ARCA Truck & Midget Champions honored Monroe, Michigan, 11-13-99 â€“ Nearly 300 people jammed the Ambassador Hall in Monroe, Michigan Saturday night to honor champions and front-runners from the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series as well as the...
ARCA Truck & Midget Champions honored
Monroe, Michigan, 11-13-99 – Nearly 300 people jammed the Ambassador Hall in Monroe, Michigan Saturday night to honor champions and front-runners from the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series as well as the ARCA Auto Value Midget Series.
The new Truck Series, having just finished its inaugural season, crowned Bill Withers as its first-ever champion while the long-standing Midget Series, finishing its 20th season, toasted open wheel veteran and champion Gene Lee Gibson for the second consecutive season.
Withers, a model of consistency throughout a year that produced nine different winners in 15 events, recorded 11 top-five finishes en route to the series crown. “Nothing could be more gratifying to me, and my family, than to win our first championship,” said the ARCA Pro-4 veteran. “It took 14 years of trying to get here but our persistence and dedication finally paid off. I’d like to thank Pate Manufacturing for one heck of a durable chassis and my engine builder Bud Wachholz for building a great engine. We didn’t have one engine failure all year, a testament to his work. I’d also like to thank my sponsor Mannings USA, and mostly my wife Leslie who has been my biggest supporter through the years. If my confidence ever faltered, she’d help me get it back every time. She’s the real champ and I want her to know how much I appreciate her.”
To go along with Withers’s championship rings, the Columbus, Ohio driver is also going to Disney World, literally, compliments of Stuart RV Land who will provide a Coachmen RV for a two week Florida vacation with $1,000 in spending money. Additionally, Withers, and crew, received championship jackets and shoes from Fastlane Footwear as well as a $500 check. To help gear up for the 2000 season, Withers also received a new chassis from Pate Manufacturing, a new truck body by Revenge Racing Bodies, a new Cornwell Tools rolling pit box and a digital air gauge by Intercomp. To round out his accomplishments, Withers was also awarded the Cornwell Quality Tools Crew Chief of the Year honors.
David Clay, who picked up a victory at Toledo Speedway, was honored as runner-up in points while Pro-4 veteran Robbin Slaughter, who also won at Toledo, was recognized in third ahead of ’89 Pro-4 champion Jack Weethee and ’98 Pro-4 champion Johnny Witham to complete the top five. In all, positions one through 20 were honored with trophies and point fund money compliments of series sponsor Lincoln Welders who also gave away four new wire welders in a lottery drawing. In other awards, Winchester winner Dave Reeb received the Target Expediting Most Improved Driver honors. Greg Vasko won the Esslinger Engineering Sportsman of the Year award while Tully Esterline, with a victory on the dirt at LaSalle Speedway, won the QuicShine Best Appearing Truck award for his Spangler Candy-sponsored paint scheme. Aaron Hulings, after posting an amazing six victories and eight poles, won the Cloyes Gear Halfway Leader award as well as the Hoosier Tire Pole award. Hulings’s father Brad, a two-time ARCA Midget champion, won the Clevite Engine Parts Mechanic of the Year honors.
In 14 midget events, Gibson, who rarely finished out of the top three, garnered three victories in all, one at Sandusky and two at Grundy County Speedways as well as two pole awards. “Fortunately, we did well enough early on to carry us through to the end where it wasn’t so good,” said the Richwood, Ohio second-generation driver. “As always, a big thanks to my father, who through all the ups and downs of motorsports, keeps me focused and on track. In a family that has four boys that race, that’s not an easy job. He’s the biggest reason I’m here and the mastermind behind all the set-ups as well as chassis design. I appreciate my family more than they may ever know. I’d like to thank my wife Cindy, who is fairly new to racing and has learned to adjust through all the thrills of victories and all the agonies of defeats. She’s the best and I wouldn’t want any of this without her blessings. I appreciate all the accolades. I like the money too.” Gibson and crew were also the recipients of championship jackets and shoes by Fastlane Footwear as well as championship rings from ARCA. The Richwood, Ohio veteran also won the Clevite Engine Parts Mechanic of the Year Award. In all, positions one through 20 were honored with trophies and point fund money compliments of series sponsor Auto Value Parts Stores. Also, Hawk Chassis gave away a new chassis through a lottery draw when driver Brian Medley’s name was plucked from the box.
Jason Fuller was honored in 2nd overall and also received the Autocraft Engines ARCA Rookie of the Year honors for his yearlong efforts. Gary Harrell, fresh from his own wedding one-hour prior, made his classic entrance dressed in tuxes with the entire bridal party in tow to receive his accolades which included being recognized as third in points as well as the Most Improved Driver before returning to his wedding reception festivities. Harrell’s bride, Cheri Baumgartner, is the sister of driver Dave Baumgartner who was recognized as fourth in points ahead of veteran and former ARCA Midget champion Jim Hettinger who finished fifth and at the same time announced plans for retirement. “It’s time to hang it up,” said the Mason, Michigan midget veteran. “I’ve had a great career and enjoyed every bit of it. But it’s time to cast aside my passions and interests in favor of my son Chris who is starting to race midgets. I think he’s going to be one of the best, and I want to help him any way I can.” Hettinger, after a career that spanned five decades, fittingly walked away with ARCA Midget Sportsman of the Year award. In honor of Perry Younce, who lost his life in a Midget racing accident, $1,735 was raised on behalf of his children’s education.
ARCA Spirit Awards went to Gibson’s mother Brenda Gibson in the midget division and to ARCA truck owner Jim Spicuzza in the truck division. Additionally, Diamond Wheels, Hedman Hedders, Kansas Racing Products, Harris Regulators, Brooks Racing Tire and RJS Safety Equipment contributed product distributed throughout the evening.