By Jordan Kuehne
LOVES PARK, Ill. (Monday, January 25th, 2010) – The Rockford Speedway closed the book on their 2009 season in grand fashion on Saturday evening, honoring all 13 season champions as well as Big 8 Series Champion Ross Kenseth at the 62nd annual Champions’ Banquet. Held at the Forest Hills Lodge located adjacent to the historic high-banked facility, the banquet welcomed over 400 drivers, crew members, fans, and friends, as two-time Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Models champion Jerry Gille took home another champions’ jacket and received a warm round of applause in honor of his excellent season.
“We never had a chance to defend at Madison after winning the 1999 Super Late Model championship,” a stoic Gille reflected during his speech. “To come back and be able to defend this year meant a lot, especially since we dug ourselves a hole at first. This one is more satisfying than 2008 for that reason.”
While feasting on prime rib and catching up on their offseasons so far, many drivers began to turn their sights toward the upcoming season that officially gets underway in April at the quarter-mile. That, however, didn’t mean drivers like Bargain Hunter Sportsman champion Doug Bennett couldn’t take a moment to reflect on the season that was.
“We’ve been trying to get one of these [championships] for 12 years,” an emotional Bennett said in a heartfelt acceptance speech. “To get this title by two points, I can’t begin to tell you what it means to me. [Runner-up] Fred Nason had a helping hand, and we did it all with borrowed equipment.”
Bennett’s speech underscored the consensus feeling behind banquet night, which served as a celebration of the 2009 season and short track racing in general. Over 60 awards in total were given away throughout the evening, including the Jody Deery Award of Excellence which was bestowed upon Bennett’s daughter Tabatha, the videographer for the track. The final Hugh G. Deery Memorial Award went to long-time short track racing contributors Ed and Nancy Gille, whom both warmly accepted the award amidst a standing ovation.
With Rockford Speedway Race Director Steve Dickson emceeing, the ceremony saw over $40,000 dollars in prize money and certificates spread among numerous drivers from several divisions. Receiving the Rockford Speedway Sportsman of the Year award was Lloyd Hawkins, while David Hurd took home Craftsman Mechanic of the Year honors.
Racing in the Midwest will make its return on Saturday, April 10th with the Stone & Double T Enduro. A week later, on Sunday, April 18th, the 33rd annual Spring Classic will bring high powered race engines around the Midwest back to life with the BRP Big 8 Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet and the Mid-American Stock Car Series in action. Featuring a new progressive racing format that goes along with a brand new Hoosier racing tire, the Big 8 Series will headline the action culminating in an intense 58-lap duel. The Mid-American Stock Car Series will provide fireworks of their own, starring on the undercard as they open their season with a 50-lap feature contest.
A complete 2010 Rockford Speedway schedule will be released shortly, with details to follow.
For more information on the upcoming 2010 season, please call the Speedway Box Office at (815) 633-1500 or visit the track’s website at www.rockfordspeedway.com.
Complete List of Awards Winners from 62nd annual Champions' Banquet.
Yellowbook Hornet Challenge Champion: Mark Vicencio
National Figure 8 League Champion: Tom Schneider
Stateline Staffing Services Winged Women on Wheels Champion: Robin Ulrey
INEX Legends Champion: Rachael Pinkerman
INEX Bandeleros: Cory Cootware
Allison Legacy Champion: Dwight Dunlap
Sam's Drive-In RoadRunner Challenge Champion: Jason Van Hise
Mtn Dew RoadRunner Super Summer Series Champion: Gene Marocco
Crap Scrappers Hornets Champion: Alan Bekielewski
Mtn Dew RoadRunners Champion: Bobby Frisch
BRP Big 8 Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet Champion: Ross Kenseth
Budweiser American Short Trackers Champion: George Sparkman
Bargain Hunter Sportsman Champion: Doug Bennett
Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Models Track Champion: Jerry Gille
NASCAR Home Tracks Illinois State Champion: Ricky Bilderback
Speedway Auto Mall Dash Season Winners
Mtn Dew RoadRunners: Bobby Frisch
Budweiser American Short Trackers: BJ Sparkman
Bargain Hunter Sportsman: Fred Nason
Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Models: Jon Reynolds Jr.
Accounting 101 Award (The Terri Gehrke Award): Gene Marocco
Diamond in the Rough Award: Dana Czach Jr.
Driver Development Award: Mikie Breiner
Git 'R Done Award: Arlyn Roush
Outrageous Fortune Award: Matt Berger
Rock of Gibraltar Award: Josh Lundy
The Sharing Award: Billy McCoy
Extra Lap Award: Kyle Watts
Barack Obama Award: Laura Siarkawicz
Dukes of Hazzard Award: Scott Hoeft for his launch on the wall inside turn three
Brett Favre Award: Lloyd Hawkins
Always There Through Hell & High Water Award: Joe Darnell
iPod Award: Eric Schoffen
Shake 'N Bake Award: Brandon Eash
Ken Schrader Award: Dave Lignell
Lead, Follow, Or Get Out of the Way Award: Jon Reynolds Jr.
Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award: Dave Hurd
Lincoln Electric Team Player of the Year Award: Rich Hinerichsen
Budweiser Rookie of the Year Awards
American Short Trackers: Scott Hoeft
All-American Sportsman: Rob Goodman
NASCAR Late Models: Mikie Breiner
Big 8 Series: James Swan
Best Appearing Car Awards
NASCAR Late Models: Jon Reynolds Jr.
All-American Sportsman: Don Exline
American Short Trackers: Jason Bragg
RoadRunners: Jason Brockway
Hornets: David Pautsch Jr.
Most Improved Driver Awards
NASCAR Late Models: Mark Hartline
All-American Sportsman: Ron Morris
American Short Trackers: Rachel Sparkman
Sportsman of the Year Award: Lloyd Hawkins
Jody Deery Award of Excellence: Tabatha Bennett
25th and final Hugh G. Deery Memorial Award: Ed and Nancy Gille
This article was posted to the website on January 26th, 2010
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