More Winners of the 51 Awards Are Announced
Four of the Final Award Winners Are Revealed
You voted and over a two-week period, Speed51.com 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 Speed51.com 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.
Short Track Person of the Year (Non Driver)
There aren’t many roles in the sport of short track racing that Dr. Dick Berggren hasn’t been in. He’s been a driver, he’s been a race promoter but the biggest contribution that the former college professor has made to the sport has been as a publisher.
After making a pair of monthly racing magazines into household names, Berggren launched Speedway Illustrated in the late 1990’s and has turned it into a source to find out the stories of racing, technical tips for racers and in-depth reports from tracks short and long. He’s taken on a number of racing issues, such as safety, head-on and challenged the industry to better itself. He’s also the force behind the revitalized Speedway Expo show in New England.
And the most impressive thing is that Berggren really doesn’t need to do anything of this. He’s got a nice role as a television personality for FOX Sports and could easily forget about his short track roots. Yet, on his off weekends from the big tracks, it is likely that you’ll still find him taking in a weekly show at Lee or All-Star Speedway.
As a thank-you for what he has given to the sport of short track racing, the Speed51.com fans voted Dr. Berggren as the Short Track Person of the Year. The race wasn’t even close, with Berggren earning more than twice the number of votes as his closest competitor.
On a personal note, the editor of this site agrees with the fan choice. You see, I got my start in the journalism end of this business working as an intern for him more nearly 15 years ago. Dr. Berggren didn’t believe that an intern’s job was just to do the dirty work. He recognized that I was there to learn. So every afternoon during the summer of 1994, one of the busiest men of the racing business, would take a block of time to teach a simple college student about the business. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that I learned and how that has made me a better writer, editor and person through the years. Thank you Dr. Berggren and it is obvious that I’m not alone in knowing what a class act that you are.
Next in the voting was Ricky Brooks, who is the head of tech at Five Flags Speedway. If someone can get a cheater part past Brooks or his staff, they probably deserve the advantage from it. Brooks is tough and hasn’t made a lot of friends at time, but you’ll rarely find anyone, even out of the men who he has disqualified, who thinks that he is unfair.
Bob Bahre placed third for his career of contributions to New England racing. Bahre is the father of the Oxford 250 and made Oxford Plains Speedway into one of the best short track around. In the 1980’s, he sold Oxford and had the dream to build a big track. Without any public money or concessions from the government, Bahre and his son Gary built the New Hampshire International Speedway. He gave short track tours like the NASCAR Busch North/Busch East Series and the NASCAR Modified Tour a place to showcase their racing. He provided those teams with a points championship and even dipped into his own pocket to pay out tow money to teams that didn’t make a show at his track. Bahre sold the facility to Speedway Motorsports, Inc. in 2007 and he will be missed.
A pair of veterans in racing rounded out the top five. They were NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team owner Bob Garbarino and long-time USAR Pro Cup Series official Fritz Augustine. 2007 was a big year for both men. Garbarino won his first Tour championship and Augustine retired after a long and distinguished career as an official.
It was our closest race of all of the categories in the 51 awards. We presented fans with a list of 20 nominees in the category of Best Personality and it all came down to just about the final vote. It was an important category too. Having a racer who enjoys talking to short track fans and who is willing to lend a hand to his or her fellow competitor is essential to the survival of short track racing.
Obviously, a pair of the sport’s veterans know that well. When all was said and done, Midwestern racing legend Gary St. Amant one of the most popular drivers that New England has produced, Dave Dion, by only two votes.
St. Amant has had plenty of opportunities to spread good will through the sport. He was a pillar of the now-defunct ASA National Tour before switching to the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series. He still runs some big Super Late Model shows, like the Snowball Derby, when he can and he still runs up front – having earned the 2007 Pro Cup Northern Division title.
Dr. Dick Berggren (SPEED TV Photo)
We’ll admit some bias too. St. Amant has always been one of our favorite racers to interview at Speed51.com. Normally, we’d say that the award couldn’t have gone to a nicer guy, but that’s a tough call because the runner-up was a pretty worthy guy too. We’re just glad that we didn’t have to vote because…
Who doesn’t love Dave Dion? The New Hampshire native has raced orange Fords fielded by his brothers all up and down the East Coast. He’s won in ACT, he’s won in Pro Stocks/Super Late Models, he’s a former NASCAR Busch North Series champion. He’s got great stories to tell and never hides his true thoughts on a subject. You can always tell where the Dion team is parked in the pits after a race because they are usually the last ones to tow out of there – since Dave sticks around to meet each and every fan who stops by the hauler.
Joey Logano proved that the kids can be nice too. He finished a not-so-distant third between the two veterans. Logano might be going some big places in his career, but you would never be able to tell by his down-to-earth attitude at the track.
Rounding out the top 10 in the balloting were Jimmy Blewett, Charlie Menard, Eric Beers, Josh Vadnais, Travis Benjamin, Josh Hamner and Tony Ferrante.
Best Annual Short Track Racing Event
Every December for decades, some of the best short track racers in the country head to the panhandle of Florida to race. Some racers who don’t even run Super Late Models build a car just to run in that one event every season. Big names enter the event in an effort to revisit their roots and stars are made out of young drivers who can show well there.
This race is the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway and Speed51.com fans have voted it as the best annual event in short track racing.
The Derby was over 70 votes in front of an upstart event that has built itself into a must-see race in only a few short years. The annual North South Shootout at Concord Motorsport Park attracts the best Modified drivers in the country no matter what type of Mod that they run. It’s a place for Tour-type teams, SK Modified teams and even crate-engined Mod teams to race for bragging rights. The fans love it too, as many Northerners plan their vacations at work to head south and attend the race every fall.
Another fall racing tradition placed third. Oktoberfest, the ASA Midwest Tour’s flagship event, was just two votes behind the Shootout. The annual race is held at LaCrosse Fairgrounds and is a tradition for Wisconsin racing fans.
Rounding out the top five were the All American 400 at Nashville’s Music City Motorplex and the World Series at Thompson International Speedway (CT).
Photo of the Year
They say that a picture can speak a thousand words, so we won’t explain much in this category other than to say that the 51 fans voted Mary Hodge’s heart-touching photo of the Blewett Brothers as the photo of the Year. John Blewett, III lost his life while racing against his brother Jimmy in an August racing accident and this photo is a small reminder of how close the two brothers were.
Rounding out the top five were Jamie Williams’ “Fearsome Flip” of a NEMA Midget at Waterford, Leif Tillotson’s “Kiss The Cow” of Patrick Laperle giving the Milk Bowl’s beauty queen a smooth, Doug Hornickel’s “Local Glory” where Steve Rubeck shows just how great it is to win a race and then another Leif Tillotson photo – “Wild Ride at Thunder Road.”
Gary St. Amant is a winner with a winning personality.