Utica-Rome Speedway 2002 Awards Banquet summary

Awards Banquet concludes the 2002 Utica-Rome Speedway season in fine style. VERNON- The beautiful Shenendoah Golf Clubhouse at the Turning Stone Casino Resort was the site of the Utica-Rome Speedway Awards Banquet on Saturday November 16th. In...

Awards Banquet concludes the 2002 Utica-Rome Speedway season in fine style.

VERNON- The beautiful Shenendoah Golf Clubhouse at the Turning Stone Casino Resort was the site of the Utica-Rome Speedway Awards Banquet on Saturday November 16th. In front of a full banquet hall of 320 plus participants, drivers were awarded point fund money and special awards for their season long efforts throughout the 2002 campaign.

With track announcer Shane Andrews at his usual post behind the microphone, the top ten drivers in the popular Pure Stock division were the first to be honored. On his way to collectng his impressive ninth Pure Stock championship in the last thirteen seasons at the speedway, Fulton's Dave Mannise garnered 5 wins in the 2002 season. When asked on his 2003 plans at the speedway, Dave hinted that he may not return as a regular next season. Second place point man Chuck Cushman, along with Art Newman (3rd), Jim Thomas (4th), Rick Trexler (5th), Rick Condes (tie-7th), Waylon Wilczek (tie-7th), and Ted Crawford (10th) were on hand to receive their awards.

Next up to be honored for their efforts was the highly competitive DIRT Pro Stock division. Jason Rood, of Oneida, proved that you don't need to win to be called champion, as he collected no wins on the way to the 2002 track championship. After receiving his first championship, Jason stated that he will return the Utica-Rome Speedway to defend his title. Also in attendance to collect their awards were 2001 champion Bret Belden (2nd), Buddy Hencke (3rd), Joe Plamer (4th), Denny Smith (5th), Bill Knapp (6th), Chad Ray (8th), and Gerry Newman (10th).

West Winfield native Jamie Christian nabbed 4 point wins during his pursuit of the 2002 DIRT Sportsman track championship. Jamie also stated that he will return to defend his title for the 2003 season. Former champion Tim Clemons (2nd), Paul Carey, Kevin Crave (4th), Jim Roberts (5th), John Christian (6th), Tim Mayne (7th), Steve Davis (8th), Steve Way (9th), and Dave Bargabos (10th) were all on hand to be rewarded for their efforts throughout the 2002 season.

Making Utica-Rome Speedway his Sunday night home proved to be fruitful for the young DIRT 358-Modified superstar Matt Sheppard. While only collecting 1 win throughout the season, Sheppard was a consistent top 3 finisher throughout his championship season. While noting a change in his Saturday night program is forthcoming, Sheppard stated that he plans to be back in the 2003 season to defend his title. The remaining top ten drivers of Mitch Gibbs (2nd), Gordy Button (tie-3rd), Jeff Kotary (6th), Jim Rothwell (tie-7th), Gus Schmidt (tie-7th), Paul Kinney (9th), and John Ramsey (10th) were also on hand to enjoy the festivities.

Next on the agenda was the special awards with the Rookie of the Year awards handed out to Paul Kinney (DIRT 358-Modified), Jeremy Vunk (DIRT Sportsman), AJ Digsby (DIRT Pro Stock), and Rick Condes (Pure Stocks).

After two hard crashes that totally destroyed two cars, Tony Ross received the Hard Luck award for the DIRT 358-Modified division. Always competitive but snake bitten driver Jessica Zemken was the recipient of this award in the DIRT Sportsman division. DIRT Pro Stock driver Mark Effner was always competitive but was seemingly always at the wrong place at the wrong time. He received the Hard Luck award while Les Lewis was awarded it in the Pure Stock division.

Jeff Kotary survived a dismal 2001 season was determined to change things around for the 2002 campaign. Improving from 22nd in points in the 2001 season to 6th for the 2002 season and collecting his first career DIRT 358-Modified win, Jeff was awarded the Most Improved Driver award in his respective division. Also collecting his first win early the 2002 campaign and being competitive every week, John Christian received the award in the DIRT Sportsman class. While not winning a race, Bill Knapp competed for the win every week in the DIRT Pro Stocks to receive the Most Improved award. Art Newman was the recipient for the Pure Stock division, collecting his first win career win and netting a fine 3rd place finish in the point standings.

Chip Burdick closed the evening out by speaking on behalf of Gene and Tom Cole. Chip thanked all drivers, crews, fans, and officials for the efforts in making their first year of ownership a successful one. A special thanks went to Brenda Belden, Debi Christman, Barb Clark, and Connie Plows for their hard work to make the banquet a success.

To keep up to date on off-season news at the Utica-Rome Speedway, log on to the official website at www.uticaromespeedway.com or call the speedway office at (315) 829-4557.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Jim Roberts