AT FRIDAY’S 54th “NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS” CELEBRATION
Bud Kaeding, Levi Jones and Brad Kuhn headlined Friday night’s 54th USAC “Night of Champions” National Awards Banquet in Indianapolis, Ind.
Kaeding, of Campbell, Calif. and his BK Motorsports Team, celebrating their third series championship. The title makes Kaeding only the second to claim three Silver Crown titles since the series debuted in 1971. Jimmy Sills won championships in 1990, 1994 and 1996. Joining Kaeding in Friday’s spotlight were National Sprint Car Champion Levi Jones of Avon, Ind. and Mopar National Midget Champion Brad Kuhn, also of Avon. They were among numerous racing series champions and special recipients who earned distinctive Medallions, Oakley timepieces, trophies, Hoosier championship jackets and plaques.
Keys to the City of Indianapolis from the Mayor were presented to Kaeding, Jones and Kuhn in recognition of their 2009 achievements.
Emcee Rob Klepper orchestrated the presentations, which included driver and car entrant champions, Rookies of the Year, Most Improved Drivers and special award recipients, at the Indiana Roof Ballroom.
Driving champions in addition to the aforementioned included Mike Spencer of Temecula, Calif. (USAC/CRA Sprints), Tanner Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif. (Western Sprints), Garrett Hansen of Manhattan Beach, Calif. (Western Midgets), Mike Murgoitio of Meridian, Ida. (Rocky Mountain Sprint), Brad Loyet of Sunset Hills, Mo. (USAC/SMRS Great Plains Midget), Kyle Hamilton of Danville, Ind. (National Pavement Ford Focus and Regional Midget), Joe Liguori of Tampa, Fla. (Midwest and UMARA Ford Focus), Jeremy Frankoski of Huntersville, N.C. (Carolina Ford Focus), Nik Romano of Atherton, Calif. (California Pavement Ford Focus), Brody Roa of Buena Park, Calif. (California Dirt Ford Focus), Kipp Posey of Lehi, Utah (Utah Ford Focus), Kyle Edwards of Fountain View, Calif. (California Young Guns) and Dillon Welch of Noblesville, Ind. (Kenyon Midget). Alex Jacobsen of San Jose, Calif. and Andrew Mulhearn of Whittier, Calif. joined Hamilton as recipients of the Henry Ford Sweepstakes Trophy emblematic of National Ford Focus titles. Jasobsen won the Young Guns and Mulhearn won the California Dirt.
USAC’s inaugural champions of the Traxxas TORC Off-Road Championships were honored and included Jeff Kincaid of Argonne, Wisc. (Pro Light), Rob MacCachren of Las Vegas, Nev. (Amsoil Pro 2WD) and Rick Huseman of Riverside, Calif. (Kumho Pro 4x4).
Honored as inaugural USAC .25 Midget National Champions as a result of their victories at the “Battle at the Brickyard” were Garrett Ottman, Groveport, OH (Junior Rookie), Mox Price, Payne, OH (Junior Honda), Ross Rankine, Willard, OH (Senior Honda), Frankie Nervo, Stow, OH (Light 160), Ryan Fleming, Xenia, OH (Heavy B & Heavy AA), Logan Wennesheimer, Waterford, MI (Junior Stock), Cannon Konzer, Holly, MI (Heavy 160 & Heavy World Formula), Dean Creech, Clawson, MI (Half), Miranda Bieghler, Plainfield, IN (Senior Rookie), Gage Walker, Fairland, IN (Light World Formula), Zachary Hampton, Clayton, IN (Light B), Braden Nash, Winauma, FL (Junior Rookie), Brayden Trigueiro, Caruthers, CA (Senior Stock), Mike Gass, Worth, IL (Heavy Honda), Brendon Bock, Franklin Square, NY (Light AA & Light Mod) and Michael McConahay, Pickerington, OH (Heavy Mod).
A special USAC “Spirit of Youth Award” was presented to Eric Rankine of Willard, Ohio for his many contributions to the sport of quarter-midget racing.
National car entrant champions included BK Motorsports of Indianapolis, Ind. (Silver Crown), Tony Stewart Racing of Brownsburg, Ind. (National Sprint Car), RW Motorsports of Lederach, Pa. (National Midget) and Gregg Steele of Shelbyville, Ind. (Pavement Ford Focus).
Car entrant champions honored Friday night also included TK Motorsports of Kingsburg, Calif. (Western Sprint Car); Jerome Rodela of El Monte, Calif. (Western Midget); Ron Chaffin Motorsports of Madera, Calif. (USAC/CRA Sprint Car); John Givens of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (Midwest and UMARA Ford Focus); Tracy Trotter of Denver, N.C. (Carolina Ford Focus); Western Speed Racing of Fresno, Calif. (California Paved Ford Focus); Brody Roa (California Dirt Ford Focus); Mike Hamilton of Danville, Ind. (Regional Midget); Welch Racing of Noblesville, Ind. (Kenyon Midget), Kerry Posey of Springville, Utah (Utah Ford Focus) and Edwards (California Young Guns).
USAC President Kevin Miller presented USAC Special Recognition Awards to Oakley (corporate) and Ricky Johnson (individual) for their contributions and dedicated service to the racing community.
Retiring USAC Chairman of the Board John Capels was named as the recipient of USAC’s prestigious Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence, recognizing his long tenure as a USAC participant and executive.
USAC’s 2010 “Race Organizer of the Year” awards were presented to Eldora Speedway (National) and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Western).
Kody Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif. earned the 2009 USAC Silver Crown “Rookie of the Year” honors, while Henry Clarke of Villa Park, Calif. received the National Sprint Car “Rookie of the Year” honors. The Bob Stroud Memorial National Midget “Rookie of the Year” Award went to Zach Daum of Pocahontas, Ill.
Shane Hmiel of Huntersville, N.C. was named USAC “Most Improved” National Driver of 2009.
USAC’s 2009 “Mechanical Achievement of the Year” award went to Scott Benic of Fairmount, Ind.
Cole Whitt of Alpine, Calif. was presented the 2009 USAC “Super License,” earning the most National feature event points.
Buck and Betty Rice of Pro Source Consultants of Grand Saline, Texas presented their 2009 “Hard Work” awards to Thomas Buch/VKCC Racing of Brownstown, Pa. (National Sprint cars) and Dan Daum of Greenville, Ill. (National Midgets).
Second and third-place drivers and car entrants in USAC’s National racing series also received their year-end recognition and awards.
Joe DeFabis of DeFabis Photography, USAC’s Official Portrait Studio, presented his Championship Photo Artworks to the 2009 National driving champions.
Two special awards ordinarily presented during the “Night of Champions” will be presented January 30 at USAC’s “Western Awards Banquet.” They are the Jim Blunk Award for contributions to the sport of Midget racing and the Ross Hadley Memorial Achievement Award. Wally Pankratz of Orange, Calif. was announced as the recipient of the Blunk Award and Gordon Tyler of Centerville, Utah was announced as the winner of the Hadley Award.
Highlighting the evening’s ceremonies were appearances by seven-time USAC National Midget Champion Mel Kenyon, who presented Brad Kuhn’s championship awards, and three-time USAC National Sprint Car Champion Larry Dickson, who presented Levi Jones’ championship awards.
Floral decorations were provided by Jockish Flowers of Indianapolis. Tim Spillman of Auto Racing Ministries delivered the invocation, while the acoustical duo of Dave and Rae served as entertainment for dining and dancing.