UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY CLOSES THE 2015 SEASON WITH AWARDS BANQUET THIS PAST SATURDAY
VERNON, NY- This past Saturday evening, November 28, Utica-Rome Speedway put the finishing touches on the first full season of the Bill and Kim Shea era at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort. Nearly 300 people were in attendance to watch the top ten in each division receive their awards and hear some news on the upcoming 2016 season.
After dinner was served and door prizes were handed out, Bill Shea addressed the crowd on his and Kim’s first year at the speedway and the various things they learned as first year promoters. He then went on to discuss some the exciting plans for the following season. Following Bill’s speech, the top ten in each of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly divisions were called to the stage for their awards.
Matt Sheppard dominated the 2015 season in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly action in the Stampede Steakhouse Modifieds as well as taking some of the big special events along the way. At season’s end, Sheppard ended the year with nine wins at the Vernon oval plus his second Utica-Rome Speedway Modified title, his first since 2002. Sheppard’s strong season also put in contention for the New York State NASCAR title, where he finished the season in second. Larry Wight remained in contention for his first Utica-Rome title until a month to go in the season but had to settle for second in the standings. Wight had three victories this year. Mike Mahaney was honored for his third place finish in the standings, and like Wight, he finished the year with three wins. Popular veteran Pat Ward was fourth in the final standings and also returned to victory lane once this season. In his first full season at the Utica-Rome Speedway, Vic Coffey finished a very strong fifth in the final rankings as well as collecting his first every Modified win at the speedway. Defending seven time champion Stewart Friesen finished the season in the sixth spot in the standings after missing several events due to other obligations. Friesen was still able to grab two Modified wins this season. Honored for his seventh place finish in the standings was Matt Hulsizer, just ahead of eighth place finisher Mike Bowman. Tim Mayne found himself in the top ten in the final standings for the second consecutive season as he found himself tied with Chris Mackey for the ninth spot.
Rocky Warner received the accolades of being the first ever 602 Crate Sportsman Champion in the division’s inaugural season at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Warner dominated the win column with eight total wins on his way to the title, and he was also the highest finisher in the new Upstate Sportsman Alliance Series with a fine fourth place finish. Warner also finished second in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II National Standings. Despite Warner’s victory lane dominance, the title wasn’t decided until the final night of racing as Matt Janczuk used consistency to keep his title hopes alive. Finishing second in points, Janczuk did find victory lane three times. AJ Filbeck finished third in points with two wins, ahead of Cody Clark (one win) and Kyle Kiehn. Rounding out the top ten was Alan Fink (one win), Glenn Forward, Corey Barker (one win), Daryl Nutting, and Rocco Leone. Kiehn was also the recipient of the UNOH Youth Achievement Award.
Long time Open Sportsman campaigner Steve Way finally found himself on stage as the division’s champion after a strong season that found him consistently competing for the win. Way did capture three wins on his way to the title. Claude Hutchings, Jr. finished second in the standings with five wins, over two time winner Jack Miller, three time winner Jeremy Vunk, and another two time winner Heath Carney. Tom Tophoven, Craig Pope, Lucas Heintz, Randy Shantel (one win), and Mike Richmond were also honored for their top ten finishes.
The Pro Street Stock title was another title that went down to the final night of competition to be decided, and it was eight time winner Glenn Forward that was honored as the 2015 champion. Like Warner, Forward’s strong season saw him in contention for a national title as he finished third in the NWAAS Division IV standings. Mike Welch collected the awards for finishing in the second spot in the final standings with three victories. Two time winner Chris Carr finished third, just ahead of another two time winner Mark Effner, and AJ Digsby rounded out the top five. Collecting their awards for finishing in positions six through ten were Travis Welch, Gus Hollner, Ed Ostrander (one win), Bill Trexler III, and Ernie Staelens.
Following the awards presentations, Dave Kingwater got on stage for another round of awards. Kingwater heads up the popular Davidson Auto Kids Club and presented the most popular driver awards as voted on by the youth at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Pat Ward was the recipient in the Stampede Steakhouse Modifieds, while Kyle Kiehn received it for the 602 Crate Sportsman. Jeremy Vunk won the award in the Open Sportsman with Travis Welch was the most popular in the Pro Street Stocks. Kingwater also was excited to announce the Davidson Auto will return as the title sponsor of the Kids Club in 2016.
To close out the evening, Race Director John Tiff took to the stage for a notes on the past season and some rule changes for the Open Sportsman and Pro Stocks for the 2016 season.
Overall, between what was handed out at the banquet combined with the checks the competitors will be receiving from NASCAR in the coming weeks, nearly $80,000 in point money will go to the competitors for the 2015 season.
Utica-Rome Speedway would like to thank all the great sponsors for a great 2015 season, most notably the Mirabito Fuel Group and Stampede Steakhouse for the contributions to the Modified division. Also, a special thank you goes to Gates-Cole Insurance for their continued involvement with Utica-Rome Speedway. For over a decade, Gates-Cole Insurance has been a title sponsor for a majority of the huge events at the Utica-Rome Speedway including the Victoria 200, New Yorker 200, Night of Legends, Cole Cup, and many of the Empire Super Sprints events. Their involvement has been crucial to making Utica-Rome Speedway what it is today.
For offseason news as we look forward to the April 17, 2016 opener, please log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com for all the updates. Utica-Rome Speedway also can be found on Facebook and on Twitter at @UR_Speedway. The speedway office can be contacted by calling (315)829-4557.