & Florida Ford Focus); Scott Thoman of Indianapolis, (Regional Midget); Chris Windom of Canton, Ill. (Kenyon Midget); and James Robertson of Indianapolis (Indiana Ford Focus).
United States Rally Champions Seamus Burke of Powder Springs, Ga. and Christine Beavis of San Diego, Calif. (4-Wheel Drive) and Bruce Davis of Granite Bay, Calif. and Jimmy Brandt of Lake Odessa, Mich., were presented distinctive USAC awards by series principals, who included Ray & Donna Hocker and Ivan & Olga Orisek.
Car entrant champions honored Friday night also included Alan Kaiser of Vallejo, Calif. (Western Sprint Car); Bret Barber of Morgan Hill, Calif. (Western Midget); Glenn Crossno of Alta Loma, Calif. (USAC/CRA Sprint Car); Wysong (Young Automotive Rocky Mountain Sprint); Gregg Steele of Shelbyville, Ind. (Midwest Paved Ford Focus); Performance Research of Lincolnton, N.C. (Carolina/Virginia Ford Focus); Western Speed Racing of Fresno, Calif. (California Paved Ford Focus); Howard Veach of Livermore, Calif. California Dirt Ford Focus); S & S Speedways, Inc. of Kunkletown, Pa. (Northeast & Florida Ford Focus); Steve Thoman of Indianapolis (Regional Midget); Preston Windom of Canton, Ill. (Kenyon Midget); and Michael Robertson of Indianapolis (Indiana Ford Focus).
Hank Dertian, Engineering Supervisor for Ford Racing Performance Parts, represented his company in making the Ford Focus presentations along with USAC National Ford Focus Coordinator Eric Bunn, and Charles Maier, Director of Sports Marketing for K & N Engineering, made the presentations of his company's awards to the Silver Crown Series recipients. Dertian was surprised with a special award for his many contributions to USAC and its Ford Focus racing program and Maier accepted USAC's Corporate Special Recognition Award on behalf of K & N.
Robert Writesman, Manager of Circle Track Motorsports for Holley Performance Products, Inc., presented the company's Earl's Fast Qualifier Awards to USAC's 2006 qualifying champions, while Jason Penix, Coordinator of Marketing Outreach for the Indy Racing League, presented year-end IRL bonuses to USAC's 2006 car entrant champions.
Irish Saunders, Manager of Contract Sales for Hoosier Tire Company, presented distinctive Hoosier jackets to each USAC driving champion. Irish was also the recipient of USAC's Special Individual Recognition Award.
USAC VP/Western Operations Tommy Hunt was presented USAC's prestigious Eddie Edenburn Award.
USAC President Rollie Helmling presented the prestigious USAC President's Award to Indianapolis businessman Bob Parker Jr. for his and his company's assistance in preserving the rich tradition of the famed Hoosier Hundred auto race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Parnelli Jones was announced as USAC's prestigious Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence winner and the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner will receive his award in a special ceremony next Saturday (Jan. 27) at the USAC Western Awards Banquet in Arcadia, Calif.
Don Kenyon of Lebanon, Ind. accepted the Jim Blunk Award for the his significant contributions to the sport of Midget racing. It marked the second time he has won the award.
The Jack O'Neal Safety Award was presented to HANS Performance Products for their development of head and neck restraints. Accepting on behalf of the company were Jim Downing and Dr. Bob Hubbard.
USAC's "Race Organizer of the Year" award was presented to Tom Helfrich of Indiana's Tri-State Speedway, while mention was also made of the Jan. 27 presentation of USAC's Western "Race Organizer of the Year" award to Altamont Motorsports Park.
Mat Neely of Robinson, Ill. (Silver Crown), Scotty Weir of Marion, Ind. (Sprint) and Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind. (Midget) were presented National "Rookie of the Year" awards by University of Northwest Ohio insutructor Chuck Elwer. Brian Olson of Puyallup, Wash. was honored as the Regional Midget R.O.Y. Ford Focus "Rookies of the Year" included Tim Skoglund and Michael Faccinto (California), Bradley Riethmeyer (Carolina/Virginia), Sean Carman (Northeast) and Tyler Irwin (Midwest).
"Most Improved Driver" awards were distributed to Brad Loyet of Sunset Hills, Mo. (National Midget), Daron Clayton of Sikeston, Mo. (National Sprint Car) and Aaron Pierce of Phoenix, Ariz. (Silver Crown).
The Lincoln Electric Mechanical Achievement Awards went to Pete Willoughby of Columbus, Ind. (National), Kerry Fasig of Carmichael, Calif. (Western) and A.J. Watson of Speedway, Ind. (Lifetime) Steve Gillig, the Indianapolis District Manager for Lincoln Electric, made the presentations. Willoughby works for the National Midget Championship team of Keith Kunz Racing and Fasig assisted Tony Hunt and Alan Kaiser on their way to the Western Sprint Car Championship.
Ford Focus Midget Car Chief Mechanics of the Year were Mike Robertson of Indianapolis (Midwest); Robert Ward of Charlotte, N.C. (Carolina/Virginia); Monte Faccinto of Hanford, Calif. (California); and Greg Smith of Kunkletown Pa. (Northeast). Norm Young of Franklin, Ind. was honored as the Regional Midget Chief Mechanic of the Year.
Brian Tyler of Mount Pleasant, N.C. received a distinctive "Little 500 Winners Award," celebrating his victory in the 500-lap Anderson, Ind. sprint car classic.
Long-time USAC official Ron Scudder of Champaign, Ill was presented the USAC Winners Circle's Ross Hadley Memorial Achievement Award by club President Ralph Power.
Quarter Midgets of America Grand National Champions also were presented USAC Performance certificates by Administrative Assistant Courtney Waling and driver Tony Hunt in recognition of their 2006 championships.
USAC Competition Director Owen Snyder III presented appreciation certificates to interns from the University of Northwest Ohio, who assisted USAC officials in the field during 2005. They included Tyler Borck, Adam Charrette, Ryan French, Chris Hawley, Sarah Hite, .Jake Lobins, Jared Mowery, Brent Moye, Jeremy Sibbald, Kenny Venable, Jerry West, Kyle Whetsel and Chuck Wride.
Snyder also presented the new National "Most Popular Driver" Award to Brad Loyet, while Matt DeMartini of Antioch, Calif. (Western) and Danny Sheridan of Santa Maria, Calif. (CRA Sprint) will receive their "Most Popular Driver" awards next week in Arcadia, Calif.
USAC Chief Starter Tom Hansing presented checkered flag awards to USAC Regional driving champions Thoman, Windom and Robertson.
Second and third-place drivers and car entrants in various USAC racing series also received their year-end recognition and awards.
Joe DeFabis of DeFabis Photography, USAC's Official Portrait Studio, presented USAC Championship Photo Artwork to numerous 2006 driving champions.
Floral decorations were provided by Jockish Flowers of Indianapolis. Tim Spillman of Auto Racing Ministries delivered the invocation, while his wife Ginny sang the National Anthem. Video presentations were courtesy of Dean Mills Video Productions and Dick Wallen's Racing Classics.
In addition to year-end point fund cash awards and previously-mentioned contingencies, top drivers and car owners also received cash and product certificate awards from K & N Filters, Ford, Toyota, Mechanix Wear, Simpson, Weld, JE Pistons, Housby Mack, Safety-Kleen and United Trailers.