ARDC Season-in-review, 1997

For more information: Sophomores Star in ARDC CARQUEST Midget Series; Stimely, Yetter Crowned as '97 Champions FLAGTOWN, N.J., Dec. 1 - If 1996 was the year of the rookies, 1997 was the year of the sophomore...

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Sophomores Star in ARDC CARQUEST Midget Series; Stimely, Yetter Crowned as '97 Champions

FLAGTOWN, N.J., Dec. 1 - If 1996 was the year of the rookies, 1997 was the year of the sophomore drivers in the American Racing Drivers Club (ARDC) CARQUEST Midget Series.

Sophomore driver Ed Stimely Jr. of McVeytown, Pa., the 1996 winner of the Dutch Schaefer/Jiggs Peters Rookie of the Year Award, earned the drivers' championship. Stimely's car owners, Harold and Ruthann Yetter of Sciota, Pa., topped the car owners' standings in their second season with ARDC. In addition, half of the entire top-10 drivers in the final point standings were in only their second year of competition with ARDC, proving that new blood is indeed healthy for the 58-year-old sanctioning body.

Stimely made history with his accomplishments. According to the records that are available, no driver before him has won the ARDC drivers' championship the year after he earned the series' top rookie award.

The 33-year-old driver was also taking care of some unfinished business. He went into the 1996 season finale leading the point standings, but he dropped to third at the end when his team was plagued by uncharacteristic mechanical gremlins. This year he was determined to not let that happen again. He won the 1997 championship by a robust 184 points over the defending titlist, Phil DiMario of Piermont, N.Y., far more than the 16 points that separated the champion from the runner-up last year.

Even though there was one less race in 1997 than 1996, there were two more winners in this extremely competitive series. Nine different drivers won the 17 races of 1997. Ten of the programs were on clay speedways, while seven were held on asphalt tracks.

Stimely started the year off right by winning the season opener at Silver Spring (Pa.) Speedway with his patriotic red, white and blue Creek Gaerte, which is sponsored by Cabinet Connection, Robert Sowden PrimeVest Financial Service, Pennzoil and The Main Street Bar.

The pressure was on when the tour moved to his home area for a show at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway, which was his only other victory of the season. But "Steady Eddie" won the title because he was consistent. He had 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-10 finishes in the series, a testament not only to his driving ability but also to his car owners, chief mechanic Bob Baker, and the entire Yetter Motorsports crew, including crew members Scott Pace, Bob Hackenberry, Ed Stimely Sr. and Pam Stimely.

Both DiMario and three-time driver champion Lou Cicconi Jr. of Aston, Pa., had more victories than Stimely, as they both took the checkered flag first three different times. DiMario had planned to campaign two cars in 1997, Jack Kirchner's Boston Hawk for the asphalt tracks and Ray McCabe's Stealth Gaerte for the clay tracks, but the deal with Kirchner soured almost before it started. McCabe's car was unexpectedly pressed into service for the entire 17-race schedule, but it rose to the occasion by giving both its driver and its owner the reserve championships for 1997.

DiMario and Cicconi were followed on the feature victory list by a quartet with two triumphs: Stimely; Tim Dietz of Hanover, Pa.; and sophomore drivers Bryan Kobylarz of Birdsboro, Pa., and Mark Freeland of Ickesburg, Pa. Doug Borger of Kunkletown, Pa., nailed down one checkered, while young Mike Roselli Jr. of Broadheadsville, Pa., and Gary Halteman of Gilbertsville, Pa., each got their first ARDC CARQUEST feature victories. It was budget racer Halteman's first win in 14 years of trying, while the 17-year-old Roselli is one of the sizzling sophomores. Roselli undoubtedly would have been even higher than fifth in the final point standings had he been permitted to compete in the three races at Flemington (N.J.) Speedway, but state regulations prohibited that due to his tender age.

One more sophomore made it into the top 10, as Tom Martocci of Brodheadsville, Pa., was eighth. He was followed by veteran Bob Cicconi of Prospect Park, Pa., who finished ninth in the overall driver point standings, just ahead of Borger.

Two of the three racing Maustellers of Bloomsburg, Pa. - young Shannon and dad Randy, the ARDC president - rounded out the top 12 in the final driver standings.

Don Trent II of Honeybrook, Pa., was the top rookie in 1997 with an 18th-place finish in the overall point standings.

The format for the "First Feature" program, a non-point show open only to drivers who have never won an ARDC feature event, was altered this year to twin 14-lappers at Flemington (N.J.) Speedway. They were won by veteran J.R. Booth of Lebanon, N.J., who only runs partial seasons, and Tom Fraschetta of Oaks, Pa. The latter was rebounding from a hand injury suffered early in the year in a shop accident.

The point races were held in six different states in 1997. Eight of the shows were in Pennsylvania, the home state of nine of the top-10 drivers. The rest were held in New Jersey (three shows); New York (two appearances); Virginia (two races); and one each in Maryland and North Carolina.

With returning sponsors CARQUEST and Hoosier Racing Tires behind it, the 1998 ARDC CARQUEST Midget Series is sure to be another barn-burner for the club, one of the top and most historic organizations in traditional American auto racing.

Ray McCabe will be president of ARDC in 1998, and Mike Roselli Sr. returns as business manager. To reach Roselli, call (717) 992-7979 during regular business hours.

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Series Midget
Drivers Bob Baker , Bryan Kobylarz