From Pedal Down Promotions
(November 10, 2019) – It was a night of reflection, celebration, recognition and a bit of good-natured frivolity as the Midwest Sprint Car Association capped off one of the most successful seasons in its 20-year history at its 2019 awards banquet Saturday, Nov. 9, at The Columbian in West Bend.
The event drew 166 attendees, who gathered to honor 2019 MSA champion Kurt Davis of South Milwaukee, along with 18 other point fund-eligible drivers, who competed in at least 85 percent of the 25-race 2019 schedule.
MSA President Tim Haddy opened the evening’s festivities by providing an overview of the record-setting 2019 MSA campaign.
“It was a really special season for the MSA,” Haddy said. “Goals were achieved, first-time winners visited victory lane, exciting racing was a common occurrence and we saw rookies and veterans battling for positions in every race throughout the season. Every night at the track provided excitement. As we look ahead, we are hoping the 2020 season will be just as exciting.”
MSA Vice President Paul Pokorski served as the master of ceremonies during the program. Pokorski announced that Justin Miller, Paul Pokorski and Sheila Leamer had been re-elected to positions on the MSA Board of Directors and that American Racer Tires had been selected as the MSA’s official tire over the next three years.
Pokorski also pointed to the remarkable car counts the MSA enjoyed throughout the 2019 season.
“We had 43 member drivers compete with us in 2019,” Pokorski said. “Twelve of those 43 drivers competed in 100 percent of the races and 19 of the 43 took park in 85 percent of the 25 events. The MSA had an average car count of 33 for the 2019 season with a high of 40, which we hit twice during the year. Our rookie contingent was outstanding as well with 10 rookies running regularly with MSA throughout the season.”
The 12 drivers competing in all 25 MSA races in 2019 were recognized, including Kurt Davis (first), Travis Arenz (second), Justin Miller (third), Will Gerrits (fourth), Paul Pokorski (fifth), Adam Miller (sixth), Tim Haddy (seventh), Tony Wondra (eighth), Tyler Brabant (11th), Brandon Berth (13th), Jack Vanderboom (16th) and Blake Wondra (26th).
Also honored were the MSA drivers earning 85 percent participation during the 2019 campaign, including Lance Fassbender (ninth, 23 races), Shane Wenninger (10th, 22 races), Danny Schlafer (12th, 23 races), Bill Taylor (18th, 23 races), Tyler Davis (19th, 23 races), Josh Teunissen (21st, 22 races) and Justin Erickson (23rd, 21 races).
Other MSA member drivers in attendance, but not achieving 85 percent participation were Tyler Nelson, Ben Schmidt, Tyler Tischendorf, Doug Wondra and Dick Kaiser.
Pokorski also acknowledged those behind the scenes and all other supporters, who have contributed to the success of the MSA.
“We need to thank all of our sponsors, fans and the tracks that have supporters the MSA so well,” Pokorski said. “We built up a nice base of seven tracks in 2019 and we are looking to put together a similar schedule in 2020. Tracks are interested in having us back, which is a great thing for us as a racing organization.
“Our supporters have helped to lift our 2019 point fund in excess of $27,000,” he said. “That is far more than I can ever remember. In 2016, our point fund-eligible drivers received 17 cents per point and this year they received 40 cents per point, which is a remarkable jump.”
Pokorski then acknowledged 2019 MSA series and event sponsors Bank First National, Badger Contracting, First Choice Dental of Sun Prairie, R&H Enterprises, Randy Sippel of Sippel Racing and Spyder Akright of Akright Auto, as well as the Neitzel family for donating the new MSA official and worker shirts.
Pokorski also gave special recognition to the Neitzel Family for donating the new MSA official and worker shirts.
MSA Competition Driver Scott Bader introduced the 2019 series staff, including officials Fred DeBlaey, John Metzger, Sheila Leamer, flagmen Dave Deicher and Steve Crass, announcers George Baumann and Loren Kelly, photographer, videographer and graphic designer Rob Eisentraut of RC Custom Design and race report writer Jeff Pederson of Pedal Down Promotions.
“It is importance not to forget the people that work behind the scene to make the MSA go,” Bader said. “Every one of them needs to be thanked for helping to make the MSA what it is today.”
Bader closed his comments by stating that the MSA is looking into introducing a safety team that will travel to MSA races.
The first of eight special awards went to Brandon Berth of Cascade, who claimed the 2019 MSA Rookie of the Year Award on the strength of a 13th-place finish in the final point standings with three top-five and six top-10 A-main finishes, as well as two heat race victories in 25 events.
“I always had a dream to race a Sprint Car, which came to fruition this year,” Berth said. “Heading into the season, I had a plan to run for the MSA Rookie of the Year Award and we accomplished that goal thanks to my sponsors, crew and supporters, as well as the McMullen team, Scotty Neitzel and Kurt Davis, who helped a lot with assistance and advice along the way. With all of the good guys we had running for the rookie of the year award, it was really tough. It was a great ride and I can’t wait to see you all again in 2020.”
The Most Improved Driver Award went to Will Gerrits of Waupun, who finished fourth in the MSA point standings, with one A-main victory, six top-five and 19 top-10 A-main finishes to go along with two heat race victories in 25 MSA events.
Travis Arenz of Sheboygan claimed the Best Appearing Car and Crew Award. The Hard Luck Award went to Tyler Brabant of Waupun and the Hard Charger Award went to Justin Miller of Plymouth, who passed a total of 112 cars during the 2019 MSA season.
Lloyd Dykstra of the NAPA Auto Parts of Waupun racing team of Will Gerrits and Tyler Brabant earned the Harry Neitzel MSA Mechanic of the Year Award.
The Jim Wipperfurth MSA Person of the Year Award went to series photographer, videographer and graphic designer Rob Eisentraut of RC Custom Design.
“I started doing this in 1999 as a hobby,” Eisentraut said. “I started working at Plymouth in 2004 and MSA followed in 2005. It has been very humbling working with all of you. It is really a family affair. I feel honored that you all have allowed us to become part of your family. I’m already looking forward to 2020.”
The final award recipient to take to the podium was 2019 MSA champion Kurt Davis, who initial indicated that he would only be competing on a part-time basis in 2019, while transitioning into semi-retirement from driving.
However, Davis ended up entering all 25 MSA events in 2019, while posting three A-main victories, 15 top-five and 24 top-10 A-main showings and five heat race wins en route to his fifth MSA title by a 40-point margin over runner-up Travis Arenz, who led the MSA series with six A-main victories in 2019.
“The year turned out to be great,” Davis said. “In 25 races, we had 24 top-10 finishes, which is outstanding. I know I am kind of showboat, but I couldn’t do this without my crew. They are my backbone and support system. It takes people like them to make championship seasons happen.
“I’m not retiring yet,” he said. “I just can’t do it. I don’t think I’ll do the whole thing next year though. My kids, Sydney and Tyler, are really involved in this with me, which is really fun. Tyler won his first heat race in a Sprint Car, which was so exciting for me to watch. With all of the tough competition in the MSA, this was definitely the hardest and most stressful season of all of my championship years. It was really tough. Travis [Arenz] is a good shoe. He may have won more battles, but I won the war. He will do it one day either in a 360 or whatever else he might decide to do.”
MSA 2019 Banquet trophy and award sponsors included Fred DeBlaey, Traylor Automotive, JH Investments, Goeden Auto Body, Pedal Down Promotions, WES Innovations, Butch and Janet Hafemann, Roth Auto, Racer’s Hall, N&S Towing, Kristine Hartmann-Pleasant View Realty, Miller Family Motorsports (In memory of Kevin Miller), Doug’s Auto, Hopf Farms, RC Custom Design, Oak Creek Auto and Cupcake Wonders.
MSA 2019 contingency product sponsors were R& H Racing Equipment, Buege High Peformance, HRP, American Racer Tires, Boubin Tire, Waldo Oil, Behling, Super Shox, Vortx Finishing Products, PDTR, Richards of Dunbar, Torsion Bar Rating, Twisted 4 Graphics, Afco Shocks, J&J Powder Coating, Super Clean, Lucky Tiger Men Grooming, M&W Radius Rods, KSE, Karavan Trailers, Maxim Chassis, Winter Products, FK Rod Ends, Bell Wilwood, XXX Chassis, Schroeder/PAC, Competition Specialists, J&J Auto Racing, Saldana, AFCO, Pyrotech, DMI, Schoenfield, Hillborn, Lane Automotive, Velocity Wings, MRI-Racing Optics, Allstar Peformance, Corey Oil, Ultrashield, MPD and Race Bumpers.
Tracks on the 2019 MSA schedule included Plymouth Dirt Track in Plymouth, Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam, TNT Speedway in Twin Lakes, Outagamie Speedway Powered by EWSC Racing in Seymour, SK Speedway in Unity and Beaver Dam Raceway in Beaver Dam.
The 2019 MSA Board of Directors was comprised of Tim Haddy (president), Paul Pokorski (vice president), Justin Miller, Sheila Leamer (secretary-treasurer), Kurt Davis and Al Schlafer.
During the offseason, the MSA is set to hold a pair of fundraising events. On Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, the MSA Cornhole fundraiser will take place at Racer’s Hall in Plymouth. The annual MSA Bowling Tournament and fundraiser is set for Sunday, March 29 at Dan’s Village Bowl in Brownsville.
For more information on the Midwest Sprint Car Association, visit www.msasprints.com.