From Mike Leone
Hermitage, PA — Mercer Raceway Park celebrated the 2009 season in grand style Saturday night, January 16, as the beautiful Normandy Banquet Center in Hermitage, Pa. played host for the seventh time to the annual awards banquet and dinner. Also, the FASTRAK Northeast Touring Series banquet was held in conjunction as David Scott was crowned the 2009 champion and the remainder of the top 15 were honored.
Crowed 2009 Mercer champions were Rod George-Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars, Frank Guidace-Approved Toilet Rental Modifieds, Max Blair-4 Your Car Connection FASTRAK Late Models, and Jamey Lee-M&D Paving Mini Stocks. Other champions were Andy Buckley-GM 602 Stock Cars and Mark Marcucci-Big Daddy’s Speed Center Mod Lites. All champions received an embroidered jacket and all of the top racers received their point fund awards and plaques.
For the 11th consecutive year under owner Vicki Emig, Mercer Raceway Park continued its tradition of honoring special achievements at its banquet. Six of those types of awards were once again given out Saturday night.
The “Legacy” Award honors and remembers the late Bill Emig. This year’s honor was given to Rodney Beltz, who forged a friendship with the Emig Family beginning in the early 1980s. The Ellwood City, Pa. driver started his Mercer career in the 1970s in the Mini Stocks and has competed in the Six-Cylinder Modifieds and Big-Block Modifieds in his own #64. He’s been the driver of the Emig #1 for the past three seasons. He’s won 20 career races at Mercer and has turned more laps at The Park than any other current Mercer regular.
Living legends are those that will forever be held in high respect by those that enjoyed their excellence. This year’s “Living Legend” Award was bestowed to Paul “Putzy” Kekich. Kekich started his career back in 1963 and competed in various divisions with most of his success coming in the Sprint Cars. One year at Mercer he even competed in four weekly divisions. It’s estimated he won 75-100 races in his career. He drove for many high-profile car owners including Al Hamilton, who he won for at Jennerstown in his back-up car beating Jan Opperman. Today his sons Mike and Doug both race Sprint Cars and his grandson Adam just completed his rookie season in Limited Sprint division.
The “Horizon” Award was put in place to recognize drivers whose careers shine as brightly as the horizon. This year two young drivers earned the award. The first recipient was Lee Lehnerd. The 18-year-old Cabot, Pa. driver competed in the Mini Stock division as a rookie and finished second in points with two wins.
The second “Horizon” was won by Joe Martin. The Mayport, Pa. racer was also a rookie driver, but did it in the highly-competitive FASTRAK Late Model division. He finished sixth in his first career race on opening night, won his heat race the second week, and scored his career first win on August 22. Martin also had much success traveling all over the region chasing FASTRAK events.
This year’s “Outstanding Achievement” Award went to Jeff Taylor, Jack Helget, and Johnny and Tony Beaber. Taylor campaigned a four-car team every week bringing his and Helget’s cars some six hours from New Jersey and the Beabers returned as Mercer’s regulars for the first time since 1994 making a three-hour tow. All four cars finished in the top eight in points.
The “Majestic” Award honors those that have made grand, noble, and dignified gestures on behalf of Mercer Raceway Park and in general. This year’s recipients were again a husband-wife duo in Dave and Ruth Shields. Ruth is the mother to the Emig Family, who owns the speedway, and Dave the step-father. Despite not being the biggest race fans, they have been there weekly over the past 11 seasons. Dave selling pit passes and Ruth doing just about everything.
The “Leland Haylett Memorial Award” is in it’s second year honoring someone in the Mini Stock division that shows great commitment had passion to the division. This year’s winner was Pete Blazczak of Gibsonia, Pa., who has been an instrumental part of the success of the division from supporting a two-car effort for himself and Jerry Batcher, to giving fellow competitors cars to run, and offering teching advice. The Haylett Family was on hand to help present the award.
Rod George celebrated his third straight track championship and fourth in five years by taking the Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Car crown. The Kittanning, Pa. ace won 6 features, 7 heat races and recorded 12 top 5s and 14 top 10s in the Dr. John Crawford III/Pro Shot Directional Boring/Suzanne Stivason/Max Weiss-sponsored #4.
Arnie Kent was second as he’s finished runner-up in points now for four straight years and in the top 6 in points for each of the past 13 seasons. Third through tenth in points with wins in parentheses were Carl Bowser (2), Johnny Beaber, Jeff Taylor, Tony Beaber, Gale Ruth, Jr., Jack Helget, Dan Kuriger (2), and Eric Williams. Other winners were Craig Folmar (2), Gary Kriess, Jr., Andy McKisson, and Cole Whitt.
For the third time in four seasons, Frank Guidace is the Approved Toilet Rental Modified Champion. The Mercer, Pa. driver’s banner season saw him win 3 races including his third “Little Guy Nationals” victory. He added 7 heat race wins, 11 top 5s, and 13 top 10s in his #1G. Guidace was also the 2008 FASTRAK champion, which now actually gives him four championships in the past four seasons. Guidace also announced his will drive the new Buzz Utsinger-owned FASTRAK Late Model in 2010.
Eric Gabany and Jimmy Holden were on Guidace’s tail all season in hopes of their career first title, but came up just shy in second and third respectively despite both having their career best seasons with three wins each. Fourth through tenth with wins in parentheses were Matt Reeher, Jr. Baker, Gary Smoker (2), Rodney Beltz (1), Garrett Krummert (1), Lonny Riggs, and Rick Hall. Travis Shingledecker was also a winner.
Max Blair became the second FASTRAK Late Model Champion in the second season of this growing division presented by 4 Your Car Connection. The Centerville, Pa. 19-year-old won his four features in a span of six races to go on for the championship. The driver of Eagle Hoist & Winch/Specialty Products/Loney Timber/Moody Welding-sponsored #111 also had 8 heat wins, 11 top 5s, and a perfect 13 for 13 in top 10s.
Mike Pegher, Jr. led the division with six wins to finish a career best second in points. Third through tenth were Mike Anderson, Jr., Bud Watson, Steve Hollabaugh, Ben Black, Bill Thomas (7th tie), Brian Booher (7th tie), Butch Lambert, and Gary Miller, Jr. Other winners were David Scott (2), Joe Martin, Mike Blose, and Josh Holtgraver.
The Mini Stocks had their third champion in their third season since being brought back for the first time since 1982. Jamey Lee of Fairmount City, Pa. was the M&D Paving champion in his first season at Mercer. Lee drove the Thomas Elliot Insurance-sponsored #44J to a track high 9 wins, 15 heat wins, and 16 top 5s in 19 races.
Finishing second through tenth with wins in parentheses were Lee Lehnerd (2), Pete Blazczak (2), Bill Fuchs, Dan McEwen, John Shannon (1), Ed Haylett, Wally Stearns, Jr., Mike McConnell (9th tie), and Rudolph Troples III (9th tie). Track announced Mike Dutko presented Stearns with the checkered flag from his career first win last Saturday in the “Snowflake 20”. Other winners were Kevin Kilgore (3), Max Smoker, Tim Callahan, Dillon Kineston, Kyle Colwell, and Cory Kilgore.
Andy Buckley of Stoneboro, Pa. won the inaugural GM 602 Stock Car Championship- his third title at Mercer thanks to six wins. Russ Coyne was second over five-time winner Steve D’Apolito, Shaun Hooks, and Rod Laskey.
Mark Marcucci became the third different Big Daddy’s Speed Center Mod Lite Champion in as many years. The West Middlesex, Pa. racer won a career high five features to go along with 7 heat wins, 9 top 5s, and 10 top 10s.
Mercer Raceway Park tech inspector, Brad Hibbard, also received a special appreciation award from FASTRAK Northeast’s Vicki Emig and Mike Leone for his extraordinary efforts with the third-year series.
Dutko emceed the event and thanked the sponsors, employees, press, drivers, owners, and all of the fans for making 2009 another success. The 2010 season was previewed with many upcoming special events beginning with the March 27 “Chiller Thriller”. Rock-n-Roll Express closed out the banquet with live music for everyone’s dancing and listening pleasures.
Mercer Raceway Park is a 3/8-mile dirt track located minutes from both Interstate 79 and 80 just off Route 19 on Fairground Road in Mercer, Pa. Dirt track racing and quality family entertainment are presented weekly late March through October. The office in New Bedford, Pa. is open year-round late mornings and after 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information call the office at 724-964-9300 or the track on race day at 724-662-1310. Check out our website at www.mercerracewaypark.com for the latest. Go to www.twitter.com/mercerraceway or Mercer Raceway Park at www.facebook.com/mercerracewaypark to stay up to date. Text the word “MERCER” to 29222 for race event and special family and discounted promotions.
Final 2009 Points:
Luxaire Heating & Cooling Sprint Cars: 1. ROD GEORGE (4) 549 2. Arnie Kent (18) 474 3. Carl Bowser (10) 435 4. Johnny Beaber (Taylor 7B) 357 5. Jeff Taylor (17T) 336 6. Tony Beaber (3T) 327 7. Gale Ruth, Jr. (5x) 322 8. Jack Helget (Taylor 71c) 306 9. Dan Kuriger (08) 298 10. Eric Williams (7) 295.
Approved Toilet Rentals (358) Modifieds: 1. FRANK GUIDACE (1G) 510 2. Eric Gabany (3E) 491 3. Jimmy Holden (28H) 488 4. Matt Reeher (711) 383 5. Jr. Baker (359) 363 6. Gary Smoker (516) 360 7. Rodney Beltz (Emig 1) 306 8. Garrett Krummert (29) 303 9. Lonny Riggs (Black 58) 289 10. Rick Hall (B2) 279.
4 Your Car Connection FASTRAK Late Models: 1. MAX BLAIR (111) 520 2. Mike Pegher, Jr. (Geisler 1c) 484 3. Mike Anderson, Jr. (72) 385 4. Bud Watson (2) 372 5. Steve Hollabaugh (3H) 371 6. Ben Black (27B) 345 7. Bill Thomas (22) & Brian Booher (Hoover 00H) 296 9. Butch Lambert (27) 293 10. Gary Miller, Jr. (1M) 227.
GM 602 Stock Cars: 1. ANDY BUCKLEY (965) 458 2. Russ Coyne (8c) 415 3. Steve D’Apolito (Utsinger 84) 376 4. Shaun Hooks (Janovick 65) 261 5. Rod Laskey (1R) 85.
M&D Paving Mini Stocks: 1. JAMEY LEE (44J) 686 2. Lee Lehnerd (71) 609 3. Pete Blazczak (77) 503 4. Bill Fuchs (10) 497 5. Dan McEwen (44) 468 6. John Shannon (14) 451 7. Ed Haylett (8-ball) 442 8. Wally Stearns, Jr. (33) 421 9. Mike McConnell (31) & Rudolph Troples III (28) 400.
Big Daddy’s Speed Center Mod Lites: 1. MARK MARCUCCI (8M) 458 2. Alan Knepper (10) 387 3. Bill Stivason (116) 376 4. Shane Pfeuffer (Lawson 40L) 361 5. Kotie Kirkbride (97N) 354 6. Rick Ament (27) 319 7. Chad Yeager (7) 312 8. Terry Young (98) 289 9. Richard Lawson (70×7) 265 10. Andy Feil (08) 210.
Special Award Winners:
“Legacy”: Rodney Beltz
“Living Legend”: Paul “Putzy” Kekich
“Horizon”: Joe Martin & Lee Lehnerd
“Outstanding Achievement”: Taylor Racing (Jeff Taylor, Jack Helget, Johnny & Tony Beaber)
“Majestic”: Dave & Ruth Shields
“Leland Haylett Memorial” Award: Pete Blazczak