GALA CELEBRATES FIFTH ANNIVERSARY CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN (November 28, 1998) - When the NAMARS Auto Value Stores midget series began handing out more than $82,000 in cash and awards on Saturday night, Matt Westfall needed most of his family ...
GALA CELEBRATES FIFTH ANNIVERSARY
CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN (November 28, 1998) - When the NAMARS Auto Value Stores midget series began handing out more than $82,000 in cash and awards on Saturday night, Matt Westfall needed most of his family and friends to help carry his haul from the stage. Driving for Jack Hammons, the Ludlow Falls, Ohio, rookie earned both the NAMARS point title and Rookie of the Year honors.
"It means a lot," the youthful Westfall admitted as the ceremonies concluded. "This is something people dream of all their lives and never accomplish. And we did it in one year. It's amazing."
Introducing the new champion, NAMARS President Jack Calabrase recalled that, "He was behind right off the bat." Because Westfall was a rookie, he was required to start the first three main events on the tail of the field and be observed by officials.
As NAMARS completed its fifth year, Jack and Rose Calabrase hosted competitors and officials at Ron Eden's Holiday Inn in Crawfordsville. "This is a mom and pop organization," Jack bantered as he handed awards to the top twenty car owners and drivers. "We're professional at the track, but we can let our hair down now."
Seventeen year old A.J. Fike claimed second in the point standings after winning the last event of the year. Fike noted that veteran driver Jim Mahoney was instrumental in taking him to his first race and starting him off in midgets.
Nick Fornoro Jr. finished third in the point series, with his teammate Kevin Besecker fourth, and A.J. Davis fifth.
Other honors were earned by the champions as Matt's father, Phil Westfall, was named Mechanic of the Year. Among the awards received by Champion Car Owner Jack Hammons was a Rolex Watch presented by S.H. Newton Jewelers.
Roy Caruthers was honored for his Indiana Triple Crown title. Caruthers tallied the best combined finishes in races on consecutive nights at Bloomington Speedway, Lincoln Park Speedway and Evans Kokomo Speedway. Asked if he thought that he would be at the banquet as the series champ when he was unloading at Bloomington, Caruthers replied, "No I thought I was going to be spending that $10,000 bonus for winning all three races."
Calabrase noted that the Indiana Triple Crown would be back, bigger and better, in 1999 and may include an additional venue.
In special awards, the Persistence Award, in honor of David Cowing Sr., was presented to J.D. Turner, who was twelfth in the final points. Randy Dailey earned the Great Attitude Award. 1995 and 1997 NAMARS champ Mel Kenyon and Jason Fuller received Hard Luck Awards. Jason Setsor earned the Most Features Won award with victories at Columbus (OH), Berlin (MI), and Louisville (KY) ovals. Kevin Newton, who won the final night of the Indiana Triple Crown, was named the Most Improved Driver. Sharon Moore received the Woman of the Year Award.
The award for the Best Looking Car and Crew went to tenth point finisher Jim Sawyer, who admitted, "Jim Chinn came along and dragged me out of the mud and said, "Let's get you cleaned up.""
Mack McClellan's midgets ranked second and third in owners points, with Fornoro and Besecker driving. McClellan related that he had realized a dream as team manager for Cahill Racing when driver Donnie Beechler ran in the Indianapolis 500. In his remarks, McClellan urged the young drivers to keep their dreams alive.
As he distributed the $4,000 rookie point fund to the top rookies, Calabrase noted that NAMARS runs one of the best rookie programs in the country. In addition to Westfall, recipients included Brian Martin, Robert Bohn, Dave Ray Jr., Jason Setsor, Wayne Chinn, Kevin Newton and A.J. Fike.
In a surprise announcement, Ted Hollingsworth, promoter of the Thunder in the Dome invitational midget race in Indianapolis, extended an invitation to Westfall to compete on January 30. He said that the NAMARS champion and the winner of the Rumble in the Expo indoor race at Ft. Wayne's Expo Center on December 26 and 27, will receive annual invitations to the Dome.
Although he didn't win any races and his best finish was third, Westfall pointed out that they were in the top ten more than half of the season. "You've just got to have a good crew, show up every week and run up front. No breaks. That's all you've got to do."
While reflecting on the campaign, Westfall complimented several of the veterans he raced against. "Nick Fornoro Jr. was the top driver all year long. He kind of intimidated me at the beginning of the year. Nick taught me a lot, and I appreciate it. This is a great series. Mel Kenyon is the best midget driver that ever lived and I enjoy racing with him."