Several special awards, voted on by the ACT membership, were also bestowed at the annual Banquet of Champions. The Ed Carroll Memorial Award for Street Stock Sportsmanship went to Sicard. The award, started in 2002, is named in honor of a former Thunder Road official. Other drivers on the ballot for the award were Joel Hodgdon, Gary Mullen and Tim Potter.
A Most Improved Driver Award and a Sportsmanship Award are given annually in the NAPA Tiger Sportsman division. Nominating ballots are sent out in the fall and the drivers names appearing most frequently are put on a final ballot, which is also sent to the membership and officials for voting. On the ballot for the Most Improved Driver Award were Scott Coburn, Jeff French, Brendan Moodie and Matt White. Second year driver White of Northfield, VT who finished second in the season long standings got the nod.
51's NORTHERN EXPOSUREcompiled by Mike Twist
Banquets All Over and Crouch Gets a Crew Chief
Shawn Fleury from Montpelier, VT claimed his second consecutive NAPA Tiger Sportsman title and announced to the nearly 500 in attendance that he too would not return to defend his title. The veteran competitor stated that he had recently solidified a deal to run a Late Model at Thunder Road in 2007 although he did not publicly offer details about his plans for the coming season.
Eric Badore from Georgia, VT was presented with the championship hardware and a coat for his Allen Lumber Street Stock title from Burnie Allen of Allen Lumber. Badore was the third 2006 “King of the Road” to announce that he would not defend a crown. The youngster’s remarks surprised few as he had briefly tested the waters in the NAPA Tiger Sportsman ranks last year.
Maynard Bartlett Jr of Wolcott, VT was the crowned as 2006 PowerShift Warrior champion, the fourth different driver in the division’s four year history.
The Late Model, NAPA Tiger Sportsman and Allen Lumber Street Stock divisions also crowned their Rookies of the Year. Wolcott, Vermont's Marcel Gravel was honored from Thunder Road's Late Model class, Matt Potter from Plainfield, VT was the Sportsman division's top first year racer and Shawn Sicard from Williamstown, VT edged out his fellow rookie in the Allen Lumber Street Stocks.
WHEELER CROWNED AS KING OF THE ROAD
Chad Wheeler of Waterbury Ctr, VT, was crowned as Thunder Road’s 2006 Late Model “King of the Road” Saturday night at the Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center in Burlington, VT. Wheeler became the first driver to win a Late Model title without benefit of a win since Phil Scott performed the feat in 1996. In accepting his award an emotional Wheeler announced that he was hanging up his racing helmet and would not return to defend the title he’d chased for so many years, “My wife has given me three beautiful sons and now it’s time to be with them,” he said. The 33 year-old received a standing ovation following his heartfelt remarks which included thanks to his crew, many of whom he had grown up with.
The Sportsmanship nominees were Chuck Beede, Chris Gendreau, Justin Hart and Moodie. Moodie, one of the Sportsman division's young guns was voted as the Sportsmanship award winner.
The Dr. G.R. Nielsen Rookie Award for the outstanding freshman driver from across all first year racers went to Mike Martin from Craftsbury Common, VT. Martin, the 2005 PowerShift Warrior champion, competed in the Allen Lumber Street Stock class and finished a close second to Sicard.
The battle for the 2007 “King of the Road” crowns begins on Sunday, May 6 in the Merchants Bank 150.
CROUCH PICKS UP A CREW CHIEF
The David Story Race Team continues to strengthen Robbie Crouch’s return to American Canadian Tour (ACT) racing with the announcement that his previous championship crew chief, Brian Latuch, will be the head wrench for their 2007 effort. Latuch led the six-time champion to his 1990 title after teaming up for a partial schedule the previous year.
Latuch, of Milton, VT, brings years of experience and knowledge to the Storey team and will be announcing the balance of the championship caliber group in the near future.
Robbie Crouch (ACT Photo)
Chad Wheeler stands in the shadows of his champion's trophy. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
“I’m excited to have the chance to work with Robbie again,” Latuch said. “It’s always been in the back of my mind but it happened sooner than I thought possible.” He added,”Tom (Curley) has put together a great series. It’s a tough program and I feel a little behind. Right now were trying to get the crew lined up and I hope to start working on the equipment soon. We’re up for the challenge and we’ll put our best foot forward.”
Also joining the Storey team will be John Casey, a long time racing enthusiast with lengthy ties to the ACT racing circuit. Casey will be the hands-on team coordinator as well as team spokesperson and marketing director.
“In light of the fantastic response to the news that Robbie is returning to the ACT Tour, my first order of business is to announce that the team has added two races to its 14-race Tour schedule,” Casey stated. “Thunder Road (Barre, VT) is one of Robbie’s favorite tracks and we are making the commitment to be at the Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic
(Sun, May 27) and the Vermont Governor’s Cup (Thurs, July12).”
Crouch, 54, is a four-time winner of the Vermont Governor’s Cup. Only one of his victories in the event came on Thunder Road’s quarter-mile high banked oval. The others took place at the former Catamount Stadium, a 1/3 mile semi-banked oval in Milton, VT that closed in 1987. The “Tampa Tornado” has carried the checkers three times in the 42-year history of the Memorial Day Classic. The race, which Crouch won in 1983, 1984 and ’86, dates back to 1961.
championship Saturday night at the 2006 Waterford Speedbowl Awards Banquet.
Tim Jordan (Late Models), Dwayne Dorr (Sportsman), Danny Field (Mini Stock) and Mark Bakaj (Legends) also carried off championship trophies. It is the second straight championship for Field and the first for Jordan, Dorr and Bakaj, although each did it in record style.
The event also marked the beginning of The New Waterford Speedbowl LLC, the promotional team that will lead the ‘Bowl into the 2007 season. General Manager Bill Roth introduced his partner Jerry Robinson, announced an ambitious schedule and pointed out that negotiations with NASCAR are going along without a hitch.
The Speedbowl will open with the Modified Nationals on March 31-April 1. The racing season, which includes the TrueValue Modifieds and the Supers, will run through September.
Account Executive Chris Stewart represented NASCAR at the Banquet.
Gada, who won three times, joins Bob Potter and Phil
Rondeau in the three six-championship club. Field won
four races. Dorr set a division record with 10 wins; Bakaj
tied the consecutive win record while seven-time winner
Jordan had maybe the best rookie campaign in track
history. The top 15 in each division were recognized.
Jordan was a “lock” for Late Model Rookie of the Year.
Other top rookies were Jeffrey Paul (SK), Joe Bertholet
(Sportsman), Mark Panaroni (Mini Stock) and Art Moran
Teenager Brian Quimette was the recipient of the first
Jerry Robinson Young Lion Award. Quimette, 14, finished
eighth in the Legends standings.
Richard Staskowski failed to crack the top 10 in 2005. This past season he had 11 top fives including a win and grabbed the Sportsman division Most Improved Driver trophy. Larry Goss (Late Model), Diego Monahan (SK), Kyle James (Mini Stock) and Michael Gervais Jr. (Legends) also picked up Most Improved trophies.
Coveted Sportsman of the Year hardware went to Rich Duranti (SK), Vin Esposito (Late Models), Al Stone III (Sportsman), Nick Pappacoda (Mini Stock) and Mark Esposito (Legends).
Veteran Don Fowler, whose return to racing following a serious medical problem was one of the season’s high points, received special recognition from Roth.
The Lozyniak #28 crew that came back from the worst crash in recent memory to race the next weekend, is the Late Model Pit crew of the Year. Overcoming diversity with determination was also the key for other top pit crew recipients – the #37 Godbout Mini Stock operation, the #66 Wendell Dailey SK effort, the #17 Palmer Family Legends team and the Ed Giles #84 Sportsman group.
Chris Williams’ dogged dedication and persistence finally paid a dividend this year when he captured his first-ever Mini Stock checkered. It also earned Williams this year’s Race Director’s Award from Steve Harraka.
Media director Pete Zanardi was Employee of the Year.
Matt Buckler and Gary Danko shared the master of ceremonies duties.
Casey concluded, “The Dave Storey team is looking forward to joining the fierce competition looking for the 2007 ACT Tour championship as well as seeing old friends and fans and meeting new ones.”
Crouch and crew will begin their quest for a record setting seventh ACT Tour Championship on Saturday, April 28 at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway. He will make his first appearance at Thunder Road in track’s 48th season opener, the Merchants Bank 150 on Sunday, May 6.
WATERFORD CHAMPS FETED
An overflow crowd at the Groton Inn and Suites celebrated Dennis Gada's record-tying sixth SK-Modified
The Waterford champions - class of 2006. (Waterford Speedbowl Photo)
A few years ago, Latuch called the shots for Mike Stefanik in the Busch North Series.
Brendan Moodie accepts his Sportsmanship award. (Leif Tillotson Photo)