"Night of Champions" Awards Dinner

USAC's 1998 CHAMPIONS TOASTED AT COCA-COLA "NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS" IN INDIANAPOLIS Champions of the United States Auto Club's 43rd season of competition were honored, along with numerous other special award recipients, at Friday night's ...


Champions of the United States Auto Club's 43rd season of competition were honored, along with numerous other special award recipients, at Friday night's Coca-Cola "Night of Champions" in the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Ind. Bob Jenkins, radio voice of the Indianapolis 500, served as emcee for the affair and orchestrated the video tributes and distribution of prizes and awards to all of USAC's series champions. Driving champions honored included Jason Leffler of Long Beach, Calif. (Silver Crown Championship and National Midget Series), Tony Elliott of Kokomo, Ind. (Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Series), David Besnard of Sydney, Australia (Formula 2000 National and Oval Crown Series), Rick Hendrix of Simi Valley, Calif. (Western States Midget Series), Alex Harris of Simi Valley, Calif. (TQ Midget Series), Jeff Gardner of Fresno, Calif. (Western States Sprint Car Series), John Sluss of Indianapolis, Ind. (Speedrome Midget Series), Michael Lang of Indianapolis, Ind. (16th Street Midget Series), Niklas Loven of Vaxjo, Sweden (Yokohama Russell Triple Crown Pro Series) and Tyler McQuarrie of Walnut Creek, Calif. (Formula Russell Series). Car Entrant Champions honored for 1998 included Goetz Racing of Portage, Wisc. (Silver Crown), Vance/Walker Racing of Dayton, Ohio (Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car), Steve Lewis of South Laguna, Calif. (National Midget), Rick Hendrix of Simi Valley, Calif. and Anthony Porto of Oxnard, Calif. (Western States Midget), Orville Harris of Simi Valley, Calif. (TQ Midget), Ted Finkenbinder of Fairfield, Calif. (Western States Sprint Car) and Jon Baytos of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Formula 2000). Finkenbinder was the surprise winner of one year's usage of a Featherlite Trailer. Drivers Todd Kane, Tracy Hines, Michael Lewis, J.J. Yeley, Kevin Doty and Travis Welpott accepted special accolades at the dinner. Kane, of Powell, Ohio, earned the Turbines, Inc. Silver Crown "Rookie of the Year" honors while Hines, of New Castle, Ind., accepted the True Value Sprint Car "Rookie of the Year" honors and Lewis, of Noblesville, Ind., was presented the Wynn Oil Company's Bob Stroud Memorial National Midget "Rookie of the Year" award. Yeley of Phoenix, Ariz. (Silver Crown), Doty of Milan, Ill (Sprint Car) and Welpott of Anderson, Ind. (National Midget) were named series "Most Improved" drivers. Welpott's award was presented by Josten's, while Yeley and Doty were honored by Hoosier Tire. Reynold MacDonald and Print Communications received special recognition from USAC for their contributions to the sport. MacDonald, a former USAC President and Chairman of the Board, was presented USAC's Individual Special Recognition Award and Print Communications of Indianapolis, Ind. was presented the USAC Corporate Special Recognition Award. John Cooper, who has served in numerous executive positions in the sport and was USAC's first employee in 1956, was named winner of the prestigious Roger McCluskey "Award of Excellence." Wanda Devin, one of the sport's most active ladies and a past president of the Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary (CARA) was presented the Diane Fell Gilmore "Woman Behind the Scenes" Award by Gilmore Enterprises. The Eddie Edenburn Award, for lifetime contributions to the sport, went to long-time USAC board member, car owner and mechanic Bob Higman. Tommy Hunt, USAC's Vice President in charge of Western Operations, was named winner of the Jim Blunk Award for contributions to the sport of USAC Midget racing. Norm Shields, Chief Steward for the USAC Sprint Car Series since 1996 who has served as a USAC official for two decades, received the USAC Winners Circle Club's annual Ross Hadley Memorial Achievement Award. R.J. Scott and Rick Dawson of Action Entertainment accepted the USAC "Race Organizer of the Year" Award for their excellent promotional efforts at the Anderson (Ind.) Speedway. CNA Insurance presented their "Jack O'Neal Safety Award" to Darick Brunson, the respected paramedic and RN whose exemplary work at the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio is well documented. Jack French was named the first winner of Weld Racing's new USAC "Mechanic of the Year" Award. French served as chief mechanic for Brian Tyler in the 1998 USAC Silver Crown Series. Drivers Brian Gerster of Indianapolis, Ind. and Jason McCord of Anderson, Ind. also received special recognition. Gertser accepted Keco Motorsports' revered "Jimmy Caruthers Award" in recognition of spirit and determination, while McCord was presented the coveted Robbie Stanley "No Regrets Award" by Robbie's sister Ronda. Jack Hewitt of Troy, Ohio also shared the spotlight, accepting a specially-commissioned artwork by famed racing artist Ron Burton from Randy Steenbergen of Print Communications. The artwork depicted Jack and his four winning race cars from the 1998 "4-Crown Nationals" at Rossburg, Ohio. All of USAC's driving champions also received memberships in the USAC Motoring Division.

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Series USAC
Drivers Jason Leffler , Michael Lewis , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Jack Hewitt , Jason McCord , Tyler McQuarrie , John Cooper , Brian Gerster , Rick Hendrix