Rt 5 Vernon, NY
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VERONA, NY- This past Saturday November 9 at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort, several hundred people gathered to celebrate the 2013 season at the Utica-Rome Speedway.  Along with honoring the accomplishments of the top drivers in the four weekly divisions, the nearly 400 attendees were also given a preview of the 2014 season at the popular Vernon oval.

The night’s activities kicked off with the much anticipated announcement that Utica-Rome will be partnering with NASCAR for the 2014 season as drivers will compete in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series which will add to an already robust point fund at the Vernon oval.  Utica-Rome Speedway already has a rich history with NASCAR and looks forward to adding more in the coming years.  Kevin Nevalainen, Senior Manager of Weekly Racing Operations for NASCAR, was on hand for the announcement and spoke to the crowd about what to expect from NASCAR and some of the benefits of the sanctioning.

When the awards portions of the night began, the top ten in each division was honored along with several special awards.

In the Modifieds, Stewart Friesen was honored for his fourth consecutive title(sixth overall), and his race team’s co owner Roxann Cullen was on hand to accept the $10,000 championship check.  Friesen was in Charlotte competing in the World Finals, which he coincidently won at the same time he was being honored for his track championship.  Cullen read a prepared speech by Friesen, who thanked his crew for their hard work and looked forward to defending his title in 2014.  Also receiving recognition for their efforts was second place point man Matt Sheppard, who won $7,000 for his runner up finish in the standings.  Todd Burley($4,500), Mike Mahaney($3,000), and Ryan Phelps($2,500) rounded out the top five spots in the standings.  The rest of the top ten receiving money was Pat Ward($1,700), Willy Decker($1,500), Jimmy Davis($1,400), Alan Johnson($1,300), and Mike Bowman($1,200).  Special awards were also given with Sheppard (Most Outstanding Performance), Bowman (Determination Award), and Phelps (Most Improved) receiving them.

Matt Janczuk was once again honored as the Sportsman track champion, which would be his third consecutive championship.  While accepting his championship hardware, Janczuk stated his intentions to move up into the Modified ranks for the 2014 season.  Jeremy Vunk, Claude Hutchings Jr., Jack Miller, and Heath Carney filled out the top five honorees with Steve Way, Chris Mackey, Randy Shantel, AJ Filbeck, and Tye-Scott Rood rounded out the top ten.  Vunk(Outstanding Performance), Pope (Determination), and Hutchings (Most Improved) were the recipients of the Sportsman division’s special awards.

Tom Denton was honored for his seventh overall title (third consecutive) in the Pro Stocks ranks while Glenn Forward, Bret Belden, Pete Stefanski, and Mark Effner on hand to collect their top five honors.  Shawn Frost, Ed Ostrander, Chris Carr, AJ Digsby, and Joe Palmer were also honored while Forward (Outstanding Performance), Bill Knapp (Determination), and Corey Locke (Most Improved) collected special awards.

In the Pure Stocks, Ron Hawker claimed his fourth overall title (third consecutive) over teammate Ricky Breed with Bill Mason, Chris Cunningham, and Frank Hyatt rounding out the top five.  Jim Thomas, Chris Watkins, Andy Szewczyk, Bryan Owens, and Russ Marsden filled out the top ten spots in the point standings.  Receiving special awards were Breed (Outstanding Performance), Owens (Determination), and Watkins (Most Improved).

After the awards presentation was completed, Director of Operations Barb Clark took to the stage and thanked everyone involved with making the 2013 season a success. Clark named each race official one by one, giving each one their due recognition.  In closing, she stated how she looked forward to the upcoming season.

Closing out the evening was Race Director John Tiff, who began by giving a quick synopsis of the 2013 season.  He then moved into what competitors should expect for the 2014 season, starting on the decision to go NASCAR.  Besides the insurance benefits to NASCAR licensed members, Tiff touched on that the Modifieds will see an increase in their point fund by $10,000 overall with the track champion’s share now up to $13,000 total.  The other three divisions will also see an increase in their season ending point funds as long as they are NASCAR licensed competitors. 

Next, Tiff discussed the high paying in 2014 for the Modifieds, which will be anchored by the traditional Victoria 200 Weekend, New Yorker 200 Weekend, and Night of Legends event.  Also mentioned was the return of the Super DIRTcar Series to the Vernon oval, which will be held on Wednesday June 25.  With Utica-Rome Speedway participating in the Super DIRTcar Series, it was announced that when the series goes to Cornwall on June 29, that the Modifieds will compete in a non point event at Utica-Rome Speedway which will allow and series regular that competes weekly at UR will be able to Cornwall without penalty.  A competitor that races Utica-Rome Speedway weekly will now have the opportunity to compete for the $13,000 to win track title, NASCAR State and National titles, Super DIRTcar Series title, Race of Champions Modified Series, and the American Racer Cup without penalty.

Rule changes were the next topic discussed and as usual they were minor in detail.  Sail panels will now be allowed weekly in the Modifieds, using the rules from the Victoria and New Yorker events.  The only change in the Sportsman is that they will now be allowed to use MSD ignition as will the Pro Stocks.  Also, aftermarket front sub frames will allowed in the Pro Stocks.  In the Pure Stocks, there will be a cleanup of the language concerning tire sizes and now there will be a specific size mandated.  Other than the rule changes mentioned, everything will remain the same as it was in 2013.

Tiff also announced that the 2014 version of the Cole Cup will now pay $10,000 to the winner.  The first annual event this past September drew over 50 of the best 360 drivers in the Northeast. 

Closing out his speech, Tiff announced that the 2014 season will begin on April 27 and felt very strongly about their weekly program, which paid out nearly $70,000 in point fund and tire refund money in 2013.  That total will be bolstered by over $15,000 in 2014 with the addition of NASCAR.

The night was then closed out by several hours of dancing and bench racing as attendees discussed that night’s announcements. 

Keep up to date on all the off season happenings at the Utica-Rome Speedway by logging on to www.uticaromespeedway.com or by calling the speedway office at (315) 725-5709.