More Winners of the 51 Awards Are Announced
Top Bad Boy, Funniest Name, Best Publication and Driver Who Deserves a Break Are Revealed
You voted and over a two-week period, will reveal the winners in the 2008 51 Awards.  These awards contain 36 categories related to short track racing during the 2007 season.  Fans voted over a one-month period and their ballots were verified and tabulated.  Watch daily to see more winners with the biggest honor, Short Track Racer of the Year, being announced on March 17th live on Race Talk Radio.
Driver You Love to Hate / Short Track Bad Boy

He’s raced everywhere from Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway to Florida’s USA International Speedway to The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…and that’s just during the down time from his regular jobs racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.  He’s Kyle Busch and he’s the racer that short track fans love to hate.

Busch does not hide the fact that he wants to win bad and that second place isn’t an option.  He showed that by bolting on fresh tires with just a handful of laps to go in July’s PASS North race at All-Star Speedway (NH) and rocketing to the checkered flag.  The problem was that the tire change wasn’t allowed and neither was Busch’s victory.  Later in the season, Busch parked his Super Late Model mid-race at LVMS when he didn’t agree with being sent to the back after an on-track incident.  He just hopped into a waiting helicopter and flew away, rather than finish mid-pack.

But you’ve got to give the kid credit though.  He doesn’t need to be at short tracks promoting events like Speedfest or the Winchester 400, but Busch is there with his own equipment.  He’s not just there to sign autographs and look cool either.  While at a short track, you can usually find Busch turning wrenches on his own car.  He also spends a good amount of his own money fielding development driver Alex Haase in Super Late Models and the NASCAR West Series.
Busch won the fan’s hearts…well sort of…by a healthy margin over perennial short track bad boy Ted Christopher – another hardcore racer who likes to win no matter what it takes.  After all, TC has told people in the past that if you want to make friends, don’t race – buy a dog instead.

Rough and tough Pro Cup champion Bobby Gill finished third in the voting followed by PASS North’s Bill Penfold, Jack Smith and Modified bad-boy James Civali.

Driver Who Deserves a Shot in the Big Leagues Now 

At the beginning of the decade, Nathan Hasleau appeared to have the opportunity that all young drivers would kill for – a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ride with Roush Racing.  But as drivers like Chuck Hossfeld, Danny O’Quinn and Todd Kluever would also find out, a driver development deal with Roush Racing isn’t always a good thing.  Haseleu scored four top 10 finishes in 12 starts at Roush, but was sent packing nevertheless.
But instead of going back to the Midwest with his tail between his legs to sulk, Haseleu followed the example of drivers before him like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, and went back to the short tracks of the region to collect checkered flags.  He’s won all over the place in recent years and scored two championships, one on the ASA Midwest Tour and the other in the Wisconsin Challenge Series, in 2008.  Now, like Wallace and Martin, he’s due for a second chance at the big leagues.

The readers agree.  They voted Haseleu as the driver most deserving of a big league ride by less than 50 votes over Bobby Santos, III.

Santos is a bundle of raw talent who has driven the wheels over of everything from Supermodifieds to Busch Series cars to ARCA machines to Modifieds.  He doesn’t have a big bankroll though, and has seen opportunities that he was up for go to better funded, and less talented, drivers instead.

Voters also gave high marks in this category to Clay Rogers, Sean Caisse and Donny Lia.  Those drivers rounded out the top five voter-getters.  They seemed to know what they were talking about in Lia’s case.  Since the voting for the 51s started, Lia has headed to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

If you disqualify Lia for that reason, Cassius Clark of PASS Super Late Model fame, would move into the top five as a result.

Best Publication

If it happens in the Late Model world, it is written about in the pages of Late Model Digest.  Fans realized that and voted Jim Carson’s publication to victory in the category of Best Publication. 
Dr. Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated was a runner-up for showcasing short track racing right alongside stories from NASCAR’s top three divisions.  Trade paper Area Auto Racing News was next in the rundown.

Marco Thomas’ Racin’ Paper finished fourth with Late Model Racer magazine rounding out the top five.

Funniest Name

A Rusty Ball is a Modified racer in Northern New England and not something you would find neglected at the bottom of a toybox.  For the second time in the history of the 51s, Ball has been named as the racer with the funniest and most unusual name in the sport.

Ball blew away the competition in this category, distancing himself from runner-up Dexter Bean, of ARCA racing fame, by a nearly two to one margin.  Another Modified ace, Woody Pitkat finished third with CRA’s Boris Jurkovic and yet another Modified racer, Vinnie Annarummo (who just calls himself Vinnie Who) rounding out the top five.

Stay tuned to from now until March 17th to find out the other winners of the 51 Awards

Nathan Haseleu
When Kyle Busch comes to a short track, he's ready to work...but not always ready to make friends.