RIVERSIDE, CALIF. NATIVES WISE, HAGEN SWEEP USAC NATIONAL ROOKIE HONORS INDIANAPOLIS -- Drivers Josh Wise and Darren Hagen, both of Riverside, Calif., were announced today as USAC's National Rookies of the Year for their performances during the...
RIVERSIDE, CALIF. NATIVES WISE, HAGEN SWEEP USAC NATIONAL ROOKIE HONORS
INDIANAPOLIS -- Drivers Josh Wise and Darren Hagen, both of Riverside, Calif., were announced today as USAC's National Rookies of the Year for their performances during the 2005 season.
Wise received the Silver Crown Series award while Hagen topped voting for the National Sprint Car and Midget Series divisions, becoming the first driver in USAC history to take both honors in the same season. Both drivers were eligible for the honors despite having taken part in events during the 2004 season, but did not exceed the four-race limit which would relinquish their rookie statuses.
Wise debuted in the Silver Crown Series in 2004 on two occasions but came full force in 2005 for Tony Stewart Racing. He led 83 laps of the famed "Hoosier Hundred" at the Indiana State Fairgrounds before finishing second to Teddy Beach. The Californian carried that momentum over to the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track for the "SUMAR Classic" and won the event.
Overall, Wise scored seven Top-10 finishes and set fast time for three events, which ultimately assisted him in winning the Earl's Fast Qualifier award, which distributes $5,000 to the winner.
"It was a good year for us," said Wise, who drove the No. 10 Tony Stewart Racing Mopar Beast/Mopar. "We definitely exceeded all expectations, and got close even to winning the championship. In perspective, it was the first full season in this type of car, and we had a lot of fun running, and I'm happy to accept the honors."
For Hagen, he was in his first fulltime season in the Sprints and first season in the Midgets, finishing in the Top 10 in points in both divisions. He started four races in 2004 before joining the Keith Kunz Motorsports stable, which provided him the Midget and housed his Sprint car.
Hagen improved considerably in the Sprints and won his first feature Nov. 3 during the Budweiser "Oval Nationals" at Perris Auto Speedway in California, his hometown track. He made 29 starts in 34 appearances and also notched eight Top-10 finishes, placing eighth in the final point standings.
In the Midget, Hagen also finished eighth in the points, using one of Kunz and team manager Pete Willoughby's three licensed Midgets to score a season-best fifth at Eldora Speedway in the "4-Crown Nationals." He made 19 of the 21 feature races.
"To get one of the awards is cool, but to get both of these awards is unbelievable," Hagen said. "We showed a lot of perseverance, and our efforts came from a lot of faith and belief that we could do this."
Reutimann and Hagen will be honored for their accomplishments at USAC's "Night of Champions," which will celebrate the 2005 season, on Jan. 28 at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis.