Outlaws Awards Banquet Reflects Changes, Constants By Richard Day LAS VEGAS, NV (November 2) -- While change has bolstered the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series into one of the world's leading auto racing...
Outlaws Awards Banquet Reflects Changes, Constants By Richard Day
LAS VEGAS, NV (November 2) -- While change has bolstered the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series into one of the world's leading auto racing series, several constants have remained with the organization throughout its first 23 years. Founder and President Ted Johnson has always strived to build the World of Outlaws into the safest, most exciting sprint car racing series in the world. Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell have always been the drivers to beat and Johnson's wife, Stacy, has continually made the teams, sponsors and officials feel like royalty with elegant awards banquets. Thursday's 23rd Annual Awards Banquet at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino brought more than 500 Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series officials, sponsors, drivers, car owners and crew members together to reflect on the 2000 season. Ralph Sheheen, the television voice of the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series, emceed the festivities. He delivered the shocking news of fellow TNN announcer Steve Evans' passing the previous day. "Steve was a true pioneer and a living legend in motorsports telecasting," Sheheen said. "He was a very creative man and had a tremendous impact on the sport. He worked hard at his craft and he loved racing. He truly cared about the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series. Our prayers are with Steve's family." There was a brief moment of silence in Evans' honor. Johnson, who first met Evans when TNN started televising sprint car racing on its American Sports Cavalcade program in the late 1980s, also paid tribute to the longtime racing announcer and promoter. "This is a great loss to the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series family," Johnson said. Johnson was proud of the strides the series made at the turn of the century. "We ran the walls at Bristol Motor Speedway and I think we excited a lot of people doing it," Johnson said. "The other new tracks we opened this year blazed a trail. Now everybody wants us to race at their facilities. The older tracks are improving, too, so everything is on a total upswing with the World of Outlaws. "What surprised me most about this year was our two elder statesmen. They're both 45 years old and they finished first and second (in the point standings). Steve Kinser won the championship and Sammy Swindell was second. It was quite a site this year, seeing the two older guys really standing on the gas. There are some younger guys who are definitely going to try to unseat them. "I'd like to thank the car owners for their support. They're the ones who stick their necks out. We couldn't do this without the sponsors, either. "We're proud to have TNN increase its number of telecasts from 15 to 18 in 2001 and we're really happy to have Pennzoil as our title sponsor. We're able to grow bigger and get better with their help." Bob Knorr, Vice President of National Accounts for Pennzoil/Quaker State, said the World of Outlaws has exceeded his highest expectations. "Pennzoil has sponsored Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 for years, but this is our wildest ride," Knorr said. "I would like to reconfirm our commitment to everyone in this room that we're proud to be a part of this series." Brian Hughes, Senior Vice President Sports and Outdoors at TNN, reaffirmed the cable network's commitment to the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series and motorsports. "A little more than a year ago, Viacom/MTV Networks acquired TNN, CBS and CMT," Hughes said. "They did a lot of research in terms of what the equities of the MTV brand are. Motorsports, without question, registered highly with consumers. We have people in Nashville, including Mark Kuchan, Paul Morris, Nancy Neil and Dana Landry, who will continue to support the series. We're going to bring additional resources to the television package as well to make this bigger and better. We look to you as our partners. We're all in this together. We want to elevate the World of Outlaws to a completely different level." SmithKline Beecham Brand Equity Manager Kathy Yoder presented the Vivarin Perseverance Award to Donny Schatz. "Perseverance is the ability and stamina to overcome significant obstacles," Yoder said. "The Vivarin Perseverance Award is given to somebody who overcomes a significant hardship in the last year. Most successful teams in this series consist of five members. The racer we're giving this award to this year was part of a team that consisted of only himself and one other person for almost two months. He could have given up, but he kept going. We're proud to present the Vivarin Perseverance Award to Donny Schatz." Schatz, the 1997 Rookie of the Year, said the award was fitting considering the year he had. "It wasn't a model year, but we won a couple of races anyway," Schatz said. "I have to thank Parker Stores, Featherlite Coaches and Blue Beacon. Racing has always been a lot of fun to me. It's been a lot more fun being a family sport, so I'd like to thank my mom and dad for getting me here. "I really want to thank Shane Anderson sticking with me this year. I'd also like to thank Dave Yingst and Todd Devnich for starting the year with me. It's a shame we had to part ways, but Kenny Woodruff came on and really helped me out. There's no way I could be my own mechanic." Jack Elam of J&J Auto Racing and Chuck Merrill of Maxim Chassis presented a $12,000 check and the Manufacturers Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award to Danny Wood. "I'd like thank all the people who make the Rookie of the Year possible," Wood said. "I never knew Kevin Gobrecht, but I understand I missed out on a lot by not knowing him. In his honor, I'd like to keep this award alive and his memory alive by dedicating this award to him." Contributions from Brodix, CSI Racewear, Crane Cams, Eagle Chassis, Gaerte Engines, Bob Hilbert Sportswear, J&J Auto Racing, Maxim Chassis, MSD Ignitions, Sander Engineering, Shaver Specialties, Schoenfeld Mufflers, Weld Racing and Wesmar Engines made it possible for the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series to reward its most outstanding rookie. CHANNELLOCK President and CEO Bill DeArment, Jr., and Marketing Manager John Strizzi presented the CHANNELLOCK Mechanic of the Year Award. "On behalf of all the associates at CHANNELLOCK, we'd like to congratulate the World of Outlaws, the drivers and owners and, perhaps most importantly, the team members, on the completion of an extremely exciting and competitive season," DeArment said. "We sponsor a car with the Busch Grand National Series. Those people work hard, but they can't carry your suit case. You put on a great show and you should be proud of yourself. You should feel good about what you do. We're pleased and proud to be a part of it. "I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Steve Kinser for winning this championship for an unprecedented 16th time. "I'm also pleased to announce we will again sponsor the CHANNELLOCK Dash, which we believe to be the six quickest laps in each night of racing with the World of Outlaws. We're also pleased to announce that we will again sponsor what we believe to be two very exciting nights of World of Outlaws racing, the CHANNELLOCK Challenge at Bristol Motor Speedway, where they will again bring in 14,000 cubic yards of dirt, so you can show NASCAR what racing is all about. "I'm also pleased to announce that CHANNELLOCK and Sammy Swindell have again joined forces and will be back at it in 2001. Congratulations to Sammy and Amy and Swindell Motorsports for a fine season. We look forward to next year. "The CHANNELLOCK Mechanic of the Year goes to the individual who contributed the most to the success of his team. This year, that individual was the driving force behind the series champion. The CHANNELLOCK Mechanic of the Year Award goes to Scott Gerken." Gerken, who joined Steve Kinser and Quaker State Racing five years ago, was gracious in accepting the prestigious honor. "I'd like to thank CHANNELLOCK for this award," Gerken said. "It means a lot to be recognized for all your hard work. I think we should give a round of applause to all the guys who work on these cars. They put in a lot of time and a lot of effort." DeArment also recognized Swindell as the most successful driver in CHANNELLOCK Dash competition in 2000. He earned the luxury of starting 24 features on the pole by winning CHANNELLOCK Dashes. Greg Segel, CEO of Ratbag, expressed his thanks to Johnson, Carlton Reimers, Kuchan, Morris, J.D. Kramer and many others for their help in producing Dirt Track Racing Sprint Cars, the World of Outlaws' official computer game. He also announced Sony will produce a "play station" game next year. Contributions from Pennzoil, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, CHANNELLOCK, Vivarin, NAPA AUTO PARTS and Hoosier Racing Tire enabled the World of Outlaws to reward its top 15 teams with more than $820,000 in point fund awards. Reimers, the series' Director of Administration, presented the checks. All the drivers were gracious as they accepted their point fund awards. They also congratulated Kinser for winning another championship. "I'd like to thank Art and Carol (Malies) for putting out the wienie roast in Texas," Andy Hillenburg quipped. "Whenever you need them, they're there every time. If you ever get on fire, look for Workin' Woody." Stevie Smith thanked Ted and Stacy Johnson for hosting such an elaborate banquet. "This is really impressive," Smith said. "We always look forward to coming here. I want to thank the World of Outlaws, all the series sponsors and TNN. "Thanks so much to Freightliner for all their support and the trucks, not only on behalf of my team but all the teams and the World of Outlaws. What they do for us is a big help and we appreciate it." Danny Lasoski, who announced the day before he was leaving Roth Motorsports to join a sprint car racing team owned by NASCAR Winston Cup driver Tony Stewart, thanked his car owners for their support. "I can't thank Dennis and Teresa Roth enough for the last three years," Lasoski said. "They gave me everything they could to get the job done. We just came up short. We won a lot of races and had a lot of fun and I really appreciate that." Defending Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series champion Mark Kinser praised his cousin's accomplishments and joked about Steve's family situation. "Congratulations for Steve Kinser and all the crew members," Mark said. "I don't know how they do it. Steve was more relaxed than ever this year, but Dana (Steve's wife) is a wild cat." Swindell, the series' three-time champion, finished second behind Kinser for the fourth time in 23 years. "Congratulations to Steve (Kinser) and Scott (Gerken)," Sammy said. "They really put something together. Every time I thought I was going to get close, I wound up watching the race. We had a great year. To win 20 percent of the races, you can't ask for much more than that. We did that because of the guys I had working on the car. They were out there working hard all year. We tore up a lot of things, but they made up for it a lot of times. "I'd like to thank CHANNELLOCK for the last six years. That equals the longest sponsor I've had and next year they'll be with me the longest. I appreciate everything they've done and the opportunity to come out here and do what I love to do." Knorr returned to the microphone to present Kinser the championship trophy. "It's a real pleasure to honor Steve for his 16th Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series championship," Knorr said. "Before we do that, let me tell you why Pennzoil and Quaker State decided to team up with Steve. Simply put, he's the greatest driver in sprint car racing history, with a resume loaded with championships and awards. You know, he even has a statue in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. "It all began in 1995 when Quaker State decided to support Steve's return to the World of Outlaws. This expanded Quaker State's exposure to include the renegade world of sprint car racing. It gave us an ideal arena to display the quality of our products and demonstrate how Quaker State stands up to rigorous racing conditions. It's a perfect partnership: the ultimate protection against the ultimate engine torture. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have Quaker State cross the finish line first. "Steve was once quoted as saying, 'With the World of Outlaws, it's good to have somebody riding shotgun.' Well Steve, from Quaker State's standpoint, we've been proud to ride shotgun with you the last five years. We congratulate you for all your accomplishments. It's my great pleasure to introduce to you the 16-time champion of the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series, Quaker State's partner, "The King," Steve Kinser." Kinser's acceptance speech was as gracious as ever. "First of all, I want to thank Pennzoil and the World of Outlaws for this great series," Kinser said. "I've been around here for quite some time and the banquet just keeps getting bigger and better. It's been a great run all the way through. "All the series sponsors and the people with the World of Outlaws who run up and down the road with us make this a great series. "Maxim Chassis has allowed me to be here many times. Hoosier Tire has done a great job this year. They had a tire for every track condition. Quaker State has associated with us for quite some time and we look forward to working with them for a long time. "I'm really proud of everybody on my race team. Andrea Williams keeps things organized in the shop. I want to thank Jason Johnson, who helped me a lot through the winter before pursuing his racing career. I want to congratulate him and Bobbie on their marriage. We picked up Mike DeLong and he did a tremendous job for us. Jason Voelkel also helped us with our race car and got the transporter up and down the road. The crewmen are the unsung heroes out here. "I can't thank Scott Gerken enough for all he does for us. He builds the motors, orders parts and puts everything together. Aside from that, he's a good friend and I enjoy having him around. "I want to thank my family. My father (Bob) got the Kinsers started in racing. I learned a lot from him. It's a tremendous advantage to grow up around the sport. My wife, Dana, actually takes losing worse than I do. Sometimes, I feel like putting her in the car. I think everybody should drive one once. I think she probably loves the sport more than I do, and that's not easy. "I love it, but it's tough. When you look back at it and see all the people here, it makes it all worthwhile. There are a lot of good people in the sport. Thank you all; we'll see you again next year." Sheheen closed the banquet with more surprising news. "As you may have heard by now, I will not return to the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series next season," Ralph said. "I want you to know it's not my choice. TNN has decided to put Eli Gold in the position of play-by-play announcer for the series. Being the voice of the World of Outlaws has been a dream come true for me. I've always considered it a privilege and an honor to be the one to welcome race fans to TNN telecasts of what I feel in my heart to be the most exciting form of racing in the world. "I want to take this moment to thank all of you for your help, your openness and most importantly, your friendship, over the years. I'd like to thank Ted Johnson, Carlton Reimers, Bobby Jackson, Richard Day and the entire World of Outlaws staff for all you've done for me. "I'd also like to thank the sponsors, the promoters, the car owners, the crew chiefs, the crew members and, of course, the drivers, for always making me feel welcome at your race tracks and in your haulers. "I'd also like to thank my TNN telecast colleagues. Dave Argabright, Bobby Gerould, Steve Evans and the driver who was my first-ever interview, who became one of my dearest friends and a tremendous telecast talent, Brad Doty. "I appreciate you making me a part of the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series family. It is something I will always cherish."