WESTERN CHAMPIONS, OTHERS HONORED AT WESTERN BANQUET
BUENA PARK, Calif. -- USAC's Western champions, as well as many other West Coast drivers, crewmembers and officials, were honored during Saturday's 2005 Western States season-ending awards banquet at the Knotts Berry Farm resort.
Damion Gardner, Kody Swanson, Jerome Rodela, Alex Harris, Chase Barber and Jimmy Wysong were acknowledged for their championships, closing out the 2005 season.
Gardner, of Concord, Calif., topped the CRA points standings and annihilated the Earl's Fast Qualifier standings, which earned him an extra $5,000. Gardner won 15 features, including two National/CRA combined races, and set 22 fast qualifying times.
Gardner's crew chief, Bruce Bromme, was also awarded the Western Mechanical achievement award. Ron Chaffin of Madera, Calif. was awarded the CRA car owner's championship.
Swanson, a teenager debuting in the Western Sprints, tripled up on that series' top awards, taking home the championship trophy, Rookie of the Year honors and the Earl's Fast Qualifier Championship. The Kingsburg, Calif. native competed in all 12 races and won once, scoring 10 Top-10 finishes for car owner champion TK Motorsports.
After three straight seasons with a Top-3 points finish, Rodela, of El Monte, Calif., finally won the Western Midget title in his fourth full season. He won once and claimed the championship in the final race of the season, the "Turkey Night Grand Prix" at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.
Mike Sala of Oakdale, Calif. earned the car owner's championship for the Western Midget Car Series for his driver Robby Flock's accolades. Flock, the series runner-up, earned the "Hard Charger Award." Scott Pierovich of Alamo, Calif. finished seventh
Harris of Simi Valley, Calif. and Barber of Morgan Hill, Calif. won the Pavement and Dirt Ford Focus Midget championships respectively. The two-time TQ champion Harris, who was unable to attend the event due to family commitments, won eight races and the Ford Focus Earl's Fast Qualifier Championship, while Barber won six races, one season after wrapping up Rookie of the Year honors.
Bret Barber of Morgan Hill was also honored as the Dirt car owner champion, while Howard Veach of Livermore, Calif. garnered the Walt Johnson "Memorial Achievement" Award.
The South Jordan, Utah native Wysong, who was honored for his Rocky Mountain Sprint Car Series championship during that series' banquet, won five races en route to dethroning two-time titlist Jim Waters. Series coordinator Gordon Tyler accepted the award on behalf of Wysong and car owner Jeff Spiers of Boise.
Drivers awarded Rookie of the Year honors included R.J. Johnson of Phoenix(CRA Sprints), Bradley Galedrige of Los Altos, Calif. (Western Midgets) and Robbie Whitchurch (Ford Focus). Earning most "Most Improved Driver" awards were Seth Wilson (CRA Sprints), Mike Murgoitio of Boise (Western Sprints), Scott Pierovich of Alamo, Calif. (Western Midgets) and Audra Sasselli of Fresno, Calif. (Ford Focus), who also earned the "Hard Charger" Award.
Other "Hard Charger" Award winners were Danny Sheridan of Santa Maria, Calif. (CRA Sprints) and Shauna Hogg of Roseville, Calif. (Western Sprints).
Wally Pankratz of Orange, Calif., the 2000 Western Midget champion who retired following the "Turkey Night Grand Prix," was awarded the Curly Merrill "Let's Going Racing" Award for dedication and spirit. Pankratz subsequently received a yellow walker with his famous No. 8 attached.
The "Joe Lynch Memorial" Award, announced by Pankratz for a driver for contributions to the Western States organization, was given to Garrett Hansen of Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Don Kazarian, the promoter of Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway, was awarded the Promoter of the Year for the Western States. Kazarian and the half-mile PAS welcomed the CRA Sprint cars 21 times in 2005.
Seven-time Bay Cities Racing Association champion Floyd Avis of San Carlos, Calif. was represented his National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame award he first received in July in Sun Prairie, Wis. The Agajanian family was also honored for its involvement in the "Turkey Night Grand Prix."
Every other Top-10 finisher in CRA, Western Sprints and Midgets and California Ford Focus Pavement and Dirt Series driver and owner points were also given the opportunities to thank their crews and sponsors.
The six champions will also be honored at USAC's National banquet Jan. 28 at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis.