By Dick Jordan
Friday night’s 58th USAC “Night of Champions” National Awards Dinner held at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in downtown Indianapolis, Ind. spotlighted four drivers who claimed 2013 National championships.
Bobby East of Brownsburg, Ind., Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Ind. and Darren Hagen of Riverside, Calif. repeated as titlists, while rookie Christopher Bell of Norman, Okla. earned his first USAC National crown.
East was the 2013 TRAXXAS Silver Crown champ, while Clauson repeated as the AMSOIL National Sprint Car king. Hagen (pavement) and Bell (dirt) prevailed in the Honda National Midget Series.
Car owner champions for 2013 celebrated Friday were Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian for the Traxxas Silver Crown and AMSOIL National Sprint Car series, Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian as the Honda National Dirt Midget champs and RFMS Motorsports as the top owner in the Honda National Dirt Midget series. Acknowledged as repeat National “Triple Crown” car owners were Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian.
Keys to the City of Indianapolis from Mayor Gregory A. Ballard were presented to East, Clauson, Bell and Hagen in recognition of their 2013 National Championships.
Emcee Pat Sullivan orchestrated the presentations, which included driver and car entrant champions, Rookies of the Year, Most Improved Drivers and special award recipients.
Among items presented to the 2013 champions were trophies, plaques, Oakley timepieces, Hoosier jackets, medallions, and personalized remote-control trucks and TRAXXAS cars.
Sprint Car driving champions in addition to the aforementioned included Damion Gardner of Concord, Calif. (AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprints), Danny Faria Jr. of Tipton, Calif. (West Coast Sprints), R.J. Johnson of Phoenix, Ariz. (Southwest Sprints) and Ryan Bernal of Hollister, Calif. (Western Classic Sprints).
Other 2013 champions included Ronnie Gardner of Norco, Calif. (Honda Western Midgets), Chad Nichols of Colma, Calif. (Western Pavement Midget), Joe Krawiec of Bristol, Conn. (DMA Midget), Gage Walker of Fairland, Ind. (HPD Midwest Dirt Ignite Midget), Cooper Clouse of Ohio City, Ohio (HPD Midwest Pavement Ignite Midget), Jarid Blondel of Orange, Calif. (HPD Western Ignite Midget), Bryant Dawson of Phoenix, Ariz. (HPD Western Pavement Ignite Midget), Cory Elliott of Bakersfield, Calif. (HPD Western Dirt Ignite Midget), Chris Lamb of Colfax, N.C. (HPD Eastern Ignite Midget) and Chase Goetz of Snohomish, Wash. (HPD Washington Ignite Midget). Drivers Garrett Saunders of Lakeville, Ind. (Restricted) and Billy Cribbs of Muncie, Ind. (Open) were lauded as champions of USAC’s inaugural TRAXXAS 600 Sprint Series.
Honored as USAC Honda .25 Midget National Champions as a result of their “Generation Next Tour” titles were pavement drivers Tyler Ankrum of Colton, Calif. (Heavy 160, Senior Animal, Light World Formula and Heavy AA), Todd Gilliland of Sherrills Ford, N.C. (Heavy World Formula), Brandon Grosso of Belle Mead, N.J. (Heavy Honda), Light 160 and Light AA), Andrew Molleur of Shelton, Conn. (Light Mod), Jake Nelke of Manahawkin, N.J. (Unrestricted Animal), Justin Oplinger of Mt. Holly, N.C. (Junior Honda), Chase Randall of Waco, Tex. (Junior Animal) and Famous Rhodes of Parkland, Fla. (Senior Honda). Dirt champions honored were Calvin Carroll of Andover, N.J. (Light Mod), Briggs Danner of Allentown, Pa. (Senior Honda and light World Formula), Brittany Erlsten of Pocono Pines, Pa (Heavy Honda and Heavy World Formula), Hanna Flood of Limerick, Pa. (Heavy 160), Andrew Layser of Collegeville, Pa. (Light 160), Kenny Miller of Birdsboro, Pa. (Senior Animal) and Steven Snyder Jr. of Rising Sun, Md. (Junior Honda and Junior Animal).
USAC President Kevin Miller presented USAC Special Appreciation Awards to SFI Foundation (corporate) and David Abreu of Rutherford, Calif. (individual) for their contributions and dedicated service to the racing community.
Long-time USAC employee and supporter Bill Marvel of Liberty, Ky. was presented USAC’s prestigious Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence, recognizing his commitment to the overall sport of auto racing and his numerous contributions to USAC.
Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind. received the inaugural Jason Leffler Award, in recognition of his intense appreciation of the sport’s history reflected in his professionalism and outstanding representation as an ambassador of the United States Auto Club, exhibiting the same standard of ideals upheld by the late Jason Leffler during his USAC racing career.
USAC’s 2013 National “Race Organizer of the Year” award was presented to the Belleville (Kans.) High Banks Race Committee.
Car owner and long-time USAC supporter Mike Curb revealed the winner of the resurrected “Mike Curb Super License Award” and its $5,000 cash bonus. Tracy Hines earned the most points of all drivers participating in USAC’s 2013 National racing series.
Chris Windom of Canton, Ill. earned the 2013 USAC Silver Crown “Rookie of the Year” honor. Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Ind. was honored as the National Sprint Car “Rookie of the Year” and the Bob Stroud Memorial National Midget “Rookie of the Year” Award for the National Midget Series went to Christopher Bell of Norman, Okla.
Kevin Thomas Jr. of Cullman, Ala. was named USAC “Most Improved” National Driver of 2013.
USAC’s 2013 “Mechanical Achievement of the Year” award went to Steve Phillips of Indianapolis, Ind., who guided Dave Darland’s drive to the runner-up position in the AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series.
Also honored for their 2013 championships at Kutztown, Pa.’s ActionTrack USA, which operated under the USAC banner in 2013, were Kenny Brightbill of Shillington, Pa. (Sunoco SpeedSTRs), Jay Hartman of Flagtown, N.J. (Pioneer Pole Buildings 600 Micro Sprints), Danny Buccafusca of Rockaway, N.J. (NAPA AllStar Slingshots) and Ross Perchak of Hazelton, Pa. (270 Micro Sprints).
Second and third-place drivers and car entrants in USAC’s National racing series also received their year-end recognition and awards.
All USAC driving champions were also presented one-year memberships by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.
Floral decorations were provided by Jockish Flowers of Indianapolis. Tim Spillman of Auto Racing Ministries delivered the invocation.