Grandview Speedway holds annual awards banquet

Photo by Rich Kepner Late model sportsman winner Buddy Mertz.
Photo by Rich Kepner Top 3 in late model points - Chuck Schutz, Danny Synder and Lee Miller.

Close to 500 people filled the Gilbertsville Fire Co. Social Hall on Saturday night as the 51st annual Grandview Speedway Awards Banquet honored the NASCAR stock car champions and a variety of special awards were presented.

For the seventh time in his career Craig VonDohren was honored as the NASCAR Whelen All American Series 358 Modified champion. The Oley professional racer also earned the car owner championship. Earning 5,907points on his way to the title VonDohren walked off with well over $10,000 for his championship efforts including championship money from track owners Bruce and Teresa Rogers along with NASCAR.

Duane Howard, the 2012 champion, finished second with 5,480 points. Howard, a five-time champion, also an Oley resident, tallied nine feature wins during the season.

Nine-time champion Jeff Strunk (Pottstown) earned 4,866 points on his way third place in the final standings. The highlight of Strunks season was his victory in the $25,000 to win BPG Racing Freedom 76 not including more than $2000 in lap money and other perks.

Young Jared Umbenhauer of Richland was honored as the NASCAR Sportsman titleholder for the second year in a row with Barry Bashore, his car owner, sharing in the honors. The team had five feature victories and earned 5,262 points on their way to the title. Fleetwoods Kenny Gilmore came on strong late in the season to grab second spot in the standings with 4,712 points and one feature win. Craig Whitmoyer of Hamburg finished third in the standings with one win and 4,561 points.

Jason Miller took home his very first championship in the Late Model division. The New Tripoli racer did it the hard way as he tallied 5,284 points but had no feature wins. Green Lanes Terry Snyder, owner of the car driven by his son Danny, was able to take the owners championship while his son finished second in the standings with 5,266 points just 18 points behind the champion. Snyder had three feature wins.

Six-time Late Model champion Chuck Schutz of Pottstown came home third in the final standings with 5,250 points and three wins.

The top 20 drivers and top ten owners in each of the three divisions were honored with awards.

In addition to the thousands of dollars in point fund money distributed to Modified, Sportsman and Late Model racers, Duane Howard received over $13,500 in winnings for his efforts in the American Racer Cup championship battle. It was the second year in a row that he won the title and third in four years.

Others receiving checks from the American Racer Cup included Craig VonDohren finishing third in the standings in the overall standings. VonDohren picked up $3,500 in cash along with almost $2,000 in product sponsorship.

The third finisher at Grandview in the Racer Cup was Jeff Strunk while fourth was Meme DeSantis followed by Doug Manmiller. More than $25,000 in cash and prizes was distributed to those Grandview racers.

Brett Kressley, picked up the American Racer Sportsman Cup which included four American Racer Modified tires courtesy of Lias Tires in Indiana, Pa.

In the NASCAR 358 Modified division former ARDC midget champion Tim Buckwalter earned Rookie of the Year honors while DIRT stock car legend Frank Cozze was presented with the Best Newcomer award for his first season of racing at Grandview. John Willman went from 24th in the 2012 standings to 11th in the final 2013 standings to earn the Most Improved Driver award. Veteran racer Jeff Strunk took home the Sportsmanship award while Jarrad Miller received the Best Appearing Car honors. Kevin Hirthler took home Hard Luck honors.

Former 410 sprint car racer Sam Schlosberg took the Best Newcomer honors in the Late Model division as he was able to win three features. Dan Green, a graduate of go-kart racing, took the Rookie of the Year honors. Wayne Pfeil Jr., a feature winner, earned the Most Improved Award.

Kory Fleming, who had his race car destroyed late in the season in a race accident, took home the Hard Luck Award. He does plan to return to Grandview racing in 2014. Buddy Mertz, a big supporter of racing at Grandview, was given the Sportsmanship Award for lending his car to other competitors during the season. Past champion Chuck Schutz was honored with the Best Appearing Car Award.

Jordan Henn earned the Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Sportsman division. Six-feature winner Brett Kressley was named Best Newcomer. Kenny Gilmore went from 21st in the points in 2012 to second in 2013 to pick up the Most Improved Driver Award. Lady racer Kaitie McCardle, who was forced to miss a few races due to a lack of sponsorship, earned the Hard Luck honors, while Geezer Joe Fanelli won the Best Appearing Car honors.

More than a dozen media on hand were presented with Special Appreciation Awards as were a number of officials and track employees.

Pioneer Pole Buildings, Bashore Truck Specialties, BPG Racing and TP Trailers of Limerick received awards in honor of their outstanding support of racing at Grandview Speedway. TP Trailers announced that they will return for the third straight season paying cash bonuses to feature winners in all three divisions. Pioneer Pole Buildings will return as sponsor of the Forrest Rogers Memorial.

The sponsors of the season long Hard Charger awards were acknowleged. Bobby Gunther Walsh and his sponsors provided the weekly Hard Charger cash award for the Modifieds. Jeff Teets and his Salvage Transport Service sponsored the Late Model cash awards and Searock Lawn Care sponsored the Hard Charger award for the Sportsman racers.

Former Late Model champion Jeff Teets and his Salvage Transport Service presented cash awards to Jeff Strunk, Buddy Mertz and Danny Snyder for their support of the sport and for saying thank you to those who support the sport.

NASCAR had awards for the top three finishers in each division plus the UNOH Track Mechanic of the Year award going to Ronnie Krex.

Long-time track announcer Ernie Saxton, who retired at the end of the season after 45 years in the booth, served as the MC for the banquet for the final time. He was presented with a beautiful gold watch by the Rogers family and an appreciation award. It was announced that veteran short track announcer Jeff Ahlum will become the Saturday night announcer at Grandview. Saxton will continue as the marketing and PR director for the speedway a position he has held for 47 years.

Grandview Speedway management has announced that the tentative opening practice date is set for Saturday, March 29. The first race event of the 2014 NASCAR stock car racing season will take place on Saturday, April 5. Full details for the new season will be announced in the near future.