The Stars of ARCA were honored at the ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center on Saturday night in Covington, Kentucky, where Westmorland, California's Justin Lofton, car owners Eddie and Jessica Sharp and crew chief Mark and Laura Rette were formally honored onstage as the 2009 Championship Team, officially concluding the ARCA RE/MAX Series' 57th season of competition.
Randy Morse, vice president of RE/MAX, Int'l, served as guest of honor at this year's Championship Award Banquet, concluding RE/MAX's nine-year run as Series Title Sponsor. The company will join Menards as a presenting sponsor for the 2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards. SPEED TV's Phil Parsons served as Master of Ceremonies for the black tie affair, attended by close to 500 people.
The Stars of ARCA, 1953-2009, were honored with a display featuring champions from each season of ARCA National Touring Series Competition, including 2009 Champion Lofton. After competing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series in 2008, Lofton and his family invested in a second year of fulltime ARCA RE/MAX Series competition with Eddie Sharp Racing, producing six race wins, a Series' high five Menards Pole Awards presented by Ansell, 15 top-5 finishes and 19 top-10 finishes. Over the course of the 21-race season, Lofton also developed one of the most memorable on-track battles in ARCA RE/MAX Series history, drawing attention to the series by consistently racing against rookie Parker Kligerman for both wins and the Championship. In the end, Lofton clinched the 2009 title by just five points-the equivalent of one finish position-to produce the third-closest final points spread in the Series' 57-year history and his first National Series Title. Eddie and Jessica Sharp and Mark Rette are also first time ARCA Champions in 2009.
As the 27th different driver to earn an ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship since the inaugural 1953 season, Lofton and the championship winning team picked up more than $175,000 in point fund and special award prize money with onstage sponsor presenters to include Hoosier Tire ARCA Event Manager Dave Wrobleski, Menards Spokesman Jeff Abbott, Ansell Director of New Channel Development Steve York, Bazell Race Fuels/Sunoco ARCA Event Manager Tim McWhorter, Toyota Vice President of Special Racing Projects Gary Reed,Aarons, University of Northwestern Ohio Vice President of Development Steve Farmer, CGS Imaging Owner Chuck Stranc and Lincoln Electric Motorsports Marketing Specialist Tim Birky.
Lofton was presented with a letter and certificate signed by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to acknowledge his accomplishments, along with an ARCA Championship Ring from ARCA President Ron Drager, a tradition that began in 1964. RE/MAX, Int'l Vice President Randy Morse presented both Lofton and Sharp with ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Leather Varsity Jackets along with a point fund check.
Lofton's crew chief, Mark Rette, was presented with the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year award by ARCA Vice President of Competition Joe Wells and the Klotz Engine Mechanic of the Year award by John Klotz.
In addition to earning the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship, Eddie Sharp Racing's No. 6 team also earned the 2009 Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge Championship. Hoosier's ARCA Event Manager, Dave Wroblewski, presented Sharp with a $15,000 check for those accolades.
The top-20 car owners received point fund checks and drivers and car owners finishing first through 20th in the final point standings were formally honored on stage, including Penske Development Driver Parker Kligerman, who drove the No. 77 Cunningham Motorsports Dodge to a series' high nine wins among 14-top-5 and 18 top-10 finishes in 2009. Kligerman, joined on stage by car owner Mark Gibson and Briggs Cunningham, was also the recipient of the Bill France Four Crown Award, The Racing Electronics Lightning Challenge and the 2009 Rookie of the Year Award. Car Owner Gibson received a $5,000 check from Hoosier Tire for posting the most wins of the season.
Frank Kimmel finished third in points to post the 18th top-10 points finish of his career and was joined on stage by his brother/crew chief Bill Kimmel as a representative of the team's ownership group. During a special awards presentation early in the night, ARCA President Ron Drager presented Frank and Bill's father, Bill Kimmel, with the Marcum Award, which is given to an individual or entity whose positive efforts have elevated ARCA's motor sports stature to the benefit of all associated. The Kimmel patriarch personally knew ARCA Founder John Marcum, attending his first ARCA race in the 1950s at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Mile Dirt. He drove in the 1967 Daytona ARCA 200, finishing 5th, and went on to win ARCA Series races in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana in the 1970s, introducing his boys to ARCA Racing and establishing the Kimmel Legacy, which today includes nine driving championships, eight crew chief of the year awards and more than 70 race wins. Kimmel Racing was also presented with the Mo's Gold Best Appearing Car Award by Bill Shafley.
Rookie Joey Coulter was honored on stage with his car owner/father Joe Coulter for finishing fourth in points. Coulter also received the HG Adcox Sportsman of the Year Award, presented by Herb Adcox.
Rookie Craig Goess was honored on stage with car owner Eddie Sharp for finishing fifth in the final point standings.
Bryan Silas was honored on stage with car owner Andy Hillenburg for finishing sixth in the final point standings.
Steve Arpin was honored on stage for finishing seventh in the final point standings and also received the National Speed Sport News ARCA Nation Most Popular Driver Award presented by Liz Mellott from National Speed Sport News. Race fans Robert and JoAnn Cox from Conneaut, Ohio were the recipients of an all-expense paid trip to the banquet after entering a special online ARCA Nation contest, courtesy of National Speed Sport News.
Tom Hessert was honored on stage for finishing eighth in the final point standings. Patrick Sheltra was honored on stage for finishing ninth in the final point standings. Robb Brent and car owner Mike Allgaier were honored on stage for finishing tenth in the final point standings. Brent was also the recipient of the CGS Imaging Hard Charger Award, presented by Chuck Stranc.
Additional drivers honored included Darrell Basham (finished 12th), Jeremy Petty (finished 13th), Brad Smith (finished 14th), James Hylton (finished 15th), Barry Fitzgerald (finished 16th), Jason Basham (finished 17th), Kory Rabenold (finished 18th), Todd Antrican (finished 19th) and Alli Owens (finished 20th).
Kerry Scherer was honored on stage with a special video presentation for finishing tenth in the final car owner point standings, as was car owners Kevin Cywinski and Nate Theise, who finished fourth in the final owner standings.
Dave Jameson of Hutch-BSR was presented with the ARCA Spirit Award for his dedication and support of ARCA, his uplifting spirit by way of example and perseverance and positive attitude.
Brian Viger accepted the Manufacturer award on behalf of Dodge.
As has become tradition, $12,000 in scholarship monies were distributed for higher education, including Bob Loga Memorial Scholarship recipients Zachary Ignoffo and Ashley Hillenburg and University of Northwestern Ohio scholarship recipients Crystal Bates, Zachary Ignoffo, Ryan Richmond, Matt Bastion, Shayne Summerfield and Anthony Hites. Andy O'Neal, Dean of the UNOH College of Technology, was among the speakers at the Awards Banquet and Steve Farmer, Vice President of Development, presented $2,500 to Lofton during the championship awards presentation portion of the banquet ceremonies
ARCA RE/MAX Series host racetracks with representatives in attendance included Rockingham Speedway (Andy Hillenburg), Michigan Int'l Speedway (Dan DeBois), Iowa Speedway (Gale Nungesser and Scott Patton), Salem Speedway (Richard and Robin Deaton and Owen and Beverly Thompson), Pocono Raceway (Nick Igdalsky) and Chicagoland Speedway (John Brecklin).
ARCA RE/MAX Series drivers in attendance but not recognized on stage included Nick Igdalsky, Dakoda Armstrong, Will Kimmel, Larry Meadors and Mikey Kile.
A press conference earlier in the day included major Series and team announcements as well as 2009 special awards not distributed at the Championship Awards Banquet.
The 2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards will mark the sanctioning body's 58th year of competition and commences with the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona Int'l Speedway on Saturday, February 6, live on SPEED. For the complete 2010 Schedule, visit www.arcaracing.com.