Indianapolis ceremony concludes 2002 awards ceremonies

Winners Circle's "Salute to Excellence" concludes 2002 USAC Awards Ceremonies. Sunday night's USAC Winners Circle "Salute to Excellence" at the Brickyard Crossing in Indianapolis, Ind. concluded USAC's 2002 Awards Ceremonies, which included the...

Winners Circle's "Salute to Excellence" concludes 2002 USAC Awards Ceremonies.

Sunday night's USAC Winners Circle "Salute to Excellence" at the Brickyard Crossing in Indianapolis, Ind. concluded USAC's 2002 Awards Ceremonies, which included the December 6 USAC "Champions Night." Honorees included not only special award recipients but also outstanding competitors in USAC's 2002 National racing series.

Internationally-renowned broadcaster Bob Jenkins served as master of ceremonies for the function, held in the Golf Pavilion and overseen by newly-elected USAC Winners Circle President Paul Allen.

USAC's three National Racing Champions were recognized, which included Weld Racing Silver Crown Champion J.J. Yeley, National Sprint Car Champion Tracy Hines and National Midget Car Champion Dave Darland. Yeley earned Sprint Car and Midget Car runner-up rings, while he and his Sprint car owner, GT Racing, were the recipients of the 2002 Turbines, Inc. Checkered Flag Awards for qualifying excellence.

Hines earned the 2002 third-place Silver Crown ring, while other drivers receiving distinctive Jostens rings were: Dave Steele (Silver Crown, 2nd), Derek Davidson (Sprints, 3rd) and Aaron Fike (Midgets, 3rd).

Gary Cassella of Jostens also displayed distinctive plaques which will be presented to 2002 USAC National "Most Improved Drivers" Rich Tobias, Jr. (Silver Crown), Kevin Briscoe (Sprints) and Danny Ebberts (Midgets).

Car entrants honored for 2002 excellence were Gratton Racing (Silver Crown, 2nd), GT Racing (Sprints, 2nd), Steve Lewis (Midgets, 2nd), Indiana Underground Construction (Silver Crown, 3rd), BWB Racing (Sprints, 3rd) and RFMS Racing (Midgets, 3rd).

USAC Director Sales & Marketing Steve Farmer presented the USAC Corporate Special Recognition Award to Mikel Hartman, representing award recipient Valvoline. USAC Chairman of the Board John Capels, following a welcoming address to those in attendance, also unveiled a "Meritorious Service" plaque for USAC and Indy Racing League Medical Director Dr. Henry Bock, recognizing his long tenure in the sport.

The "Jack O'Neal" CNA Safety Award was presented to the Indy Racing League Safety Team, recognizing their tremendous impact on the sport of auto racing.

Longtime race organizer J.C. Agajanian, Jr. accepted the 2002 "Jim Blunk Award" in recognition of his many contributions to the sport of Midget Auto Racing. J.C. is the son of the longtime Indianapolis 500 car owner whose cars won the race in 1952 (Troy Ruttman) and 1963 (Parnelli Jones).

Winners Circle President Paul Allen presented the coveted Ross Hadley Memorial Achievement Award to USAC Chief Steward Bill Carey, a chief starter for many years before becoming Silver Crown and National Midget Car Chief Steward in 1997.

The Diana Fell Gilmore "Woman Behind the Scenes" Award and accompanying $3,000 cash award went to Berneice Baltes, wife of USAC race organizer Earl Baltes. Their Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio will host the "Mopar Million Sprint at Eldora" this September.

USAC Racing Series Coordinator Jason Smith presented the USAC "Little 500 Award" to four-time race winner Eric Gordon, who will try for a record-tying fifth race victory in the May 24 classic at the 1/4-mile paved oval.

Eric Bunn, Coordinator of the USAC Ford Focus Midget Car Series, distributed USAC quarter-midget recognition awards to 2002 QMA Grand Champions, who were also feted at the function. In attendance to accept their plaques were Derrik Ortega, Cameron Dodson, Chris Sullivant and Talon Stephens.

--USAC--

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Series USAC
Drivers Jason Smith , Parnelli Jones , Dave Darland , Danny Ebberts , J.J. Yeley , Dave Steele , Aaron Fike , Eric Gordon , Cameron Dodson