47th Annual "Champions Night"

47th Annual "Champions Night"

J.J. Yeley of Phoenix, Ariz. headlined recipients at the 47th Annual USAC "Champions Night" presented by the University of Northwestern Ohio Friday in Indianapolis, Ind., raking in nearly $58,000 in year-end bonuses as USAC participants split over...

J.J. Yeley of Phoenix, Ariz. headlined recipients at the 47th Annual USAC "Champions Night" presented by the University of Northwestern Ohio Friday in Indianapolis, Ind., raking in nearly $58,000 in year-end bonuses as USAC participants split over a half-million dollars in year-end point fund and contingency awards.

J.J. Yeley.
Photo by Steve Rossini.

Yeley was honored as USAC's 2002 Weld Racing Silver Crown Champion as well as the 2002 Earl's Pro-Lite 350 Hose Fast Qualifier Champion and also the runner-up in USAC's Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car and National Midget Car Series. Robert Writesman, Manager of Circle Track Motorsports for Holley Performance Products, Inc., presented Yeley's largest single check, a $20,000 cash bonus for winning the 2002 Earl's Pro-Lite 350 Hose Fast Qualifier Championship.

In addition, Yeley received nearly $26,000 in point fund monies, $9,000 from the Indy Racing League's "Road to Indy" program and bonuses of $2,000 from the University of Northwestern Ohio and $1,000 from Valvoline. Yeley also accepted the USAC "Super License" from USAC President/CEO Rollie Helmling for amassing the most feature event points of any USAC National driver in 2002. The license is good for competition in all of USAC's 2003 racing series.

The USAC "Champions Night" was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Ind., adjacent to the annual Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, being held at the Indiana Convention Center and RCA Dome. World renowned broadcaster Bob Jenkins served as the Master of Ceremonies.

Indiana Senator Richard G. Lugar congratulated each of USAC's Champions in the form of congratulatory letters, while Indianapolis Fire Department Chief Louis Dezelan presented Keys to the City of Indianapolis to each National Champion.

Driving and entrant champions from USAC's various racing series were joined as recipients of distinctive awards by special award recipients, representing many facets of the sport.

Tracy Hines Sprint winner.
Photo by Ange Lisuzzo.

Joining Yeley as 2002 USAC Driving Champions were Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind. (Stoops Freightliner Sprint Cars), Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind. (National Midget Cars), Rick Hendrix of Canyon Country, Calif. (Western Sprint Cars), Robby Flock of Murrieta, Calif. (Western Midget Cars), Todd Hunsaker of Chino Hills, Calif. (USAC Ford Focus Midget Cars), Mike Boat of Glendale, Ariz. (New Mexico/Arizona Sprint Cars), Tony Hunt of Fair Oaks, Calif. (Western Regional Sprints), Marc DeBeaumont of Clayton, Calif. (Western Midgets), and Jim Russell Racing School Champions Chris Carmody of Valencia, Calif. (Yokohama Triple Crown Pro Series) and Jason Kritikos of Livermore, Calif. (Formula Russell).

NASCAR Winston Cup Driving Champion Tony Stewart raked in another USAC laurel as he shared the Weld Racing Silver Crown Car Entrant's title with Bob East of Indianapolis, Ind. Other Car Entrant Champions honored included Dynamics, Inc. of Milford, Ohio (Stoops Freightliner Sprint Cars), Steve Lewis of Laguna Beach, Calif. (National Midget Cars), Rick Hendrix of Canyon Country, Calif. (Western Sprint Cars) and Jeff Pinkston of Simi, Calif. (Western Midget Cars).

A USAC Special Recognition Award was presented to race organizer Bob Sargent of Macon, Ill. in recognition of his long tenure at the Illinois State Fairgrounds venues in Springfield and DuQuoin as well as his new affiliation with the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track.

Mike Devin of Indianapolis, Ind., USAC's Vice President/Technical Operations and Competition Director, was presented the prestigious Eddie Edenburn Award for his lifelong contributions to the sport of auto racing.

USAC Vice President/Western Operations Tommy Hunt of Fair Oaks, Calif. accepted the prestigious Roger McCluskey "Award of Excellence" from the 2001 winner Bob Jenkins.

The USAC "Race Organizer of the Year" Award was accepted by Steve Lewis on behalf of Premier Racing Entertainment, which organized the highly successful "Indianapolis Twin 25s" at Indianapolis Raceway Park last September.

Valvoline presented the prestigious "Jimmy Caruthers Award" to Critter Malone of Indianapolis, Ind. in recognition of his spirit and determination, in memory of USAC's late driving champion. Assisting in the presentation to Critter was Judi Malone Caruthers, Critter's mother.

Lincoln Electric of Cleveland, Ohio presented their annual USAC "Mechanic of the Year" Awards to George Snider of Bakersfield, Calif. and Keith Iaia of Torrance, Calif. for their yeoman work during 2002. Snider received the National award for his duties on the Silver Crown Championship Cars driven by Jason Leffler, Mike Bliss and others, while Iaia was presented the Western award for his work in creating the brand-new USAC Ford Focus Midget Car.

Dave Darland.
Photo by Steve Rossini.

Series "Rookies of the Year" were also honored by Valvoline. The Silver Crown "Rookie of the Year" award went to Matt Westfall of Pleasant Hill, Ohio, while the Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car award went to Boston Reid of Logansport, Ind.. A split decision found Teddy Beach of Donnellsville, Ohio and Ron Gregory of Noblesville, Ind. each winning Bob Stroud Memorial National Midget Car "Rookie of the Year" Awards.

Ginny Spillman of Auto Racing Ministries kicked off the evening with the National Anthem, while husband Tim Spillman of ARM delivered the invocation.

Atmosphere and images were provided by Stoudt & Gallant Associates of Cincinnati, Ohio, while floral contributions were courtesy of Jockish Flowers and video was provided by Danny Laycock of "Racing With D.O."

National series "Most Improved Drivers" were announced but will be honored along with other special award recipients next May at the USAC "Salute to Excellence" in Indianapolis at which USAC's 2002 driving champions will again be feted. The "Most Improved Drivers" for 2002 are Rich Tobias, Jr. of Annville, Pa. (Weld Racing Silver Crown Series), Kevin Briscoe of Bloomington, Ind. (Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Series) and Danny Ebberts of Canyon Lake, Calif. (National Midget Car Series). Awards to be included in the May "Salute to Excellence" will be the USAC Corporate Special Recognition Award, the Jack O'Neal CNA Safety Award, the Diana Fell Gilmore "Woman Behind the Scenes" Award, the USAC Winners Circle's Ross Hadley Award, the Jim Blunk Award, the Turbines, Inc. Checkered Flag Awards, the Little 500 Winner's Award, plus recognition of top three finishers in each National series and 2002 champions of the Quarter Midgets of America.

--USAC--

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Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Dave Darland , Danny Ebberts , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Mike Bliss , Teddy Beach , Matt Westfall , Ron Gregory , Mike Boat , Boston Reid , Robby Flock , Tony Hunt , Rick Hendrix