51's Midwest Times
Cleaning up 2011, Moves for 2011, Awards and Honors & More
By Matt Prieur, Midwest Editor - Twitter: @mattprieur
Former Driver Takes Marketing Role at Madison

Milton, Wisconsin native, Jason Tyler, a former competitor in the old Varney Late Model Series has taken on a new role for the 2012 racing season; Business & Marketing Manager of the fast ½ (0.500) mile high-banked paved oval of Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin.  The 2012 racing season at the Central Wisconsin speed plant begins on  Saturday & Sunday, May 5-6th with the ASA Midwest Tour Season Opener, the 4th annual Joe Shear Classic 136.

Amongst the changes right away includes Tyler incorporating the Super Late Models for six events.

“We have made some very exciting changes to our racing format that I feel will make it hard for fans to stay sitting down in their seats. I can promise fans that their experience at MIS not only this year but for years to come will not be the same old racing that you’re used to seeing.”

Tyler calls this move to the front office one to “The other side of the fence.”

“We’re working on bringing in an FM frequency so fans can hear our announcers better. We are going to be working with our kids’ club sponsor to make it bigger and better because to me it is all about the children and family. We are going to have an awesome souvenir stand that might be hard to stay away from and great food that everyone will love.

“Also I really am working to get our fans more involved with our teams and drivers. Like any sport you need to have someone to cheer for, and I want people to feel like they’re a part of the teams.”

Tyler can be reached at: 1 (608) 513-9709 or via email at jasontyler@mis-racing.com For more information about Madison International Speedway and the upcoming 2012 season check out the track website: www.mis-racing.com or www.madisoninternationalspeedway.com

Father – Son Combination Split Michigan NASCAR Championships

A father and son took their championship race to the final event of the 2011 season, and both ended up with NASCAR Whelen All-American Series titles.

Teammates Andy Bozell Sr., 48 and his son Phil Bozell, 28, both of Portage, Mich., battled to the finish in Kalamazoo (MI) Speedway’s Outlaw Super Late Model Division point race. Andy won his fourth NASCAR Michigan championship by 18 points over his son.

While dad won the NASCAR state title, sonl won his first NASCAR track championship by 42 points over his dad.  NASCAR points are awarded for feature finishes only, while the speedway awards additional track points for qualifying and heat races, creating the opportunity for dual championships.  Andy won the state title with five wins, and 10 top fives and top 10s in 11 starts. Phil won the track championship with three wins, nine top-fives and 11 top-10s in 11 starts.

Phil was also recently announced as the winner of the Henry J. Fitzwater Memorial Driver of the Year Award which is presented annually at the Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club Awards Banquet.

Hantz moves over to Crew Chief Role With Jones

Angola, Indiana veteran, Scott Hantz will take the next step in his racing career beginning with the 2012 racing season. The Hoosier State veteran will serve as the new Crew Chief for 15-year-old rising star, Erik Jones, the 2011 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by GM Performance Parts Champion.  Jones and his Erik Jones Racing Team will be making appearances in both the ARCA/CRA Super Series as well as the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour and major special events for Template Bodied cars throughout the country.

In addition to Hantz's new role as Crew Chief for Erik Jones Racing, Hantz is not completely giving up on driving as he'll make select appearances in the ARCA/CRA Super Series as well as select Outlaw Bodied Super Late Model races throughout the Midwest.

Jones will have a busy schedule himself during the 2012 campaign as in addition to his ARCA/CRA and JEGS/CRA schedules, the Byron, Michigan teenager will also make seven appearances in the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards for Venturini Motorsports.

Fan Club Awards Banquet a Success Again

The 46th annual Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club Awards Banquet was held at the immaculate DeCarlo's Banquet & Convention Center located just north of Detroit in Warren, Michigan on Saturday, January 21st. Track Champions from around the state of Michigan and Northern Ohio were honored for their accomplishments from the 2011 racing season. Speed51.com Midwest Editor, Matt Prieur served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

The most prestigious award handed out at this gala affair would be the Henry J. Fitzwater Memorial Driver of the Year Award which went to 2011 Kalamazoo Speedway Outlaw Super Late Models Track Champion, Phil Bozell for his accomplishments including sweeping all four of the Kalamazoo, Michigan speed plants biggest events; The Intimidator 100, the All-Star Shootout, the Kalamazoo Klash, and the Super Shoe Nationals.

Other highlighted awards included the 2011 Tom Carnegie Memorial Announcer of the Year Award which was won by the Voice of the World of Outlaws Late Models Series, Rick Eshelman, a Trenton, Michigan native who now calls Phenix City, Alabama home, formally announced for Flat Rock and Toledo Speedways early in his career.

Dr. Robert Hubbard, the creator of the HANS Device was the recipient of the Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club (MARFC) President's Award while the MARFC / Eddie Sachs Memorial Lifetime Achievement Awards went to the Varney Family for their contributions to the motorsports industry. Longtime Super Late Models competitor, Bob Varney and current Outlaw  Super Late Models driver in the Midwest, Jack Varney Jr., were two of several representatives of the Varney family who were on hand to receive the prestigious award.

SPEED TV's "NASCAR Race Day" were the winners of the MARFC Electronic Media Award while Kirk Reinbold, the brother of 2011 Dixie Motor Speedway Pro Late Models Track Champion, Jay Reinbold, was named one of two winners of the MARFC Mechanic of the Year Award.

Super Late Models and Pro Late Models/Super Stocks Track Champions on pavement facilities in the Great Lakes State who were honored includes: Ty Dillon-ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards; Dennis Strickland-ARCA Gold Cup Outlaws Super Late Models Series; Jeff Owens-Auto City Speedway Super Stocks, Reinbold, Bozell, Leo Smith-Owosso Speedway Pro Late Models, Tim Ryan-Spartan Speedway Outlaw Super Late Models, Brian Huntley-Springport Motor Speedway Outlaw Super Late Models, and Joe Hodgeson Jr.-Whittemore Speedway Pro Late Models. 

Champion Racing Association (CRA) Awards Banquet Officially Closes out the 2011 Racing Season

Champion Racing Association (CRA) hosted their 2011 Awards Banquet on Friday and Saturday, January 13-14th at Fishers Convention Center, located northeast of Indianapolis in Fishers, Indiana.  The Sullivan R.V. CRA Late Models Sportsman Series, EDCO Welding CRA Street Stocks Series, and Vore's Welding & Steel CRA Front Wheel Drive Compacts were honored on Friday, January 13th while the CRA Super Series (Now ARCA/CRA Super Series) and JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by GM Performance Parts shared the spotlight on Saturday, January 14th.  Here are a few excepts taken from the CRA Awards Banquet Weekend....

Derrick Griffin – 2011 CRA Super Series Champion / 2011 Rookie of the Year

South Bend, Indiana driver, Derrick Griffin became the first driver since three-time CRA Super Series Champion, Scott Hantz, the 2011 runner-up, to win both the CRA Super Series Championship and Rookie of the Year title in the same season.  The 20-year-old who drove for Welch & Wilson Motorsports throughout his championship season won the title despite not winning a main event during the year.  He nailed down the series title during the series’ premier event, the Winchester 400 after securing a podium finish and in turn, just edging Hantz for the title.

Ironically, Welch & Wilson Motorsports has moved on to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series leaving Griffin, the reigning series champion without a ride heading into the upcoming 2012 racing season.  He did race in the season ending Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida back in December 2011, driving a car fielded by his former car owner during his 2010 title run in the now defunct Great Lakes Outlaw Late Model Series, Bobby Blount.

Griffin beat out Hantz by just 20 markers to win the series championship while overwhelmingly beating out 2010 Ken-Ten Super Late Model Series Champion, Brentwood, Tennessee teenager, Mason Mingus for the freshman title.  All of his accomplishments came with crew chief, Scott Neal calling the shots from the pit box. Griffin hopes to come back to what is now the ARCA/CRA Super Series for the upcoming 2012 racing season to defend his title and hopes to have an announcement soon regarding his 2012 plans.

Erik Jones – 2011 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by GM Performance Parts Champion

Byron, Michigan rising star, Erik Jones stamped an exclamation point on his quest in becoming one of the top rising stars in the country as in only his second season behind the wheel of a Late Model, and only third season racing in any type of full-bodied machines, the 15-year-old proved that he’s a force to be reckoned with in the short track racing world despite the fact that he’s still four months away from even getting his driver’s license.

During his championship run, Jones scored two trips to victory lane with those coming at Rockford Speedway in Loves Park, Illinois as well as an emotional win at his home track of Owosso Speedway in Ovid, Michigan over the Labor Day Holiday Weekend. In 11 events and in addition to his two victories, Jones also grabbed seven Fast Qualifier Awards and in the final point’s tallies, he would edge out crafty veteran, Eddie Hoffman to win the inaugural JEGS/CRA title.

To cap off an already stellar season, and in just his second career start behind the wheel of a full blown Super Late Model, the Great Lakes State teenager would make the trip to New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and withstand the challenges from the likes of Tim Russell, Wayne Anderson, and others to win the Governors Cup 200.

For the 2012 racing season, Jones will make select appearances in the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards with his debut coming on March 10th at Mobile International Speedway in Mobile, Alabama. In addition to his ARCA starts, he’ll also appear in several races within the ARCA/CRA Super Series as well as his old stomping grounds within the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by GM Performance Parts. His new crew chief for 2012 will be former three-time CRA Super Series Champion, Scott Hantz.

As for the inaugural 2011 Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year title Presented by Howe Racing Enterprises, another 15-year-old took those honors as Delaware, Ohio teenager Cody Coughlin secured the freshman title after pulling away from fellow rookie, 19-year-old Jimmy Novak in the late stages of the season. In addition to winning the freshman title, the JEGS.com driver also finished an impressive sixth overall in the final points standings.

Tweedy and Nelms carry out the bulk of special honors and contingency awards

During the CRA Awards Banquet, several special awards and drawings were held to reward those teams in both ARCA/CRA and JEGS/CRA for their season long accomplishments. Among the most prestigious awards handed out was the Darrell Teal Memorial Dedication Award which went to long-time CRA competitor and 1997 ARCA/CRA Super Series Champion, Greenfield, Indiana veteran, Kenny Tweedy.

For the first time, the Teal Dedication Award was also given to a JEGS/CRA driver as well and it would be a surprised Josh Nelms, who made the haul to every race in the series’ inaugural season from Lockport, Illinois taking home the hardware.

The Champion Racing Association Sportsman of the Year Awards were distributed and for ARCA/CRA it would be Akron, Ohio driver, Nick Gullatta receiving the award while the first CRA Sportsman of the Year Award for JEGS/CRA went to DeWitt, Michigan stand out, 19-year-old Chad Finley.

Various Special Awards and Contingency Certificates were drawn as well and in ARCA/CRA, Tweedy received two of those while Scott Hantz, Gullatta, Terry Fisher Jr., Jay Niewiek, Jason Dietsch, Welch & Wilson Motorsports #14 entry, Damon Ecoff, Mason Mingus, and Derrick Griffin were the winners of those.

In JEGS/CRA, Nelms joked that he would “Need a U-Haul truck” to carry home all the awards and certificates he and his Trgovich Racing Team won throughout the night. He would receive three sponsor / contingency certificates with a total value of over $3,000 while Canadian Brandon Watson won two separate prizes. Tom Woodin, Eddie Hoffman, Finley, Erik Jones, Brent Downey, Jimmy Novak, and the Lorz Motorsports #76 entry also all walked away with single prizes as well.

Dawson honored for 15 years of dedication to Champion Racing Association

Anderson Speedway Promoter, Rick Dawson never expected to receive any type of award when he attended the CRA Awards Banquet. In addition, CRA has traditionally never awarded any type of “Promoter of the Year” award. That all changed last Saturday night when CRA’s R.J. Scott and Glenn Luckett presented Dawson with a special “15-Year Promoter of the Year” Award. The fast ¼ (0.250) mile high-banked paved oval in central Indiana is the only track in the series’ 15-year history to host a CRA Super Series event every year of the series existence.

Support divisions within CRA honored

On Friday, January 13th, the three support divisions within Champion Racing Association, the Sullivan R.V. CRA Late Model Sportsman Series, the EDCO Welding CRA Street Stocks Series, and the Vore’s Welding & Steel CRA Front Wheel Drive Compacts Series were honored for their achievements from the 2011 racing season.

In the Sullivan R.V. CRA Late Model Sportsman Series, Cedar Lake, Indiana native, Keith Sterkowitz became a two-time series champion as the newly crowned 2011 titlist added his second career series championship to his 2006 series title. Sterkowitz out-dueled New Castle, Indiana driver, Jason Atkinson for the championship. DeGraff, Ohio freshman, Chris Parker won the series’ Rookie of the Year title.

As for the EDCO Welding CRA Street Stocks Series, 2005 CRA Super Series Champion, Jeff Lane would add a CRA Street Stocks Series championship to his long and impressive resume as the veteran from Knightstown, Indiana, who also finished 11th in the series’ premier tour, would beat out Anderson, Indiana driver, Josh Poore for the series championship. Bremen, Indiana rookie, J.J. Schafer would secure the 2011 Rookie of the Year honors.

Finally in what would be the final season for the Vore’s Welding & Steel CRA Front Wheel Drive Compacts Series, Fort Wayne, Indiana driver, Jeff Shelmadine withstood a late season charge from 2011 CRA FWD Compacts Rookie of the Year, 16-year-old Kyle Crump to score the final series title. During the off-season, CRA officials announced that that they will no longer sanction the FWD Compacts racing series starting with the upcoming 2012 season.

CRA had the Compacts as part of their roster of touring series for five seasons, but officials have seen a significant reduction in the number of racers willing to travel with the series over the past two seasons.

"The small purses offered in that type racing just don’t lend itself to a traveling type series. Another challenge was developing a set of rules that were economical and enforceable for a traveling series. 90% of the races have been at one track over the past two seasons, which was Winchester Speedway. It just makes better business sense if the group managed itself." Explained CRA Series Director, Glenn Luckett.

The FWD Compacts are expected to be managed by a group of series car owners with several races already scheduled for the 2012 season at Winchester Speedway. CRA has offered its support to the new owners group in any way it can for the upcoming 2012 season in hopes of making a smooth transition with that racing organization.

"We would also like to thank Steve Vore for his great support as a series sponsor for those five seasons," added Luckett. "His support as a sponsor and a car owner was greatly appreciated by CRA and by everyone involved with the FWD Compacts."

Scott Hantz will be seeing the track from a new view as the crew chief for Erik Jones.
Midwest Racing Scene Editor / Publisher Terry Fitzwater (Left) congratulates Phil Bozell (Right) after Bozell won the 2011 Henry J. Fitzwater Memorial Driver of the Year Award at the 46th annual Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club Awards Banquet. (Paul Anton / MARFC Photo)

Andy and Phil Bozell chase each other at Kalamazoo. (track photo)
It was a clean sweep for Derrick Griffin, but what's next?

Madison has a new marketing manager, former racer Jason Tyler.