Atlanta,GA - Outside temperatures may have dipped to just above freezing, but the atmosphere inside the ballroom of the Renaissance Concourse Hotel near Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport was warm and companionable as over 400 people ...
Atlanta,GA - Outside temperatures may have dipped to just above freezing, but the atmosphere inside the ballroom of the Renaissance Concourse Hotel near Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport was warm and companionable as over 400 people gathered to honor the competitors, sponsors and crew members of the Hooters ProCup Series. Not only a wrap-up to the 2000 racing season, the elegant black-tie event was the informal kick off to the heralded, anticipated and expanded 2001 season, just six weeks away at USA International Speedway.
The shining light of the evening was Bobby Gill as he became the first driver in the history of the USAR Hooters ProCup Series to win back-to-back championships. He took home the lion's share of the $750,000 awarded to the top-30 finishers in the final points standings when he was awarded a check for $250,000 from the executive commissioner of USAR, Mr. R.H. "Bob" Brooks. Gill accepted his championship trophy moments after sliding into the USAR's signature leather winner's jacket, then stepped up to the podium. "We had a really good season," said the normally reticent Gill. "I had a lot of help from the guys on the crew and our sponsors or this wouldn't have been possible. I have got a few more years left in me [to race] and, hopefully, we can come back and do this again." Gill added that he especially wanted to thank his wife - and car owner- Elaine for all of her support. "I don't know of too many women who would let their husband move to another state and race during the season," said Gill. "She has been so supportive and she is so important to the success of the PGT Industries team." Elaine Gill also collected car owner of the year honors while her team's crew chief Steve Dluzniewski was awarded the W.J. Plemons Investments Crew Chief of the Year Award. Steven Christian, finishing second in the points standings, received the Consistency Award for the second straight year after the Georgia driver completed an amazing 5,057 out of 5,071 laps during the 2000 season, for a completion ratio of 99.7 percent. "This award goes to Scott (Sutherland) and all of the guys who worked on the Lucas Oil Products Chevrolet this season,' said Christian. "We worked hard all season to have strong finishes and be there at the end of each race." Brian Vickers outdistanced a very competitive class of rookie drivers to win the prestigious Miller Lite Rookie of the Year Award. Vickers, who won two races during the 2000 season, captured Rookie of the Race honors three times on his way to the $10,000 title. "We had several goals when we started last year in this series," noted the 17 year-old driver. "We wanted to run for the Rookie of the Year title, win a race and finish in the top-10 in points. Fortunately, through a lot of hard work and support from a lot of people, we achieved our goals this year and are ready to move forward in 2001." Vickers gave a special thanks to his parents for their support and encouragement throughout the season. Although he didn't begin competing until July, Hal Goodson captured two special awards for his accomplishments during the racing season. Goodson tied with drivers Clay Rogers and Mario Gosselin for Most Discount Auto Parts Pole Awards during the year; each driver took four. However, Goodson clinched the award by winning the tie-breaker: most wins [two] during the season. He also collected the Racing Electronics Lightning Award, given to the driver who advances the most in the points standings during the second half of the season. Although drivers Charlie Ford and Mike Herman, Jr. were unable to attend the ceremonies, they were both honored with special recognition for their accomplishments throughout the year. Ford collected four Hard Charger Awards during the season to win the State Fair Brand Hard Charger of the Year Award, while Herman took home the Incentive Risk Management Smart Move of the Race Award for his strong finish at Hickory Motor Speedway during the season. For the third consecutive year Automotive Specialists was given the CV Products Engine Builder of the Year Award. Fighting back tears, Bill Plemons, Jr. accepted the HooterSports News Humanitarian of the Year Award. He was recognized by publisher John Dreisbach as a driver who gave a lot of his time and resources to support such worthy causes as C.U.R.E. and the Shriners Children's Hospital. "We had three goals for this year," said an emotional Plemons. "We wanted to finish in the top-10 and we finished ninth. Wanted to win a pole and we won two. We also wanted to win a race and we ran up front and came close a couple of times but couldn't quite get the win. This makes up for that goal. I just want to help the kids." USAR President Gene Cox also talked about the upcoming 2001 season, pointing out how the Series would continue to strive to become "one of the best short track series in the country." "We have come a long way in just a few short years," said Cox. "I want to thank Mr. Brooks, Hooters of America, Eastern Foods and everyone associated with USAR for all of their hard work and efforts to make the Hooters ProCup Series one of the best in stock car racing."