Utica-Rome 2004 Awards Banquet notes

Utica-Rome Speedway Celebrates 2004 Season With Awards Banquet at Turning Stone Casino Resort VERONA, NY- This past Saturday, November 13, saw the annual Utica-Rome Speedway take place at the beautiful Turning Stone Casino Resort in Verona NY...

Utica-Rome Speedway Celebrates 2004 Season With Awards Banquet at Turning Stone Casino Resort

VERONA, NY- This past Saturday, November 13, saw the annual Utica-Rome Speedway take place at the beautiful Turning Stone Casino Resort in Verona NY with 425 participants packing in to join the festivities. An astounding $48,700 in prize money and contingency awards was handed out during the affair.

Stewart Friesen, from Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario, burst onto the Utica-Rome Speedway scene in a big way when his Madsen Motorsports team hit the track back in early May. Not only did he win the opening night event, but he put an incredible string of 4 straight victories together that would eventually propel him to the 2004 track championship. When the dust settled in September, Friesen found victory lane 7 times. Friesen collected the $8,000 champion's share of the point money, with another $2000 coming from DIRT Motorsports this weekend for his track championship bringing his total to an amazing $10,000 for his Utica-Rome Speedway title.

Although he matched Friesen's 11 top 5 and 13 top 10 finishes for the season at Utica-Rome Speedway, Vermont's Dave Camara was unable to break in victory lane at the speedway. But his consistency was enough to earn him a second place finish in the final standings and the $6,000 check for his efforts. Camara, along with 2004 Utica-Rome Speedway Pro Stock champion Roy Fifield, was unable to attend the event due to brother's long planned wedding on the same day.

In a recent trip to Vermont, track owner Gene Cole and wife, Gloria, presented Camara his check during a dinner with his family. Norwich's Mitch Gibbs is long time veteran of the Sunday night wars and former track champion at Utica-Rome Speedway and used that experience to finish 3rd on the final point standings. Gibbs was unable to land a victory at the Vernon oval in 2004, but used a late season string of top 5 finishes to make a late charge in the standings and gain the $4,000 3rd place finisher's check.

Another former track champion, Spencerport's Todd Burley, netted 2 victories in 2004 on Sunday nights and finished 4th in the standings to take home a $2,500 check from the lucrative point fund. Another newcomer to the Sunday night competition at the Utica-Rome Speedway, Brian Weaver quickly adapted to the fast half mile oval and garnered 2 wins with another handful of top 5 finishes. The Windsor NY driver finished 5th in the standings and received $2,000 for his efforts.

Mark Flach was consistent throughout the 2004 season, finishing in the top 5 6 times with 12 top 10's while finishing more laps (525) than any other competitor and finished 6th in the final standings to take home $1,500. Bobby Varin was a driver to deal with once he got going in the Roger Heroux #57, grabbing 2 wins on the season and leading many more events. Varin ended 7th in the standing and received $1,300.

In his first full season in the 358-Modified division, Jamie Christian immediately proved to be competitive and even grabbed a feature victory during his rookie campaign. An 8th place finish in the season long standings and a $1,200 check rewarded the former Sportsman champion for his efforts. Willy Decker finished in 9th and received $1,100 while Gus Schmidt rounded out the top 10 in the standings and took home $1,000. Speedway officials would like to thank the Mirabito Fuel Group and Gates Cole Insurance for making the 358-Modified point fund possible.

Jessica Zemken was another driver who enjoyed a breakout year in 2004 at the Utica-Rome Speedway, starting the season with 3 straight wins and winning 4 overall en route to her championship season in the Sportsman division at the Utica-Rome Speedway.

Veteran Sportsman driver Mike Button netted 3 wins of the season to finish in the runner up spot in the standings. Paul Carey was able to finally win his first career Sportsman win this season and then was able to back it up with a huge win in the Sunoco Race Fuels Sportsman Super DIRT Series later in the season. Carey was able to finish 3rd in the final standings.

Another driver to get his first career win in the Sportsman ranks was Billy Price, which also helped him get his best finish in the point standings at the Utica-Rome Speedway in 2004, which was 4th. Completing the top 5 in the Sportsman was rookie driver Kenny Stafford who also netted his 1st win late in the season. Rounding out the top 10 in the final Sportsman standings was Steve Way (1 win), Jeremy Vunk, Bill Shantel, Jr. (1 win), Butch Reiter, and Tim Nye.

Completing his first full season at the Utica-Rome Speedway, Roy Fifield quickly served notice in the Pro Stock division that he was the driver to beat at the outset of the season, winning the first 5 events and finishing the season with 6 wins overall which propelled him to his first Utica-Rome Speedway championship.

Veteran Pro Stock campaigner and former champion Bret Belden did not find victory lane in 2004 but was near the front in most events and used that consistency to finish 2nd in the standings. Another former track champion used a late season surge, including a win in the Empire Sports Network Pro Stock Super DIRT Series on Labor Day Weekend, to finish 3rd in the standings.

Tom Denton made a successful return to the Pro Stock ranks, finishing 4th in the standings with 1 victory on the year. 2003 Utica-Rome Speedway Pro Stock champion Jerry Holmes finished out the top 5 in the standings with 4 wins on the season. Dave Moyer, Bob Mills (1 win), Brian Belden, Ryan Lund, and Mark Effner filled out the top 10 in the standings.

Russ Marsden showed up 2 weeks late in the season but immediately put the rest of the competition on notice when he began showing up every week. Marsden won and astounding 11 times by the time the season ended, and after a post race disqualification of a fellow competitor, Marsden found himself as the 2004 Utica-Rome Speedway track champion.

Chris Cunningham made the Vernon oval his home track in 2004 and was rewarded with his first Pure Stock victory and a 2nd place finish in the points. Dave Pope led the standings for the majority of the season and fell to 3rd on the final night of competition. Pope had 2 wins on the season. Chuck Cushman had 1 win on the season and finished in the 4th spot.

Fan favorite Jim Thomas rounded out the top 5 spots in the standings. Filling out the top 10 in the final point standings were Bob Bird, Art Newman, Rick Condes, Dave Janczuk, and Phil Norman.

Chuck Powelczyk dominated the later part of the season in the Four Cylinder Super Stocks and used that to take home his first ever championship at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Powelcyck's teammate, Joey Delacruz, finished in the runner-up spot, with early season point leader Jack Hill (2 wins) finishing in 3rd. Jim Money (4 wins) and Lee Hartzog rounded out the top 5 spots in the standings. Lorraine Birminghan, Jeff Leslie, Rich Murtaugh, Ken Clark, and Ken Hotaling completed the top 10 spots in the standings.

The IMCA Modified division was added to the Utica-Rome schedule at mid season, and became the home to many of the top IMCA drivers in the northeast. George Catanzano used his 4 wins to outrun his competition to the Utica-Rome Speedway title. Kevin Buff (1 win) finished in the runner up spot with Aaron Jacobs, Skip Pabis, and JoJo Donato finishing out the top 5 spots. Sean Lias (1 win), Dale Caswell (1 win), Bill Anderson, Lyle Smith, and Chris Thurston rounded out the top 10 finishers.

Next, the winners of the Mercer's Heat Race Challenge were honored. The winner's of the most heat races in their respective divisions were given a $200 check from Mercer's Ice Cream. Chuck Powelczyk and Ken Hotaling ended up tying in the Four Cylinder Super Stocks, so each driver was given $100. Russ Marsden took home the top honors in the Pure Stocks, with Roy Fifield leading the way in the Pro Stocks and Paul Carey taking the award in the Sportsman. Dave Camara and Stewart Friesen tied for the most heat wins in the DIRT 358-Modifieds and received $100 each.

Wilber-Duck Chevy/Buick of Oneida and Christian Fabrication sponsored the Halfway Leader Challenge, with the driver who led the most races at the halfway point of the feature in each division being honored. Wilber-Duck Chevy/Buick gave $500 to Chuck Powelczyk of the Four Cylinder Super Stocks, Russ Marsden in the Pure Stocks, and Stewart Friesen in the 358-Modifieds for leading the most times at halfway. Christian Fabrication gave Billy Shantel, Jr. a $500 check for being the halfway leader while in the Pro Stock ranks, Jerry Holmes and Roy Fifield each received $250 plus a certificate for half off a Five Star Race Car body.

Tombstone Saloon and Pondra's Home and Hearth Realty was next to present their special awards which was a $500 bonus to the track champions in the Sportsman, Pro Stocks, Pure Stocks, and Four Cylinder Super Stocks. Jessica Zemken, Roy Fifield, Russ Marsden, and Chuck Powelczyk were all honored for their efforts in the 2004 season.

Special awards were next to be given away, with the Most Improved Driver award the first to be handed out. In the 358-Modifieds, Mark Flach was the recipient of the award due to his improvement over the 2003 season, as was Billy Price in the Sportsman and Dave Moyer in the Pro Stocks. In the Pure Stocks, no one driver stood out above the rest in the most improved category, and all drivers were given a hand for their outstanding efforts all year long. Next, the Hard Luck Driver award was handed out with Chuck Cushman in the Pure Stocks, Ed Ostrander in the Pro Stocks, and Matt Janczuk in the Sportsman each receiving the award. In the 358-Modifieds, John Ramsey and Paul Kinney shared the award for their share of bad luck in 2004. Rookie of the Year honors were next, with Shawn Dunn receiving the honor in the Pure Stocks, while Ryan Lund and Kenny Stafford took the awards in the Pro Stock and Sportsman divisions, respectively. Stewart Friesen received the Rookie of the Year honors in the 358-Modifieds.

John Keegan of the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) was next to take the podium to award $100 toward the safety and EMS crews of the Utica-Rome Speedway on the behalf of NYSSCA.

Aaron Boise, the webmaster of www.uticaromespeedway.com then discussed the success of the live statistics and racing videos on the speedway website. Boise then thanked Steve Weed, Rich Post, Gene Cole, and Utica-Rome Speedway staff for helping make the website a success.

Finally, new General Manager Dick Sweet addressed the large throng on hand and assured them that things will go forward in 2005, no matter which sanction the speedway chooses. Also, Sweet discussed the improvements already made at the speedway for 2005, including new clay that evened out the sharp transition in the banking. The grandstands were painted, the turn 4 wall was pushed back and extended, and an all new fence that separates the spectators and competitors was also mentioned. He also thanked all attendees for their support and told them to watch the internet and trade papers for upcoming news.

The whole event was announced by track announcers Jeff Barrett and Shane Andrews with the video display being manned by Steve Weed Productions, which handled the taping of all the racing events at Utica-Rome Speedway in 2004.

Special thanks goes out to Wilber-Duck Chevy/Buick of Oneida, Mercer's Ice Cream, Tombstone Saloon, Pondra's Home and Hearth Realty, Christian Fabrication, Mirabito Fuel Group, and Gates Cole Insurance for the huge contributions they made to the Utica-Rome Speedway in 2004.

For up to date news and racing video of the past season at the speedway, log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com. For more information, you can call (315) 829-4557.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Christian F , Bobby Varin