Even eight weeks after finishing the 2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX and Menards season as the series champion, Patrick Sheltra continues to enjoy every day like it's his first as the man on top. This evening, Sheltra was able to share that feeling with his family and his team, as he and Sheltra Motorsports were officially crowned ARCA champions at the series' annual Championship Awards Banquet at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.
Sheltra, of Indiantown, Fla., was among 17 drivers from the top 20 in the final point standings to be honored on stage, and left with more than $140,000 in point fund and special award earnings, as awarded by the numerous series partners at the ceremony.
To honor Sheltra's position as the 28th ARCA Racing Series champion in 58 seasons, ARCA president Ron Drager presented Sheltra a letter signed by Florida Governor Charlie Crist, as well as a series championship ring and a leather championship jacket featuring the series logo.
As is the custom, a video tribute featured photographs from the champion's youth and ascent to championship status; a special addition to this season's edition included a special message from Sheltra's boyhood hero, four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon.
Joining Sheltra on stage were his parents and team co-owners, Richard and Grace, crew chief Jon Wolfe and wife Kim, team representatives Chris Knight and Brandon Hinson, and Sheltra's guest, Chantelle Gervais. Before leaving the stage at the end of the evening, Sheltra surprised over a dozen crew members with championship trophies of their own, allowing each to introduce themselves from the podium to the hundreds gathered in the audience.
"It's unreal. To come here as a family-owned team and to take the championship, just like the Allgaiers and Eddie Sharp, and groups like that, is wonderful," said Sheltra, who completed four full seasons in the ARCA Racing Series and finished 2010 with two wins and a series-leading 12 top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes. "I couldn't have done it without my whole crew, my mom and dad, and Jon Wolfe. He's the man. He told me (this) would work, and it did."
Among the top awards Sheltra received were: $15,000 for winning the Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge and an additional $10,000; $6,000 from Sunoco Race Fuel; $5,000 from Messina Wildlife Management; $2,500 from the University of Northwestern Ohio; the R.E. Lightning Challenge Award; and the CGS Imaging Hard Charger of the Year Award and the Race for the Wrap. Menards merchant coach Jim Johnson presented Sheltra with a check representing his winnings from the series point fund.
Mike Reagan, the senior vice president of brand marketing for RE/MAX International, served as the Guest of Honor and introduced a special video tribute honoring RE/MAX's 10 years as a top series partner. SPEED television analyst Phil Parsons acted as the banquet host for the second consecutive year.
Second-year driver Craig Goess, who finished only 20 points behind Sheltra in the final standings and contributed to one of the most exciting championship battles in series history, received the $10,000 Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell for winning a series-best three pole awards. Team owner Eddie Sharp joined Goess on stage. The team left with more than $100,000 in point fund and special award earnings after a season which saw Goess drive to one win, 10 top-fives, 15 top-10s, and a second-place finish in overall points.
Tom Hessert was recognized on stage for finishing third in the series standings, only 105 points behind Sheltra, and was joined by team owner Briggs Cunningham. A significant portion of more than $75,000 in winnings for Hessert and Cunningham came from the $5,000 Aaron's Lap Leader Award, which Hessert earned by leading 387 laps in eight races, more than any other driver in the series.
Nine-time ARCA Racing Series champion Frank Kimmel was recognized with brother and crew chief Bill Kimmel for finishing fourth in the final standings, and Mikey Kile came to the stage with team owner Cathy Venturini to accept the honors for fifth place.
Venturini's appearance on stage was her second of the night, as she was introduced along with husband and past ARCA champion Bill Venturini earlier in the ceremony for winning the Marcum Award, annually presented to an individual or entity whose positive efforts have elevated ARCA's motorsports stature to the benefit of all associated. Bill Venturini won his first ARCA Racing Series event and the Rookie of the Year Award in 1983, and the family has remained a key part of the series since then.
Son Billy Venturini, team manager for Venturini Motorsports, and nephew Tom Venturini, a marketing representative for the team, also attended the banquet. Billy Venturini finished in ninth place in the final owner point standings and appeared on stage with Steve Arpin, who finished in 12th place in driver points after winning three races to top the series. Arpin also won the National Speed Sport News Most Popular Driver Award - for the second consecutive year - and Billy Venturini accepted $5,000 from Hoosier Racing Tire for the most wins by a car owner.
Additional on-stage honorees from the top 10 in the final standings were Justin Marks and team representative Nate Thiesse (sixth); Dakoda Armstrong and team owner Kerry Scherer (seventh); Joey Coulter and team owner Joseph Coulter (eighth); Tim George Jr. and crew chief Gere Kennon (ninth); and Bryan Silas and team owner Andy Hillenburg (10th).
Armstrong received the RE/MAX Rookie of the Year Award, as presented by Reagan, and Scherer won the Spirit Award for his dedication and support of ARCA, his uplifting spirit by way of example, and perseverance and positive attitude. Coulter won the Bill France Four Crown Award for his performance in a diverse series of four races in August.
To complete the honoring of the top 20 drivers, Robb Brent (11th), Darrell Basham (14th), Chad McCumbee (15th), Brad Smith (16th), Rob Jones (17th), James Hylton (19th), and Chris Buescher (20th) visited the stage to receive congratulations. McCumbee also received the annual H.G. Adcox Sportsman of the Year Award.
Jeff Kettman accepted the Manufacturer Championship on behalf of Chevrolet, and Venturini Motorsports teammates Kevin Reed and Mike Bartlett accepted the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year and Klotz Engine Mechanic of the Year Awards, respectively.
Andy O'Neal, dean of the College of Technology of the University of Northwestern Ohio - ARCA's Official High Performance Education University - awarded a group of ARCA scholarships on behalf of the university. Likewise, Parsons announced the winners of the Bob Loga Memorial ARCA Scholarships; Chelsea Wasnich of Toledo, Ohio won $1500 and will attend Bowling Green State University, and Callie Sheffer of Fayetteville, Ga. won $500 and will attend Clemson University.
A press conference in the afternoon included major series and team announcements, as well as a host of special awards not distributed at the Championship Awards Banquet.
The 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season will mark the sanctioning body's 59th year of competition and commences with the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, February 12. The event will air live on SPEED.
The complete 2011 event schedule is available at ARCARacing.com.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned an ARCA national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 28 states since its inception. The series tests the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, annually visiting tracks ranging from 0.4 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course.
Founded by John Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Closing in on completing its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in two professional touring series and local weekly events.