Rt 5 Vernon, NY
VERNON, NY- This past Saturday on November 12, Utica-Rome Speedway concluded its 50th Anniversary Season with the annual Awards banquet which was held at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort. This year, just over 400 people attended the season ending gathering to see over $70,000 in point fund and tire money get handed out.
For the second consecutive year, Stewart Friesen claimed the Modified track championship at the Utica-Rome Speedway and the $8,000 check that comes with the title. Friesen, piloting the potent Tom Cullen owned Westmoreland Golf Club sponsored TEO, picked up five wins on the season en route to his fourth track
championship at the Vernon oval. Collecting $6,000 for finishing in the second spot in the standings was former track champion Pat Ward who finished the season with one win. Bobby Varin also collected just one win in point competition while finishing third in the standings which netted him a check for $4,000. While Varin may have been frustrated with his win total during the season, he also collected two non point wins during the season that was worth $10,000 each when dominated both the Victoria 200 and New Yorker 200 events. Popular second generation driver Ronnie Johnson went winless throughout the point season at Utica-Rome on his way to a fourth place spot in the standings, using consistency to gain the $2,500 check. Like Varin, Johnson won a non point event when he took the $5,000 Thunder on the Thruway win to open New Yorker Weekend. Rounding out the top five was Todd Burley who was awarded $2,000 for his efforts. Rounding out the top ten in the standings was Alan Johnson, Bill Trexler, Jr., Willy Decker, Ted Lamb, and Paul Jensen.
Matt Janczuk was honored for his dominating season seven wins in 13 starts in the Sportsman division, and while collecting his trophy and point money, Janczuk had a surprise for his longtime girlfriend Meghan Curro. After his acceptance speech, a video was played on the large video screen where Janczuk proposed to Curro in which she happily accepted. Also honored for their season long efforts was second place point man Chris Mackey, and third place finisher AJ Filbeck. Jeff Leslie and Claude Hutchings, Jr. rounded out the top five in the standings with Jim Rothwell, Steve Way, Randy Shantel, Jack Miller, and Joe Harrington filling out the top ten.
Also having a dominant season in his respective division was Rocky Warner in the Pro Stocks. After finishing behind Tom Denton last season in the standings, Warner set a goal to come into this season and win the title. With seven wins and just two finishes outside the top five, Warner accomplished that goal by taking the 2011 title. Mark Effner also had a stellar season with the fine second place finish in the standings, ahead of former champions Bret Belden and Denton. Bill Knapp came home in the fifth spot ahead of Glenn Forward, Chris Carr, Ed Ostrander, Dave Moyer, and Dan Lashure.
Ron Hawker returned to championship form in 2011 by posting eight wins in 13 starts on his way to his second career Utica-Rome Speedway Pure Stock title. Finishing second in the standings to Hawker was Ricky Breed followed by Dave Pope, Bill Mason, and Frank Hyatt. Rounding out the top ten spots in the final Pure Stock standings was Rob Thieme, Chris Cunningham, Scott Wheelock, Jim Thomas, and Bryan Owens.
After honoring the top ten in points in the weekly divisions, it was time for the special awards with the Newcomer award winners being announced first. Modified rookie Bill Trexler, Jr. was the recipient in the Modified division with Joe Harrington taking the honors in the Sportsman. In the Pro Stocks, it was rookie driver Chris Carr taking the award while Bryan Owens was honored in the Pure Stocks.
Outstanding Performance Awards were the next up with Pat Ward taking the honor in the Modified ranks with Chris Mackey taking the award in the Sportsman. Mark Effner was the Pro Stock award winner with Ricky Breed taking home the award in the Pure Stocks.
AJ Filbeck was awarded the Most Improved Driver in the Sportsman with Bill Mason and Rob Thieme sharing the honor in the Pure Stocks.
The final special award of the evening given out was the Determination award which is annually given to the 11th place point person in the point standings, given in honor of their season long efforts that found them just short of a top ten finish in the point standings. Casey Williams and Jason Rood shared the award in the Modifieds with Craig Pope honored in the Sportsman. Jim Normoyle was the recipient in the Pro Stocks while Stan Clark took home the award in the Pure Stocks.
After the award ceremonies were complete, Race Director John Tiff took to the podium and gave a brief review of the 2011 season and how special the 50th Anniversary Season was. He then touched on the fact the speedway is up for sale but it will be business as usual for the upcoming 2012 season, including the continuation of the popular $8,000 track championship which is just part of the $28,000 plus Modified point fund. Also announced is that there are no planned rule changes in any division with the exception of the Pure Stocks, where the 8” American Racer tire will be the mandated tire for the 2012 season. Tiff also announced that the 51st season opener is scheduled for Sunday April 29.
Next to the podium was Director of Operations Barb Clark who thanked the long list of sponsors that help make the season successful. Clark then moved on to thank the employees individually who had helped throughout the 2011 season.
Clark’s speech officially ended the festivities with the night then capped off with a live DJ and attendees dancing the rest of the night away.
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