On Saturday night September 9, as part of Whelen Engineering’s “Night of Champions,” Rockford Speedway awarded championships in each of its four premiere divisions as well as the Roadrunner Challenge. Between divisional champions, Dash Series champions and Rookies of the Year, eight different drivers walked away with high honors on Saturday night. Out of the 110 drivers to receive points on Saturday nights this summer at Rockford Speedway, the following drivers in the following divisions were high earners in this year’s championship chases…
STANLEY STEEMER NASCAR LATE MODELS
South Beloit’s Michael Bilderback became the first driver since Jerry Gille in 2008 and 2009 to repeat as a Late Model Track Champion at Rockford Speedway, thanks to another solid season behind the wheel. Bilderback, who has won more races than any other Late Model driver at Rockford Speedway over the course of the last three seasons, used his four victories over the summer months to win the championship by 33 points over Matt Berger. Along with a division leading four feature wins, Bilderback also picked up the CoLin Metals Fast Dash Series championship and the NASCAR State Championship.
Berger finished the season with two victories, while Jon Reynolds Jr also captured two wins and a third place finish in the final standings. 14 year old Max Kahler completed one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in recent memory, with a fourth place finish in the final standings aided by his historic feature win during the month of June. Equally impressive were Jake Vanoskey and Dennis Smith Jr. Vanoskey, who made the long trip weekly from Hartford Wisconsin, ended his season fifth in the final standings and locked up the Illinois State NASCAR Rookie of the Year, while Smith finished sixth in points as a rookie, notching his first ever Late Model win in mid-August.
The competition during the 2017 Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model season was a tough as ever, with nine different drivers winning features throughout the summer. No other division in 2017 saw that many different winners. Nine different drivers winning a Late Model Feature at Rockford Speedway was the highest number of feature winners in one year at the track since the year 2009.
BARGAIN HUNTER SPORTSMAN
Chad Smith set out on a mission at the beginning of 2017. Mission complete.
No one was more consistent on each race night as Smith and it showed in the year-end standings. Smith scored a 32 point victory over an almost equally consistent Johnny Robinson II to secure his first-ever Rockford Speedway championship. Smith was a two time feature winner during 2017 and collected more fast times than any other driver in the Bargain Hunter Sportsman division. To go with all of those accolades, Smith was also the winner of the CoLin Metals Dash Championship for the 2017 season.
Robinson won more races than any other driver in the Sportsman division during 2017, collecting four trophies on his way to a runner up points finish. Howie Ware, a one-time feature winner in 2017, came home third place in the standings after an up and down year. Brian White came close to his first ever Sportsman victory and without that breakthrough win, the Belvidere resident still came home fourth in points.
Two-time feature winner Cody Houseweart rounded out the top five in points, polishing off a stellar sophomore season in the division, while Durand’s Garrick Fry finished sixth in the final standings and captured the 2017 Sportsman Rookie of the Year award. Fry capped off the year with his first career fast time during qualifying for “Night of Champions.”
Seven different drivers were feature winners during the 2017 Bargain Hunter Sportsman season.
MILLER LITE AMERICAN SHORT TRACKERS
For the second time in three years, Rockton native Zach Rodriguez took top honors in the Miller Lite American Short Tracker division, winning the championship by a commanding 67 point margin.
With five wins and a slew of fast times to his credit, Rodriguez stayed strong all year long, taking the point lead in early summer and never looking back. Rodriguez was also crowned the CoLin Metals Dash Series champion for his efforts in 2017.
Two time Short Tracker champion Nick Cina Jr was runner-up in this year’s standings, with three wins to his credit while Cambridge Wisconsin’s Aaron Rude came home third in points thanks to a solid second half of the season and five feature wins. Machesney Park’s Shannon Stoltz was not only one of just four drivers to win a Short Tracker feature in 2017, but he also was crowned the division’s Rookie of the Year. David Russell came close to victory lane more than once and those finishes helped him to a fifth place finish in Short Tracker points.
Josh Thiering had a season to remember in the Kickstart Roadrunner division, winning ten of the 18 total Roadrunner features contested on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Already crowned the Wednesday Night Roadrunner Series champion, Thiering clinched the Saturday night Roadrunner championship a week early and won the title by an incredible 68 points. To add to his terrific year, Thiering also claimed the CoLin Metals Fast Dash championship for 2017.
Richie Schinderling finished second in Roadrunner points, his best ever points finish in a season. Schinldering, along with third place Chad Lounsbury and fourth place Adam Cartwright, collected two Roadrunner wins each during the season, while Kevin Memoli earned his first ever Roadrunner feature victory just two weeks ago and finished the regular season fifth in final point standings.
In the five-race Challenge Series, Adam Cartwright took top honors over Richie Schinderling by just two points. Terry Gerber finished third in the Challenge championship chase.