The Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series (UMSS) celebrated their 2012 season and honored the top drivers at its annual awards banquet held at the Hampton Inn in Shoreview, Minnesota on Saturday night January 19. Several drivers were honored with various awards in the winged, non-winged and the new micro sprint division. Three members from the Minnesota Mafia were also on hand to discuss the upcoming 2013 series featuring UMSS winged sprints and Jackson Speedway Touring Series drivers.
Earning back-to-back titles in the UMSS winged sprint car division, Jerry Richert, Jr. from Forest Lake took home the 2012 championship hardware. Richert put together a solid effort in 2012 with 14 top five finishes along with one feature win en route to his second UMSS championship. With placemats at the champion’s table commemorating his first-ever sprint car win at Centuria, Wisconsin back in 1981, Jerry Richert, Jr. added a second nameplate on the Barry Kettering Memorial travelling trophy for the UMSS winged division. Other previous UMSS champions include Leigh Thomas (2009) and Cody Hahn (2010).
On a final weekend of racing that was nothing short of spectacular and filled with dramatic moments, the UMSS Traditional Sprint Car Series (TSCS) championship was decided by one point. With several seasons of sprint car racing experience, Rob Caho, Jr. of Wyoming, Minnesota became the second champion in the second year for the non-winged division. Caho rode to victory on six occasions, but his 15 top three finishes in the 16 races he competed in was the most impressive statistic from his championship season. Caho added his name alongside that of inaugural champion Kevin Bradwell on the John Stevenson Memorial travelling trophy for the UMSS Traditional Sprint Car Series.
In their first full season under the UMSS banner, the new micro sprint division saw young Ty Sampair of Somerset, Wisconsin become the first champion in the upstart class of cars featuring 500 cc engines. Although Sampair did not find victory lane in 2012, his 7 second place finishes along with 3 third place finishes help propel him to the title. Only 13 years old, Ty has plans to move into the non-winged division when he gets old enough to do so. In the meantime, Ty will continue to hone his skills in the micro sprint division in 2013.
As the evening got underway with a happy hour, plenty of “bench racing” talk, and a video from Meeks Video cycling through the three large screens, it was soon time for a moment of silence followed by a tribute video in honor and memory of winged sprint car driver Dan Grams who lost his life in a car accident in December. Dan’s father was on hand and was recognized by UMSS CDO Ron Bernhagen.
Following a buffet-style dinner, it was then time for the awards ceremony to get underway. The emcee for the evening, Justin Zoch, got the awards portion of the gala affair kicked off in fine fashion. Series CDO Ron Bernhagen thanked the drivers, car owners, crew members, families, fans, track promoters and series sponsors for their participation and support of the UMSS. UMSS Technical Director Joe Kouba then spoke to the group, commenting on plans for his family’s 21st Annual Kouba Memorial in 2013. Shane Phillips from the Minnesota Mafia described who they were and what they were trying to accomplish with their 10-12 race series featuring both the UMSS winged sprints and Jackson Speedway Touring Series cars and stars. Shane also indicated that proceeds from the sale of all of their decals during the course of the evening would go to the Dan Grams Memorial Fund. An entertaining pictorial history of the 2012 UMSS racing season, set to music, was then presented by UMSS photographer Vince Peterson just prior to the presentation of trophies and awards.
The UMSS then honored its top drivers and champions. Drivers on hand who were outside of the top five in each division were recognized. The “new kids on the block” in the UMSS Micro Sprint Division were up first. Trophies were awarded to the top three drivers in the point standings. Receiving hardware along with photos from Vince Peterson at Track Rat Photos was third place finisher Greg Gunderson, runner-up Tony Duran, and champion Ty Sampair. Sampair also received a nice champions poster from Vince Peterson, a champions banner and a Hoosier Racing Tire championship jacket.
The program continued with the 2012 GRP Motorsports Rookie of the Year Award and recognition of the top five drivers in the UMSS Traditional Sprint Car Series. Denny Stordahl of Milltown, WI earned top rookie honors as well as fifth place in the final point standings. Hoosier Racing Tire provided a jacket to Denny for being the top rookie. Also receiving trophies and monetary awards courtesy of GRP Motorsports was fourth place finisher Jeff Pellersels of Woodbury, third place finisher Johnny Parsons III of Owatonna, runner-up and inaugural champion Kevin Bradwell of Luck, WI who was the only driver to have perfect attendance in the TSCS division, and the 2012 champion Rob Caho, Jr of Wyoming. Caho also received a champions poster from Vince Peterson, a champions banner, and a Hoosier Racing Tire championship jacket. The championship point standings were determined by taking a driver’s top 16 point shows out of the 21 shows that were run.
It was then time to recognize and honor the GRP Motorsports Rookie of the Year and the top five drivers in the UMSS 2012 GRP Motorsports High Five Championship point standings. Coming in to the 2012 season as a true rookie, James Broty of Prior Lake took top rookie honors. James received his rookie trophy, money and a jacket from Hoosier Racing Tire. Each of the top five drivers in the final point standings also received a trophy, a check from GRP Motorsports and photos provided by Vince Peterson. Finishing in fifth place was Tony Kaus of Bloomington in his first full season with the UMSS. Fourth was Jason Tostenson of Glencoe who missed the first three shows but then made it to 17 straight. Third was Sye Anderson of Brainerd who was the only driver in the winged division to make all 20 races. The runner-up was Chris Graf of Glencoe with three feature wins and 15 top ten finishes in the 18 shows he ran with the UMSS in 2012. Jerry Richert, Jr. of Forest Lake was then crowned the 2012 UMSS Champion. Jerry also received a champions poster from Vince Peterson, a champions banner, and a Hoosier Racing Tire championship jacket. The championship point standings were determined by taking a driver’s top 18 point shows out of the 20 shows that were run.
Capping off the awards ceremony was the presentation of the annual UMSS Sportsmanship Award. Previous winners Greg Gunderson, Kevin Nickel, and Jack Clark were in attendance to watch Jeff Pellersels join them as the 2012 recipient of this distinguished award.
With four solid season’s in the books for the winged division, two for the non-winged traditional sprint cars, and one for the new micro sprint division, the UMSS has a strong foundation in place to build upon. The outlook for 2013 for the UMSS and area sprint car racing is great. The Traditional Sprint Car program is really gaining in popularity, as the number of available cars is expected to more than double. The winged division has a great-looking schedule and is pleased to be a part of the Minnesota Mafia Point Series as well. The Micro Sprint Division has their Friday night home track along with numerous opportunities on Saturday afternoons at the indoor Cedar Lake Arena in 2013. This feeder series has great potential for young drivers to race and gain experience in this area. The UMSS is eagerly looking forward to a successful 2013 campaign. To view the tentative schedule for 2013 or obtain more information on the UMSS, please visit our website at www.umsprints.com or check out the UMSS Facebook page.