Fans Speak Out on Who Wins in Dozens of Categories
They raced and you voted.  After several weeks of online balloting, the winners of the annual 51 awards for short track racing have been decided.  Here are the victors:
Rowe returns to his #24 SP2 Motorsports Chevrolet in 2006 and will be on the prowl for more big wins up North.
Driver of the Year – Mike Rowe

Each of the 16 nominees for Driver of the Year received many votes, but in the end it was an elite foursome who battled for the overall victory.  Those guys fought quite a battle to the line too.  Only 20 votes separated the top four finishers.

In the end though, Jason Hogan, Tony Hirschman and Ted Christopher didn’t have quite enough horsepower to get past Mike Rowe.  The ageless Maine driver used victories in the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME), the Pullen 300 at Beech Ridge Speedway (ME) and Canada’s Atlantic Cat 250 at Scotia Speedworld to highlight his season.  Rowe might have finished second in the PASS Super Late Model point standings, but he came up short to someone who knew all of his tricks – his son Ben.
Best Moment – Dave Dion Winning the Busch North Event at Oxford Plains Speedway

The best moment of the year ended up being decided between four popular victories.  There were plenty of fans who loved seeing Jason Hogan use his head to win the All-American 400 at Nashville.  Some also voted for Eddie Mercer finally breaking through to take the checkered flag at the Snowball Derby.  Others enjoyed Mike Rowe winning his third Oxford 250.

But the ultimate winner was Dave Dion’s victory in the NASCAR Busch North Series’ return to Oxford Plains Speedway.  Dion showed that there are things in racing that are more important than a checkbook when it comes to winning. 

He took the same car that he used to win the 1992 Oxford 250 (a creation of the Dion Brothers Racing Team and not a store bought car) and held off one of the most heralded young drivers in the country, Ryan Moore, to win.  Did we mention he did it as a 61 year old driver?

Best Feud – Doug Coby vs. Donny Lia in the Sunoco 300 at Thompson

The fans spoke up pretty loud that this feud between Modified Tour drivers Doug Coby and Donny Lia was the top one of 2005.  This not-so-friendly rivalry easily beat the battle between Sean Caisse and Ryan Moore at Lime Rock to take the top spot.

This battle began as the laps clicked down in the Sunoco 300 at Thompson.  Neither Lia or Coby had won the historic race before and both were fighting hard to make it happen in 2005.  They raced close.  Maybe too close, as Lia felt that Coby pinched him into the wall…once, twice and then a third time.  Under the next caution period, Lia wanted to get the point across that he wasn’t too happy about getting pushed around.  He bumped Coby under caution a little bit too hard and sent Coby’s #77 straight into the frontstretch wall in front of a highly charged crowd in Coby’s homestate of Connecticut.
According to the fans, there was nobody better than Mike Rowe on the short track of America this past year.  (Justin St. Louis/51 Photo)
Dave Dion focuses on a orange sign in the stands cheering him on before strapping in for the Busch North race at Oxford.  He won the race and thrilled everyone in the house.  (Lisa Twist Photo)
Best Promoter – Tony Stewart, Eldora Speedway

Stewart showed that he must have been paying attention when he was a short track racer as he pleased fans and competitors alike after buying Eldora.  He won the popular vote as Best Promoter, but it wasn’t an easy task.  Stewart had two big guns right behind him.  Tim Byrant, promoter of the Snowball Derby and its home of Five Flags Speedway (FL) and ACT head honcho and Thunder Road Speedbowl promoter Tom Curley finished second and third respectively in the voting.
Both of their days were finished at that point.  Coby retired due to the damage and Lia retired when the NASCAR officials told him to park it for the day.

After the race, both drivers had plenty to say.  The feud continued the next weekend at New Hampshire when they raced wheel-to-wheel again.  Although there was no contact this time, there was no cooperation either…and comments were made after the race again.

After that, things have cooled down somewhat.  Both drivers behaved themselves for the rest of the season, although we really don’t think that they exchanged Christmas cards either.
Doug Coby (L) shows Donny Lia in the #18 car that he wasn't very happy about getting sent into the wall at Thompson under caution.  (Hodge Photo)
Flags Speedway and California’s Irwindale Speedway all took their best shots, but fell short of a few New England speedplants when the fans spoke out on the favorite place to watch a race.

In the final tally, it was Connecticut over Maine and Modifieds over fendered cars as Stafford Motor Speedway edged out Oxford Plains Speedway for the best track honors.  With an SK Modified class that included Tour regulars like Ted Christopher, Zach Sylvester, Donny Lia and Doug Coby going against track standouts Lloyd Agor, Willie Hardie and Frank Ruocco, we can see why the fans love going to Stafford every Friday night.

Only 14 votes separated the top two tracks in final voting.

Driver Who You Love to Hate – Ted Christopher

Bobby Gill and Eddie Hoffman finished second and third in this category, but even if they put their vote totals together, they still wouldn’t have come close to beating the bad boy of the Northeast – Ted Christopher.

Terrible Ted doesn’t care if you like him or not, he just wants to win.  In 2005, he did just that on the Modified Tour, in Busch North competition, in SK Modifieds and several other types of cars.  He heckles the crowds who boo him and he doesn’t have many friends among his competitors – just a few of the feathers that he ruffled last season were those of Donny Lia, Ryan Moore, Frank Ruocco and James Civali.

Rookie of the Year – Joey Logano

How could you not pick a young man who won his first USAR Pro Cup event in his third start and at the age of 15 as your Rookie of the Year?  Sean Caisse, Joey Miller and Josh Hamner all had respectable vote tallies, but in the end nobody could touch Logano in this category.

Apparently, the folks at Joe Gibbs Racing agree.  They have Logano locked up to a long-term driver development contract.
Best Finish – Andy Santerre over Ryan Moore,
Busch North at Dover

The Modified fans voted for Ted Christopher topping Zach Sylvester in the Icebreaker at Thompson, but a pair of fendered warriors squeaked to victory when it came to the best finish of the year. 

At Dover, Andy Santerre edged Ryan Moore by inches to win what might end up being his final career Busch North event (Santerre is taking a break from the series after winning four titles).  Moore definitely made him work for it, but was just a little short at the line.

Best Track – Stafford Motor Speedway

North Carolina’s Bowman-Gray Stadium, Florida’s Five
Hogan won the All American 400.
Wreck of the Year – ARCA 200 at Daytona, Last Lap

It was more than just “The Big One”, the final lap of the ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Daytona was nothing short of hell on wheels.  Cars wrecked.  They flipped.  They piled into each other.  Fans agreed and they voted this ugly slamfest as the wildest wreck of 2005.

Best Personality – Gary St. Amant

Dave Dion is a nice guy.  So is Ricky Fuller.  Johnny Clark and Burt Myers are two young men who are
respectful of their elders.  All of their personalities are good enough to place them in the top five vote getters of this category. 

But the overwhelming favorite when it comes to the nice guys of the sport is Midwestern ace Gary St. Amant.  Fans have followed him from ASA to the USAR Pro Cup Series and they also named him as having the best personality of 2005.

Best Dressed Driver – Doug Coby

Who is the guy with the best duds?  Alabama’s Charlie Bradberry represented the South well and California’s Burney Lamar showed that the Wild Side has style, but the ultimate victor is someone who lives just an hour up I-95 from New York City.

The fans have spoken and told us that Doug Coby had the coolest clothes in the pits last season.

Best Annual Event – The All-American 400 at Music City Motorplex

Fans enjoy the Snowball Derby and Thompson’s annual World Series, but by a few dozen votes, they decided that the most anticipated race on the calendar every year is the All-American 400 Super Late Model showdown.
There were ARCA cars everywhere on the last lap at Daytona.
Most Improved Driver – Cassius Clark

Augie Grill, Doug Coby and Jeff Lane all had breakout seasons, but the winner in the fans’ eyes when it came to most improved hotshoe of 2005 was PASS driver Cassius Clark.  The edgy young Maine driver scored his first PASS points victories at Thompson and Oxford this year and backed it up with a run for the championship.  He’s off to a good start in 2006 as well, placing in the top 10 at Speedfest in Florida.

Worst Story – NASCAR Phases Out Their Elite Series

The overwhelming winner (loser?) in this category was NASCAR’s decision to phase out their four Elite Series
after the 2006 season.  Thinking back through the rich history of tours like the Southeast Series (formerly All Pro) and the Southwest Series (formerly the SW Tour), we can understand why the fans are ugly over this story.

Crankiest Personality – Bobby Gill

Bobby Gill won hands down in this category.  Fans might love to see him race, but they seem to think that Gill might need to smile just a little bit more outside of his racecar.

“Steady Eddie” Award – Andy Santerre

The veterans dominated this category and showed that nothing beats years of experience when it comes to nursing a car to the best finish possible.  Fans thought highly of Jerry Marquis, Gary St. Amant and Jeff Fultz, but they didn’t think that anyone did a better job of using patience and experience to get the best finish in 2005 than Busch North titlist Andy Santerre.

Bad Boy Award  - Ted Christopher

You can’t rattle TC’s cage, but he can sure rattle yours.  The Connecticut driver knows where his bumper is, he knows how to use it and he knows how to trash talk after the race is over.  In years past, he has even gotten into post-race fights with his twin brother Mike after tight battles on the track.

In 2005, Teddy was suspended from Stafford for a race for fighting but disagreed by saying that grabbing a guy’s shirt isn’t really a fight, so he should be excused from a penalty.  TC scored nearly double the votes of bad boy in training Steve Wallace and also topped #2-#5 most wanted bad boys - old school badass Wayne Anderson, TC hater Ryan Moore and our cranky friend from above, Bobby Gill.
Driver Who Deserves a Shot Now – Jason Hogan

Clay Rogers and Ben Rowe came close in the voters’ hearts, but when they had to pick one guy deserving of a call up to the majors, they went for Georgia hotshoe Jason Hogan.  The nice-guy winner of the All-American 400 and contestant from Roush Racing’s Driver X “star search” took top honors in this category.

Driver Under 21 With the Most Promise – Joey Logano

This 15-year-old has so much talent that he has even made it onto CNN as a USAR Pro Cup driver.  Just thinking what Joey Logano will do when he hits the big-time in racing.  The fans voted Logano this award ahead of NASCAR offspring Matt Martin, Driver X star Danny O’Quinn and Alabama young ‘un Josh Hamner.

Driver Over 21 With the Most Promise – Matt Hirschman

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this category and fans have recognized that Matt Hirschman has the talent and ability to do some amazing things in racing.  In 2005, he split his time between leading his father Tony to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship as a co-crew chief, and putting together several good runs in his first seven Tour starts as a driver.
Three contestants from the Roush Racing Gong Show finished right behind Hirschman.  Florida’s Travis Kittleson, CRA’s Chuck Barnes and new Robert Yates Racing recruit Matt McCall were next in the voting.
Best Appearing Car – J.R. Norris’ #5 Southeast Series and Super Late Model Cars

The Victor Ford #5 cars are extremely sharp looking and the fans agree.  Thanks to a cool paint job, killer graphics and attention to detail, Norris and his Richie Wauters team won hands down here.

Quote of the Year – Ted Christopher:

TC sure knows how to call it like he see it and the 51 fans agree.  This colorful comment was voted top quote of the year.
"He f--kin' jumped the curb. That had nothing to do with me. I never f--kin' touched him. He jumped the curb and got himself sideways. The thing was revving before he even f--kin' he even came down. He had the f--kin' throttle to it...Waaaaah!  I'm like f--k this. I hit him, boom and got him out of the way. But I never touched him. He did it all on his own." – Ted Christopher on spinning Donny Lia at Speedweeks.

Best PR Representative – Glenn Luckett, CRA Super Series

Super Late Model racing is undergoing resurgence in America and that is largely thanks to the hard work of several regional sanctioning bodies and their dedicated pressmen.  CRA’s Glenn Luckett won in this category by a mere 10 votes over PASS marketing guru Bill Quirk.  Both series have loyal followings and some great SLM racing.  Coincidence?  We think not.

Worst Luck – Clay Rogers

Here is the category that nobody really wants to win, but nevertheless somebody has too.  Pro Cupper Clay Rogers had the worst luck in 2005 according to our fans and we won’t disagree.  Ted Christopher came close in the voting, thanks to his loss of the Mod Tour point lead 10 laps into the season finale at Thompson. 

Scott Hantz from CRA and Travis Benjamin from PASS all got healthy vote tallies as well.  All four drivers are hoping to be as far away from this category when 2006 is complete.
Best Photo – Myers Family Kiss

It doesn’t get much better than the heartwarming image of two brothers getting a good luck kiss from their two children before the start of a race.  Fans agreed and this image was decided as the 51 Photo of the Year.

Last season when the 51s were decided upon, Norm Marx won this category for his photo of a PASS Pro Stock going off the track and up the dirt barrier at Maine's Unity Raceway.  Ironically, he took runner-up honors this season with a very simular shot of Matt Eaton's beautiful #28x Pro Stock going for a ride up the banking at the same track. 

Person of the Year – Dr. Dick Berggren

Short track racing doesn’t have many better friends out there then Dr. Dick Berggren.  The NASCAR on FOX commentator is never shy to work a short track reference into a Nextel Cup story.

He’s also the publisher of Speedway Illustrated, the winner for Best Publication of the Year.

On top of that, we’ll also tell you that he is a former racer himself (who will forever hold the track record on dirt at the now-paved Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Maine) and one hell of a nice guy as well.

I found that out personally nearly a dozen years ago when I worked as an intern for Dr. Berggren.  I probably learned more in his office over one summer than I did in four years of college. 

Finishing right behind Berggren is the husband and wife photography duo of Howie and Mary Hodge.  It’s hard to find someone in racing who everyone likes, but that just might be the case with these two.  They are loved and respected throughout the racing community.
Comeback of the Year – Eric Beers

The hit that Eric Beers took against the turn four wall at Thompson during the Icebreaker could have ended his career – or worse.  But a safe car and a safe seat under him saved his tail from greater damage.

But, it was his will and desire though that got Beers back into the seat after only missing one race.  He came back to win his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event in July at Seekonk and finished an amazing fifth in the tour point standings.  Beers’ first season in the Boehler Ole’ Blue #3 car would have been notable without any injuries.  After what happened at Thompson, it was nothing short of amazing.

The fans agreed.  Beers won this category over Mike Rowe by over 100 votes.

Crew Chief of the Year – Bill Kimmel

In 2005, Frank Kimmel won his seventh ARCA RE/MAX Series championship this year with his brother and crew chief Bill right by his side.  The fans saw that as plenty of reason to be voted as top wrench for this past season.
Best Name – Rusty Ball

The name says it all.  True Value Modified driver Rusty Ball won this category by a landslide over PASS driver GeGe Gravel, Southern ace Cale Gale and CRA top gun Boris Jurkovic.
Cassius Clark stepped up his game in 2005.  (51)
The fans say "Send Jason to the Majors...now!"
The #5 is one cool ride.
This Myers family shot, which was voted as "Photo of the Year".  (51 Photo by Matt Dillner)
A wreck at Thompson could have ended Eric Beers' career.  Instead, he came back to win later in the season.  (Hodge Photo)
Best Hair – Kelly Moore

Another guy who knows how to dress well is all-time Busch North/Busch East race winner Kelly Moore. 

But what impressed fans the most about Moore’s appearance is his salt and pepper mane.  Moore took the top nod in this category over our own Matt Dillner and Southeast Series star J.R. Norris.

Best Short Track Publication – Speedway Illustrated

Dr. Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated magazine is the fan favorite in this category thanks to the dedication of its leader, as well as guys like Doug Gore, a technical genus, Bones Bourcier, who has forgotten more racing stories than I could ever know and Karl Frederickson, who balances his time writing with racing a True Value Modified at tracks throughout New England. 

These guys are all racers and it really shows.
Kelly Moore  (Howie Hodge Photo)
This year's runner-up was Norm Marx's shot of Matt Eaton going for a ride at Unity Raceway.
Best Race – The All-American 400, Music City Motorplex

A pair of Super Late Model marquee events decided this category.  The Snowball Derby was popular enough to finish second, but the reincarnated All-American 400 enjoyed a comfortable victory when the fans had to choose just one race that was the best of the season.  In this classic race, leader after leader fell out, but Jason Hogan used his head to win the biggest race (so far) of his career.   After the victory, he told of watching the event as a youngster sitting in the grandstands and was sure to thank all of the family, friends and crew members who helped a dream come true.

You couldn’t help but leave the race smiling and apparently, enough voters agreed.

Best Story – The Reopening of Winchester Speedway

Winchester is just one of those places that defies explanation.  The lighting quick track has hosted some great open wheeled and fendered races through the years.  After a hiatus, the track
reopened in 2005 and the fans handily voted that as the best story of the year.

Worst Race – Asphalt World Championships, Concord Motorsport Park

If they held a Super Late Model event and nobody showed up, would there still be a race?

We almost found out the answer to this question when only 10 cars took the green flag for the Asphalt World Championships at Concord in November.  Freddie Query won and enough fans thought the whole event was enough of a joke that over 40% of the votes cast in this category went to the Asphalt World Championships.  The Pro Cup crashfest at Bristol was also considered an ugly race and finished second, but it wasn’t even a close call in this category.

Coincidently, the Super Late Models will not come back to Concord in 2005.  Track management replaced the division with Late Model Stock Cars due to a lack of support from the SLM crowd.  Go figure.

This finish was voted the best of the year.
Best Annual Event – The All-American 400 at Music City Motorplex

Fans enjoy the Snowball Derby and Thompson’s annual World Series, but by a few dozen votes, they decided that the most anticipated race on the calendar every year is the All-American 400 Super Late Model showdown.
Female Racer of the Year – Erin Crocker

The fans were impressed with Erin Crocker and we can see why.  The former World of Outlaws standout stepped into a fendered car for the first time in 2005 – in the ARCA RE/MAX Series!  Crocker made six ARCA starts and finished in the top 10 five times.  She’ll race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Evernham Motorsports in 2006.

Series of the Year – NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

The USAR Pro Cup Series, PASS Super Late Models and CRA Super Series all took their best shot, but fans
Erin Crocker (51 Photo)
agreed that NASCAR’s oldest tour is tops in short track racing.  The loyal fans of the Whelen Modified Tour voted it a strong victory over several other types of racing.

Owner of the Year –Bob and Tom Kehley

The Kehley family has provided the tools that Tony Hirschman has needed to win the last two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships.  The close-knit #48 team might not have the budget of some other operations – they only have one racecar and tow their trailer behind an SUV and not a big rig, but nobody since 2003 has been able to beat the team in the standings.

The 51 fans have seen the dedication of the Kehley team and voted them as the top owners of 2005.