NASCAR honored its short track racing heroes Saturday night, at the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Awards Banquet in Las Vegas. National champion Philip Morris, of Ruckersville, Va., was recognized along with Divisional champions Joe Kosiski, of Omaha, Neb., Mark Bliss, of Arcade, N.Y., and Woody Pitkat, of Stafford, Conn.
NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony in New York in December.
Other special award winners included Peter Hernandez, who received the NASCAR Diversity Driver of the Year award. Hernandez raced at Stockton 99 Speedway, in Stockton, Calif., as part of the Drive for Diversity® program and was recognized for his efforts on and off the track.
Craftsman, the Official Tools of NASCAR, recognized the four divisional award winners for the Craftsman Mechanic of the Year contest. They included Cliff Lawrence, of Kansas City, Kan., Wilmer Weiss, of Hamburg, Pa., Harold Burton, of Riverhead, N.Y. and Howard Deitz, of Westminster, Vt. In addition to his divisional award, Lawrence was named the national Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award winner.
Lunati honored Morris’ crew chief, Neil Perkins, with the $3,900 Lunati Crew Chief Award. Lincoln Electric also recognized the national championship team, presenting a $5,000 bonus and a Lincoln Electric welder to Morris and his Skyline Racing team, for the Lincoln Electric Car Owner Award.
At the end of Saturday’s festivities, NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter announced a new title sponsor for the series beginning in 2007. Whelen Engineering, a Connecticut-based manufacturer of emergency lighting and warning systems, will become the title sponsor of the series, which will be re-named as the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
“Our hearts are knit together in our passion and sincerity for this sport,” Morris told the nearly 600 guests gathered at the Mandalay Bay Resort, which included NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. ‘’If this wasn’t enough, the brother-like camaraderie with crew members and competitors makes this more than a sport, but a way of life.
“I’m very honored to be here tonight, celebrating in one of the most famous cities in the world.”
Morris won his title after a successful season at Motor Mile Speedway, in Radford, Va., where he posted nine wins and 14 top-five finishes. He also raced at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C.
The event also marked the end of the series’ 25th season and its history was prominently portrayed throughout the evening. Banquet guests received a complimentary copy of Where Stars Are Born, a new book from NASCAR and Coastal 181 Publishing that recounts the complete history of NASCAR’s weekly racing program. Tom Hearst, the inaugural 1982 series champion from Muscatine, Iowa, was a guest of honor and participated in the ceremony.
Morris will collect $75,000 for the national title and will join NASCAR’s other series champions at the NASCAR
Philip Morris stands with the hardware he earned for being NASCAR's National WRS champion. (NASCAR Photo)