The fans had their say and here are the second batch of winners of the 2009 “51 Awards for Short Track Racing. The awards were determined based on the votes of fans at the short track website Speed51.com.
Worst Luck - Jeff Choquette - You can say what you want about Jeff Choquette, but the simple fact is that the bad luck cloud seemed to follow him everywhere he went in 2009. He ran out of gas while leading at Greenville in the PASS race with two laps to go and followed that up with a dominating performance at Hickory in the fall - only to get passed in the late stages by a 13-year-old kid named Chase Elliott.
Choquette then took he checkered flag at World Crown 300, only to have an issue in tech with a transmission, the same one that he had used all season long in on the ASA SAT Tour. It didn't end there as he led laps at the Governor's Cup and was a hard charger at the Snowball Derby only to be sidelined by problems in both events.
Choquette beat out fellow Super Late Model driver Adam Bates and Modified hotshoe Andy Seuss for the title of worst luck in 2009.
Best Comeback - Steve Park - Steve Park has been to the top of the stock car racing mountain. He one of a very few drivers who has won races in what are now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. He's one of the most impressive graduates of the NASCAR Modified Tour and he had also won in what was known once as the NASCAR Busch North Series.
But the recent years have not been kind to the very personable Park. He was injured in a wreck at Darlington and had to fight back from what could have been career-ending injuries.
Although he could overcome those setbacks, Park had a more difficult time overcoming the fact that he isn't a kid anymore, and NASCAR car owners have a short memory when it comes to judging talent. Park didn't give up racing though when he couldn't find a ride in one of the top three NASCAR Series. Instead, he found a ride in what was known last year as the NASCAR Camping World East Series. He then drove right to victory lane by winning at Adirondack Speedway last summer - completing a comeback that wasn't easy, but was very popular.
Park won by a razor thin margin of just two votes, the smallest margin of victory in any of our categories, over Beau Slocumb - who battled cancer to come back and take a run up
Best Story - Mods at Bristol - Fans of Tour Modifieds have always wondered, “what if the Mods went to Bristol?” After 2009, they don't have to wonder any more.
NASCAR brought their two Modified Tour to the crazy-fast half-mile as a primer to the summer Cup race there and fans weren't disappointed. The cars proved well suited for the track and put on a show. Now, it wasn't an epic race to decide the victory, but you'll have that from time to time. Donny Lia and Ted Christopher did run several laps nerf bar to nerf bar and nobody ended up being disappointed.
Chase Elliott's successful rookie season in Late Models, the rebirth of Gresham Motorsports Park and Ben Rowe's four-team championship winning season in PASS South were the next highest vote getters.
Worst Story - All-American 400 Cancellation - If the All American 400 had been canceled in June of last year, then it wouldn't have been such a big deal as it was to be just up and canceled instead of a making an effort for a make-up date after rains threatened the originally scheduled weekend.
In the end, the lost date of one of the most historic events in Late Model history might be the final plug for the old Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. The silver lining is that a group is going to the on the forth floor of the Chancery Court II building in Nashville on Thursday morning. Hopefully this can turn into the best story of 2010.
Other nominees included the loss of ASA SAT, the loss of the Birmingham Int'l Raceway and Matt Hirschman not having a Tour ride in the NASCAR Modified ranks.
Short Track Bad Boy - Kyle Busch - They might love to hate him because of his “rowdy” style and nickname. They might love to hate him because he's a Cup driver dipping down into the minor leagues. They might love to hate him because he wins too much, but one thing is for sure. Kyle Busch is the “Bad Boy” that short track fans love to hate.
Busch won this category by a landslide, copping 54% of the vote. Perennial short track “Bad Boy” Ted Christopher finished second with only about half of that total. Preston Peltier, who found himself off the Christmas card list of many fellow PASS South drivers after run-ins with them last season, finished a very distant third.
Worst Race - ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour at Watermelon Capital Speedway (GA) - If you liked watching racecars circle a track under caution, then you would have loved it when the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour went to Cordele, Georgia's Watermelon Capital Speedway.
There were some moments of comic relief during the event. The winner of the Street Stock feature backed his car into the wall while attempting a post-race burnout and Tyler Milwood attempted to launch himself into outer space by using the rear of Dakoda Stroupe's car as a ramp under one of the many caution periods.
But for the most part, the event quite honestly sucked. There were 16 caution periods in the first 54 laps of the race alone. The fans who did stick around got rewarded with a late race shootout that was won by TJ Reaid, but most everyone either fell asleep or left by that point.
Finishing behind the Cordele race were the Southern Pro Late Model Series opener, which suffered from a lack of cars, and the Pro Late Model portion of SpeedFest, which suffered from an excess of carnage.
Best Race - Richie Evans Memorial at New Smyrna Speedway - In Modified racing, there are certain finishes that are talked about for years - who could forget the Richie Evans vs. Geoff(rey) Bodine barnburner at Martinsville for example? Well, the fans who flocked to New Smyrna Speedway during Florida Speedweeks got to witness one of those historic races during the running of the Richie Evans Memorial.
Ted Christopher was working hard to maintain his title as NSS's King of the Modifieds, but Ronnie Silk wasn't about to bow down and kiss TC's ring. The two racers fought tooth and nail, but hardly touched or banged, to decide the race's outcome. Want proof of how exciting it was in the final few laps? Check out this log from Speed51.com's Trackside Now coverage of the race:
Friday - 10:01pm ET - With eight laps to go, Ronnie Silk has taken the lead from Ted Christopher.
Friday - 10:02pm ET - With seven laps to go, Ted Christopher has taken the lead from Ronnie Silk.
Friday - 10:03pm ET - With six laps to go, Ronnie Silk has taken the lead from Ted Christopher.
Friday - 10:04pm ET - With four laps to go, Ted Christopher has taken the lead from Ronnie Silk.
Friday - 10:05pm ET - Ted Christopher has beaten Ronnie Silk to win the Richie Evans Memorial 100.
And that was only the action that we could move our typing fingers quick enough to tell you about!
Finishing in the distant second and third spots after the votes were counted up were a pair of New England Late Model events. The runner-up event was the 2009 TD Banknorth 250, where everything from a lineup of nail-biting heat races to a late race dual between Patrick Laperle and eventual winner Eddie MacDonald kept everyone excited. The mid-summer's Governor's Cup at Thunder Road Speedbowl, where Joey Pole was the race's big star, rounded out the podium.
Best Promoter - Tim Bryant - There really wasn't any surprise here, and anyone who has been to the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in recent seasons, know why. Tim Bryant and his family have managed to turn the Derby into a Cup-level event every December in Pensacola, Florida. The biggest names in racing show up and the fans do too. Shuttle buses are even run from a nearly fairgrounds just to get people into the track on raceday - and Bryant makes sure they all go home happy.
But being a great promoter isn't just about putting on one big race a year. The Blizzard Series that Five Flags puts on is quite possibly the best one-track series at any track in the country. Technical inspection is firm, but fair, and short track stars like Johanna Long are being born at the track.
Bryant bagged this award by a large margin ahead of a pair of New England Toms. PASS headman Tom Mayberry narrowly edged ACT chief Tom Curley in fan voting this time around.
Most inspirational Moment - Jeff Fultz - Jeff Fultz was excited last fall to see that the CRA Super Series had scheduled to run on the racing card of the North South Shootout at Concord Speedway (NC) a track that had given Fultz lots of success through the years.
Leading up to the Shootout, Fultz and his family had to deal with one of the hardest moments of their lives. They lost their son, Johnny, in an automobile accident. A few days later, Fultz was at the place that made him feel most comfortable, the racetrack. Just competing at the track was considered a feat to some, but Fultz put a great ending to the North South Shootout weekend by taking the emotional win in the Inaugural CRA Super Series 125. It also was voted the most inspirational moment of 2009.
Best Personality - Brian Campbell - Every time you talk to Brian Campbell at the race track you'd think he had already won the race. On several occasions that was the story for the Michigan native who locked up the 2009 Best Personality as voted on by the fans of Speed51.com.
Campbell had a fine season by winning the ASA Late Model Challenge Series Championship. He also won the Rowdy Busch showdown race at Berlin Raceway (MI). Campbell scored points with both the media and fans by being an all around fun guy no matter what the situation. Even when he ran like " junk" at Lanier National Speedway (GA) in his first visit to the track he did it with a smile and a laugh.
Campbell topped a tight race that had the likes of Travis Benjamin, David Rogers, Andy Seuss and JP Morgan on the ballot.
Best Finish - Blizzard Race #2 Grill vs. Pollard - There were some thrilling finishes in 2009, but none were more exciting then the second Blizzard race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida. Augie Grill and Bubba Pollard played follow the leader as long as they could and then with four laps to go they both went for it. What transpired was a four lap slide session where each driver drove their car beyond it's limitations and then went door-to-door on the final lap and crossed the line in a near dead heat. Pollard got the win by .075 of a second.
Other great finishes included the spring Modified event at New Hampshire where the two leaders went into the catch fence in the final turn and Donny Lia came away with the win. Also among the top three was the finish at the Toyota All Star Showdown where Joey Logano's last lap move wrecked several cars and handed the win to Matt Kobyluck.