AT FRIDAY’S 56th “NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS” CELEBRATION
Friday night’s 56th USAC “Night of Champions” National Awards Dinner held at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in downtown Indianapolis, Ind. sported a somewhat familiar theme to the previous year’s function. Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind. once again headlined the list of award recipients after claiming his second consecutive USAC National Drivers Championship.
Clauson, of Noblesville, Ind., raked in a $40,000 year-end cash bonus, along with a $300,000 scholarship from INDYCAR.
Also accepting checks as members of the National Drivers Championship “top-10” were runner-up Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., Chris Windom of Canton, Ill., Levi Jones of Olney, Ill., Tracy Hines of New Castle, Ind., Bobby East of Brownsburg, Ind., Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Ariz., Darren Hagen of Riverside, Calif., Hunter Schuerenberg of Sikeston, Mo. and Jon Stanbrough of Avon, Ind.
Clauson, as he did in 2010, also claimed the 2011 USAC Mopar National Midget title and was again the top USAC Midget driver on dirt.
Tony Stewart Racing teammate Levi Jones of Olney, Ill. repeated as the 2011 USAC Traxxas Silver Crown and AMSOIL National Sprint Car Champion. The Silver Crown title was Jones’ second, while his fifth Sprint car title broke the previous record of four set by Steve Butler.
Nick Drake of Mooresville, N.C. also claimed his second consecutive USAC National Ford Focus crown and will have his name again emblazoned on the permanent Henry Ford Sweepstakes Trophy, along with 2011 USAC National Focus Young Guns Champion Cole Custer of Kannapolis, N.C. Drake also claimed the Eastern Ford Focus title.
Champions of USAC’s 2011 The Off Road Championship (TORC) series honored Friday included Ricky Johnson of Trabuco Canyon, Calif. (Pro 4x4), Bryce Menzies of Las Vegas, Nev. (Pro 2WD) and Andrew Caddell of Graham, Wash. (Pro Light 2WD).
Keys to the City of Indianapolis from Mayor Gregory A. Ballard were presented to Jones, Clauson and Drake in recognition of their 2011 National Championships.
Emcees Jim Tretow and Meghan Kolb (TORC) orchestrated the presentations, which included driver and car entrant champions, Rookies of the Year, Most Improved Drivers and special award recipients.
Among items presented to the 2011 champions were trophies, plaques, Oakley timepieces, Hoosier jackets, medallions and personalized remote-control TRAXXAS Trucks.
USAC President Kevin Miller and Famous Rhodes, Senior Director of eBay Motors, outlined special eBay Motors/Mopar PACE Awards presented to Famous Rhodes II, Taylor Ferns, Mitch Hoffses and R.J. Anderson, while Tommy McCarthy and Tyler Shullick received Arrive and Drive Awards.
Driving champions in addition to the aforementioned included Mike Spencer of Temecula, Calif. (AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprints), Tony Hunt of Lincoln, Calif. (AMSOIL Western Sprints and Western Classic Pavement Sprints), Geoff Ensign of Sebastopol, Calif. (Western Classic Sprints), Cory Kruseman of Ventura, Calif. (Mopar Western Midgets), Jim Waters of West Jordan, Utah (Rocky Mountain Sprint and Utah Ford Focus), Richard VanderWeerd of Visalia, Calif. (West Coast 360 Sprint), Taylor Ferns of Shelby Township, Mich. (Mopar D1 Midget), Joe Krawiec of Bristol, Conn. (DMA Midget), Ross Rankine of Willard, Ohio (Midwest Ford Focus), Brodie Kostecki of Roseville, Calif. (Western Ford Focus and Focus Young Guns), Jared Irvan of Midland, N.C. (Eastern Focus Young Guns) and Sam McGhee of Camby, Ind. (Midwest Focus Young Guns).
Lyn St. James, founder of the Women in the Winners Circle program joined 2004 USAC Speedrome Midget Champion Sondi Eden in celebrating along with newly-crowned USAC Mopar D1 Midget Champ Taylor Ferns. Ferns became USAC’s second female driving champion in 2011 while Jessica Clark claimed a pair of Western Ford Focus titles to expand the list of USAC female driving champs to three.
Darren Hagen of Riverside, Calif. was honored as the top USAC pavement Midget driver, while Bobby Santos of Franklin, Mass. was honored as the top pavement Sprint driver of 2011.
Honored as USAC .25 Midget National Champions as a result of their “Generation Next Tour” titles were Harrison Burton of Huntersville, NC (Light 160), Tyler Clem of St. Petersburg, FL (Junior Honda), Bryant Dawson of Phoenix, AZ (Mod and Heavy AA), Michael Fanelli of Rio Rancho, NM (Unrestricted Animal), Carson Hocevar of Portage, MI (Junior Stock and Junior Animal), Jared Irvan of Midland, NC (Senior Honda), Garrett Jones of West Palm Beach, FL (Light World Formula and Senior Animal) Ryan Krachun of Neshanic, NJ (B), Mark Miller of Mooresville, NC (Heavy 160), Wil Raber of Allegan, MI (Heavy Honda), Katlyn Stanley of Concord, NC (Heavy World Formula) and Gage Walker of Fairland, IN (Light AA).
Ford Racing was presented the Midget Engine Manufacturer of the Year award, while Mopar received the TORC Engine Manufacturer of the Year honors. B.F. Goodrich earned the TORC Tire Manufacturer of the Year award.
Andrew Caddell of Graham, Wash. accepted the TORC TRAXXAS MAXX Award for posting the most “fastest laps” during the 2011 Pro Light 2WD campaign.
R.J. Anderson of Riverside, Calif., also a Pro Light 2WD participant, was named TORC “Rookie of the Year,” and Mark Jenkins of Fairview, Texas, a Pro 4x4 participant, was named the “Most Improved” TORC driver.
Oakley Bomb awards went to Bryce Menzies (Pro 2WD) and Ricky Johnson (Pro 4x4).
The second annual “Jack Flannery Award” recognizing determination and perseverance went to Scott Taylor of Belvidere, Ill. The TORC “Crew Chief of the Year” honors went to Mike Krahling of Red Bull Team Menzies.
A special USAC “Spirit of Youth Award” was presented to Melissa Osborne of Winston Salem, N.C. for her many contributions to the sport of quarter-midget racing.
National car entrant champions included Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing of Brownsburg, Ind. (Silver Crown), Tony Stewart Racing (National Sprint Car) and Corey Tucker Racing/BCI/Curb-Agajanian of Noblesville, Ind. (National Midget).
USAC President Kevin Miller presented USAC Special Appreciation Awards to Traxxas (corporate) and Gary Reed of Toyota (individual) for their contributions and dedicated service to the racing community.
Randy Bernard, Chief Executive Officer for INDYCAR, was named as the recipient of USAC’s prestigious Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence, recognizing his commitment to USAC and its grass-roots racing endeavors.
USAC’s 2011 “Race Organizer of the Year” awards were presented to Bob Miller for the Sprint Eastern Storm series (National) and Dennis Gage of Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif. (Western).
Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif. earned the 2011! USAC Silver Crown “Rookie of the Year” honors as well as the Bob Stroud Memorial National Midget “Rookie of the Year” Award. Coleman Gulick of Binghamton, N.Y. received the National Sprint Car “Rookie of the Year” honors.
Casey Riggs of Shelbyville, Ind. and Zach Daum of Pocahontas, Ill were named USAC “Most Improved” National Drivers of 2011.
The Jim Blunk Award for contributions to the sport of Midget racing went to three-time USAC National Midget Champion Jason Leffler in recognition of his commitment to the history of the sport of Midget auto racing.
USAC’s 2011 “Mechanical Achievement of the Year” awards went to Tony Stewart Racing’s John Sayne and Brad Mariscotti.
Second and third-place drivers and car entrants in USAC’s National racing series also received their year-end recognition and awards.
All USAC driving champions were also presented one-year memberships by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.
Joe DeFabis of DeFabis Photography, USAC’s Official Portrait Studio, presented Championship Photos to the 2011 National driving champions.
Floral decorations were provided by Jockish Flowers of Indianapolis. Tim Spillman of Auto Racing Ministries delivered the invocation.