More Winners of the 51 Awards Are Announced
Best Tour, Biggest Surprise, Most Inspiring Moment and Best Finish 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.
Best Series or Tour
It is NASCAR’s oldest division of racing and arguably the one with the most loyal fans. It’s a tour that leads NASCAR Cup series team members to stand on their haulers at New Hampshire to take time out from their own chores to just watch a race. It’s a place where guys like Ted Christopher, Tony Hirschman, Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggiero, Jerry Marquis, Eddie Flemke and Rick Fuller have made their careers. It’s even a place where former graduates like Todd Bodine and Steve Park come back to race whenever they get a chance.
It is the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and it is the series that Speed51.com fans voted as the best touring series in the country.
This was a closely fought battle though, with only 15 votes separating the top three favorite tours in the land.
Like, the NASCAR Modifieds, the PASS Super Late Models drew votes from both North and South, to help boost their support. The fendered fans came up nine votes shy of matching the vote tally of the Modsters though.
Next up, just six votes back from PASS, was the upstart ASA Midwest Tour.
There was a little bit, but not a lot, more breathing room back to fourth and the ASA Late Model Series.
Finally, the battle for fifth in the Best Touring Series category was a close one and it was a war of climates as well. The Blizzard Super Late Model Series, which takes place at Pensacola, Florida’s Five Stars Speedway only had one vote more than a
series based out of where there really are blizzards – The American-Canadian Tour, which races in Quebec and New England.
Most Inspiring Moment of the Year
Triumph in the face of tragedy was the central theme of the fans’ votes for the most inspiring moment of the 2007 short track racing season.
The top pick was when Jimmy Blewett won the Sunoco Modified race as part of World Series weekend at Thompson International Speedway. The fact that Blewett was racing at all was amazing, the fact that he was racing at Thompson even more so and the fact that he managed to visit victory lane there…well, that was almost unbelievable.
That was because Blewett’s older brother, fellow racer and hero, John Blewett, III had lost his life at the track in a racing accident just a few months before. Jimmy and John were racing each other for the lead when that unthinkable happened and the strength that Jimmy found to come back and honor his brother by winning at Thompson again….well, there really just aren’t any words for it that this writer knows of.
The unthinkable also happened to Chris James, who had an impressive career as a racer in the CrashCar and Redneck Racing Series of North Carolina until one fateful night at the Dirt Track at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. That was when James was on hand to help prepare the racing surface and he was struck by a car. His injuries were severe, but somehow James survived. He did lose both of his legs however.
James learned to live with that. He learned to walk again; he learned to drive his truck again. But most amazingly, he learned to race again. Using special hand controls in a car built by his buddies and teammates at Rimer Motors, James came back to
compete in the Redneck Racing Series this past season and proved that anything is possible if you just try hard enough.
James’ story was the fans’ runner-up selection for most inspiring moment of the year.
Coming in third was something that occurred just days after John Blewett, III lost his life. Fellow competitor Eric Beers won at RoC Modified event at Mahoning Valley Speedway, but Beers didn’t go to victory lane as usual. Instead, he left the spot empty in honor of Blewett. It is said that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after that display of sportsmanship.
The top five on the list of most inspiring moments were inspiring for different reasons. These were tales of simply not giving up when a raceday turned tough.
Jimmy Blewett stands in victory lane at Thompson after winning the Sunoco Modifie portion of the World Series.
Being fender-less beat out having fenders in a close battle for the fans' vote of "Best Racing Series". NASCAR's Modified Tours (Top) barely edged out the PASS SLM series of North and South. (Bottom)
Fourth was when Corey Williams went to the Easter Bunny 150 PASS South race at Hickory. Williams was quick in practice, but wrecked hard late in the afternoon. Without a backup, it looked like his day was through. But Williams’ team refused to give up. They thrashed and got their car ready for qualifying. They timed in the top group of cars, but had a mechanical problem in their heat race. They didn’t give up then though and thrashed some more to get ready for the feature. Another mechanical problem kept Williams back again during the main event, but he had one of the fastest cars on the track.
It should also be noted, that Williams’ team didn’t do this all for points. He didn’t run the full schedule of PASS South races due to work commitments. Instead, they did it for the right reasons – because they came to race and they didn’t want to go home without doing that.
Fifth was when Jean Paul Cyr wrecked in practice for the ACT Late Model race at White Mountain. Cyr wrecked hard and considered loading up his #32 machine. The multi-time ACT champion was in the middle of what would prove to be another championship-winning year, so you might think that his fellow competitors would secretly smile because their “superman” would be on the sidelines.
That didn’t happen. Not by a long shot.
Just about every team in the pit area came over to Cyr’s pit instead. They lent tools, they lent parts and they lent labor. Among the drivers spotted welding, banging or wrenching on the car were Kip Stockwell and Brian Hoar. There were too many crew members to count.
Not only did this community effort get Cyr back on track that night, it was good enough to give Cyr a car that came through the field and battled for the lead during the feature event.
If you went to the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at Concord Motorsport Park, it appeared that you either left the track loving the finish or hating it.
The race was voted as the second worst race earlier in the 51s due to a controversial finish. However, the finish was wild enough to also score a healthy victory in the best finish category.
The story was this…Ben Rowe passed race dominator and three-time PASS South winner Williams as the white and yellow flags were waving at the same time. PASS South rules dictate that once the leaders have taken the white flag, they race to the checkers unless the track is blocked and officials deem it a red-flag period. Williams came out of the final turn, went low to avoid a spun car and got out of the gas long enough to allow Rowe to jump to the outside and take the checkers in the final 50 feet of the race. Williams recovered and got back in the gas, but lost the drag race to the finish line by 0.976 seconds.
The CRA Spring Fling 150 was voted as the second best finish. That was won by Nathan Haseleu after he was shadowed through the final stages of the race by Josh Vadnais.
The finish of The Rattler was a wild one.
Believe it or not, both Corey Williams' #47 (Top) and Jean Paul Cyr's #32 (Bottom - Alan Ward Photo) raced on the same day as these practice wrecks. Both cars ended up being very competative too!
Next in the balloting was the point race between Steve Carlson and Woody Pitkat for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship. The two traded the top spot in the standings all summer long and the official winner wasn’t even declared until race results from were re-examined by NASCAR to make sure that point tallies were correct in the weighed competition.
The wild finish of the Rattler was fourth in voting. That was when Augie Grill and Hunter Robbins wrecked at the finish line, with Grill’s sideways #112 taking the victory.
Rounding out the top five was the ACT Late Model Milk Bowl at Thunder Road. The finish of the final segment in the Monza-style three-segment race wasn’t notable for a close decision on the winner. Patrick Laperle won that by a mile, but it was exciting for a last lap battle to decide the winner of the third segment. There was a three-way battle for the lead on the final lap and Joey Pole found himself spinning backwards through turn four after some contact from behind. Laperle had to get on the brakes to avoid trouble and Dave Pembroke got by the win the segment. It was short track racing at its best.
Biggest Surprise Moment
Some things just go together. Peanut Butter and Jelly, dogs and trucks, Frank Kimmel and the #46 Tri State Racing team. Right?
Wrong. After winning their ninth ARCA RE/MAX Series championship together in 2007, the driver and team decided to part ways for this season. Kimmel didn’t just surprise short track racing fans, he shocked them enough to score a victory in the surprise moment category. This season, Kimmel now drives for a family-owned operation, while Matt Carter has taken over for him at the #46 team.
Second on the list of surprises was when Andy Seuss’ family-owned, low-buck Modified
team decided to fill in their racing calendar by heading from their home base of New
Hampshire to the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour event at Nashville’s Music
City Motorplex. Seuss battled Tim Brown late in this race and won the race as a pre-
rookie on the Tour.
Next up was post-race tech inspection at the Snowball Derby. After a year when so
many competitors were disqualified from Blizzard Series events, and even Derby
qualifying, at the track due to tough rules enforcement, everyone was a little bit nervous
for Grill. After all, his team was known to push the envelope on occasion when it came
to being creative with their racecars. But Grill passed tech with flying colors and
became the official winner of the 2007 Snowball Derby.
Surprise number four was watching the haulers leave the pit area at Oxford Plains
Speedway after the heat races for July’s TD Banknorth 250. The non-qualifiers for the
big race included such familiar names as Patrick Laperle, Brian Hoar, Robbie Crouch,
DJ Shaw, Alan Tardiff, Jeff Taylor, Phil Scott, Jamie Fisher, Bobby Gahan, Joey Pole,
Donald Theetge, Bobby Dragon and Alexandre Gringas.
We are talking about guys who have won races and championships on tours and at
tracks throughout New England and Canada…and they were on the DNQ list!
Rounding out the top five surprises was the afternoon of the PASS North opener at
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. The race winner wasn’t a Rowe or a Clark…or a Shaw,
Benjamin, Moore, Dion or Dearborn either. It was rookie Joey Porciello, who never set
a wheel wrong with his Super Late Model all day. Porciello was even surprised himself.
He was nearly speechless in his post-race winner’s interview.
Stay tuned to Speed51.com from now until March 17th to find
out the other winners of the 51 Awards
Nobody expected Frank Kimmel to leave the #46 ARCA team (Top) or Andy Seuss to slay the Southern Mod giants at Nashville (Bottom).