2003 Western series' champions honored

Western USAC champs saluted in Sacramento. Champions of USAC's 2003 Western racing series were honored Saturday night at the annual USAC Western Awards Banquet in Sacramento, Calif. The affair was held in the Sky Box at Race Place Motorsports...

Western USAC champs saluted in Sacramento.

Champions of USAC's 2003 Western racing series were honored Saturday night at the annual USAC Western Awards Banquet in Sacramento, Calif. The affair was held in the Sky Box at Race Place Motorsports and was followed by go-kart racing on a European-style indoor road circuit.

Michael Lewis of Noblesville, Ind was saluted as the Western Sprint Car Champion, while Steve Paden of Downey, Calif. accepted plaudits as the Western Midget Car titlist. Also celebrated were Ford Focus Midget driving championships for Todd Hunsaker of Chino Hills, Calif. (South) and Josh Lakatos of Pasadena, Calif. (North), Rick Ziehl of Las Cruces, N.M. (Southwest Sprints), Jim Waters of Salt Lake City, Utah (Port-O-Call Rocky Mountain Sprints) and Bruce Feldman of San Ramon, Calif. (Russell Racing Series).

Car Entrant champions honored included Larry Trigueiro and Rick Gerhardt of Western Speed Racing of Fresno, Calif. (Western Sprints) and Richard Farrier (Western Midgets), plus Ford Focus Champions Hunsaker and Lakatos.

All of the "top-10" drivers and car entrants in the final 2003 standings received distinctive awards and numerous special accolades were bestowed.

Hoosier Tire "Rookie of the Year" honors went to Michael Lewis and Greg Taylor of Ojai, Calif. (Sprints), Garrett Hansen of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. (Midgets) and Ryan Kaplan of Chico, Calif. (Ford Focus Midgets). Hoosier also presented "Most Improved Driver" awards to Jim Waters (Sprints), Johnny Rodriguez of Elk Grove, Calif. (Midgets) and Chris Rahe of Placentia, Calif. (Ford Focus Midgets). Each Hoosier recipient will also receive a specially-designed Hoosier Racing Jacket.

Specially-designed jackets from C.L. Bryant and VP Racing Fuels are also targeted for 2003 "Hard Chargers" Waters (Sprints), Paden (Midgets) and Kaplan (Ford Focus Midgets).

USAC's Western Racing Officials were each presented Appreciation Certificates from USAC and two were again saluted for honors bestowed in December at the USAC Champions Night in Indianapolis, Ind. They were "Diana Fell Gilmore Woman Behind the Scenes" Award winner Pat Johnson of Burbank, Calif. and USAC Winners Circle "Ross Hadley Memorial Achievement" Award winner Dennis Johansen of Stockton, Calif.

Ford Focus Midget competitors James Miller, Sr. and Jr. of Parowan, Utah were named winners of the inaugural "Walt Johnson Memorial Achievement Award" in memory of the late USAC Chief Steward, presented by Bob & Cookie Pool and Mrs. Johnson. Rick Gerhardt, President of Hoosier Tire West, was named the recipient of the Curly Merrill "Let's Go Racing Award" saluting his many contributions to USAC's Western activities. Jerome Rodela of El Monte, Calif. was named the winner of the "Joe Lynch Memorial Award" recognizing mechanical excellence.

The affair was emceed by USAC VP/News & Communications Dick Jordan. USAC President Rollie Helmling and VP/Western Operations Tommy Hunt also addressed the attendees and Utah's Gordon Tyler assisted in the award presentations.

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Series USAC
Drivers Michael Lewis , Johnny Rodriguez , Rick Ziehl , Steve Paden , Josh Lakatos , Ryan Kaplan , Garrett Hansen