Carlson In Spotlight As NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Banquet Approaches
National Champion Will Be Crowned in Las Vegas
All the hard work, tension and driving is over for Steve Carlson. Now the 2007 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion gets to sit back and enjoy the celebration of his success. The 50-year-old Lacrosse, Wisc., driver will be in the spotlight this week in Las Vegas.
“I’m really looking forward to this,” Carlson said. “This whole year has just been great. And to be able to celebrate in Las Vegas really makes all those hours in the shop and on the track worthwhile.”
The awards banquet is Saturday night in the Mandalay Bay’s South Pacific Ballroom. In addition to Carlson, the second- and third-place drivers – Connecticut’s Woody Pitkat and Virginia’s Philip Morris – will be honored, along with the U.S. state and Canadian province champions, track champions and the Wendell Scott Diversity Award winner.
Racing at his home track of Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway, Carlson put up a career season. He had eight wins and 18 top-five finishes in 19 starts. He also picked up valuable points running several races at Elko (Minn.) Speedway after the Lacrosse season ended.
Already a five-time champion of NASCAR’s former Elite Division, Midwest Series, Carlson called the national championship the highlight of a career that has stretched more than 30 years.
Steve Carlson drove to a national championship in 2007.
“This is so big; this is unreal,” Carlson said when he won the title. “I’m sure it will be awhile before it sinks in on just how big this really is.”
Carlson will get up to speed on ‘how big’ prior to Saturday’s event when he travels to nearby Nellis Air Force Base Friday as the guest of the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron, better known as the prestigious Thunderbirds. Carlson will be the passenger for almost an hour, traveling at nearly the speed of sound, in a Thunderbird Lockheed Martin F-16. The Thunderbirds will hold their last exhibition over the weekend to finish off a season in which they celebrated the 60 anniversary of the U.S. Air Force.
“That’s going to be the coolest thing,” Carlson said. “I love speed. And this thing is going to be fast. I am really, really looking forward to going up in that jet. To be the guest of honor of the Air Force is a big honor and I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity.”
Carlson will be officially crowned Saturday night with his champion car owner, Tim Jacobs, and champion car chief, Toby Nuttleman.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series banquet will also present the 2007 Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award Saturday night. The three finalists are Timothy Evans of Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, Ray Gourley of Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Penn., and Joe Zeneski of Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway. The winner will be unveiled on stage during the ceremony.
The 2007 season marks the 26th season of NASCAR’s short-track program and its first under long-term sponsor, Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering.