More Winners of the 51 Awards Are Announced
Best Story, Worst Story, Best Appearing Car and Crankiest Personality 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 Story of the Year
Short track racing these days revolves around money. Let’s be honest, most rides go to someone writing a check and although a car owner might not put a total rookie into the driver’s seat, the days of earning a drive based just on talent are mostly over.
But not completely. When Corey Williams won his first, second and third PASS South races back-to-back, readers of Speed51.com noticed. So did NASCAR driver David Stremme, who happened to have a crate-engined Late Model sitting in his shop. Stremme called Williams and put him into the car to gain some experience during the ASA Late Model event at Orange County Speedway. It was his first start in the series.
And Williams won the race after leading every lap. It was a Hollywood ending to a Hollywood story, so fans voted it by a comfortable margin as the best story of the year.
Another heartwarming tale was number two on the list. That was Augie Grill going to victory lane in the Snowball Derby for the first time as a driver. Grill had helped build winning Derby cars before and served as a winning crew member, but 2007 was his first victory in the prestigious race as a wheelman. Making things even sweeter was the fact that his father, Frankie, was the winning crew chief.
A championship ranked third on our list. After decades of supporting Modified racing, Bob Garbarino and his wife Joan considered retiring their Mystic Missile team prior to the 2007 season. At the last minute, they put Donny Lia into the seat of their racecar and Lia delivered them their first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.
Fans voted the championship battle in PASS North between Mike Rowe and his son Ben as the fourth best story of the year. It turned out that Mike might have taught his son just a few too many tricks, as Ben won the title after it went down to the final laps of the season finale at White Mountain.
And fifth on the list was a nice tale of Five Star Race Car Bodies employee Brandon Hill winning his first ASA Midwest Tour event in front of a busload of fellow employees who came to watch him race at Madison.
Worst Story of the Year
Bobby Gill won three USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series championship from 1999 through 2001, but since then the series had become a young man’s playground with guys like Brian Vickers, Joey Logano, Danny O’Quinn, Clay Rogers and Shane Huffman graduating from it and having varying results in various levels of NASCAR racing.
The fight between the ASA Late Model group headed by the Varney family and the ASA group led by Dennis Huth over the rights to the ASA name became a double “winner” in the 51 Awards. It was voted as the Best Feud and also as the Worst Story of the Year.
Second on the list was the experiment of flash races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The format change involved shortening feature distances, adding heat races and cutting the purse. Several top teams including those of Tony Hirschman, Woody Pitkat and the late John Blewett, III decided to skip at least one of those races.
The fact that the NASCAR Busch East (now Camping World East) Series has evolved from a tour mixed with rising stars and proven short track veterans to a developmental series was next on the list of worst stories. Seeing former champions like Dave Dion, Andy Santerre, Mike Olsen and Kelly Moore cut back to make room for drivers who fans had never heard of who are driving for satellite NASCAR Sprint Cup teams might be good when it comes to developing young talent, but it doesn’t necessarily make for an entertaining short track tour.
The jury is still out on the fourth worst story. Late in 2007, Speedway Motorsports bought the New Hampshire International Speedway from the Bahre family and renamed
it New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Although they are expected to make some big, and possibly very positive, changes to the track, what this means for short track racing is a question mark. Bob Bahre had always been a friend to short tracking. He was the father of the Oxford 250 and gave the Busch North/Busch East/Camping World East Series, as well as the NASCAR Modifieds, a great place to race. Whether that will continue under the new ownership in a way that is quite so rewarding remains to be seen.
Fifth on the list was the fiascos of tech inspection at the Snowball Derby, when NASACR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Steve Wallace and USAR Pro Cup champ Benny Gordon all had to load up and go home early after their cars failed post-qualifying or post-consi tech. It was great to see rules enforced fairly, without bias for the big names, but it was disappointing for fans to see the big name stars not to make it into the Snowball Derby feature.
If he loses, he is pissed. If he wins, he doesn’t really celebrate – he just starts looking ahead
to the next race, and he surely doesn’t mind locking horns with his fellow competitors.
What really is ASA? That is a good question that turned into a bad story during 2007.
Corey Williams took right to the ASA Late Model Series.
We’re talking about Ted Christopher, the fan’s choice as the crankiest personality in short track racing.
TC is all about performance. He’s said time and time again, that he doesn’t care if he is cheered or booed, but he wants to be noticed. He’ll race anything, anytime, anywhere and that doesn’t leave much time for chit-chat.
Christopher held off four other hardcore racing veterans for top honors in this category. Like Christopher, Eddie Hoffman will race in different divisions with different racecars and expects nothing less than the best results. He finished second in the balloting and was followed by Bobby Gill, Scott Carlson and Reggie Ruggiero.
Then again, with all of the checkered flags that have been captured by this group, we’re wondering if winning is what makes these standouts unpopular?
Best Appearing Racecar
We’re not sure if it is bright Corvette yellow paint, the vinyl graphics that are made in-house, the candy-apple red powercoated rollcage and chassis or just the fact it is always just so polished and clean, but there is something about Ben Rowe’s Richard Moody Racing #4 Super Late Model that the fans love.
In fact, they loved it enough to vote it as the best appearing racecar in the land by an overwhelming margin.
It could also be a matter of exposure. The team won the championship in PASS North, raced occasionally in PASS South and ACT Late Models and made trips to open shows like The Rattler and Speedfest 2007. They also ran one True Value Modified Racing Series event in 2007 with the same paint scheme on that groundpounder, which was sold and will be campaigned by the Greeley’s Garage team in TVMRS this season for David Pinkham.
The runner-up to Rowe’s ride was the one-off paint scheme used on Jimmy Blewett’s TS Haulers Modified at Martinsville Speedway. Black, yellow and red made up the colors of that flashy design.
Rounding out the top five were Matt Kobyluck’s #40 Busch East car, Matt Hawkins’ #22 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series machine and Chris Fontaine’s flamed #47 ASA Late Model.
Stay tuned to Speed51.com from now until March 17th to find
out the other winners of the 51 Awards
The Richard Moody Racing #4 of Ben Rowe. (Norm Marx Photo)