BNS: Busch North Series banquet report

PORTLAND, Me. (January 13, 2001) - Brad Leighton received a string of accolades he was anticipating Saturday night at the 14th annual Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring Awards Banquet, including the check, trophy, and ring emblematic of his second...

PORTLAND, Me. (January 13, 2001) - Brad Leighton received a string of accolades he was anticipating Saturday night at the 14th annual Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring Awards Banquet, including the check, trophy, and ring emblematic of his second consecutive series championship. Unexpectedly, the Center Harbor, N.H., driver added an honor with no monetary value but enormous prestige - the Most Popular Driver Award, voted by the NASCAR membership.

Nearly 500 people filling the ballroom of Portland's Holiday Inn By The Bay also saw Leighton receive the $7,500 Gatorade Front Runner Award for race leadership, while the other members of the Grizco Racing team were honored for their roles in the repeat championship. Steve and Peg Griswold were recognized as Champion Car Owners and Brian Latuch and Karl Osha as Champion Co-Crew Chiefs, while Robbie Paterson of PCCW Racing Engines picked up the Clevite Engine Builder of the Year Award.

"These are my champions," Leighton said in recognizing the team which helped him score three wins and a perfect 17 top ten finishes in 17 starts.

Other drivers receiving sponsored awards based on year-long performance included Tracy Gordon, Mike Olsen, and Mike Johnson. Gordon won the $10,000 Bud Pole Award by setting fastest qualifying time on five occasions during the season. Olsen earned the $7,5000 Flowmaster Star of the Race Award for position improvement from start to finish during the year. Johnson was presented with the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year Award after finishing eighth in the Busch North Series standings in his first season.

The prestigious Most Improved Driver Award and Sportsmanship Award, selected by the series officials, were won by Vermont drivers Dennis Demers and Kip Stockwell, respectively. The veteran Demers went from an occasional contender to a regular threat for victory. He finished second to Leighton in two of the season's hardest-fought races and picked up his first career Bud Pole. Stockwell, whose family team operated with just one race car, supported the series every week and finished second in the Flowmaster Award standings.

The longest ovation of the night was reserved for outgoing Busch North Series Director Bunk Sampson, who led the series through a period of unprecedented growth and popularity. Sampson will remain with the series as a consultant.

Craig Armstrong of MRN Radio served as Master of Ceremonies as over $360,000 in point fund awards were distributed to the top 20 teams in the 2000 standings.

The 2001 Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring season opens Sunday, April 22, at the Lee USA Speedway in Lee, N.H. The 20-race campaign will see the series compete at 14 tracks in seven states from Maine to Delaware, including four appearances with the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

The Busch North Series is one of nine NASCAR Touring series which blanket the USA, bringing special events to NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks as well as visiting superspeedways and road courses. The NASCAR Touring program is recognized as the leading training ground for drivers and technical personnel aiming toward NASCAR's national series, while also providing career opportunities for professional racers at the regional level. Corporations making major contributions to NASCAR Touring series point funds include Anheuser-Busch Inc., Featherlite Trailers, Goody's Headache Powders, RE/MAX Realty Corporation, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, and R.J. Reynolds' Winston brand.

-Al Robinson

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Mike Johnson