Champions Crowned at Wythe Raceway Banquet
By CHRIS MARQUART
RURAL RETREAT, Va. (October 14, 2004) -- After a long, arduous season, the final curtain fell on Wythe Raceway's 2004 campaign on Saturday, September 24.
It was the last batch of racing of the year, but there was still business to be completed; namely, the annual Champion's Banquet at the Wytheville Community Center in Wytheville.
Saturday night, there were no flags or officials, no hot laps or features and no qualifying or last laps. Here, the season rivalries were put aside and race teams and drivers were able to return to regular life; they were able to be friends and families without the pressure of the tumultuous racing season.
A King's Ransom of gold was handed out Saturday as each driver that placed in the top five of his or her racing class was called to the stage and recognized, not to mention rookies of the year and crew chiefs.
Rural Retreat's Kenny Peeples Jr. was awarded his trophy as the Champion of the Limited Late Model class. Peeples scored a class-leading seven wins and had 10 top fives as the collected his third career track title at Wythe Raceway. The seven wins earned him a "Most Wins" plaque and his father, multi-time feature winner Kenny Peeples Sr. was deemed class Crew Chief of the Year.
"This was our goal out of the box. We wanted to win races and we knew that if we could do that, we would be in good shape for a championship," Peeples said. "We had some rough nights, but we've been doing our homework and we know we can make this car better and we have a new car on the way.
"My car was only about half as good as it could have been this season, so we're really looking forward to 2005."
Ronnie Poole (Ennice, NC) placed second with three wins and tallied four pole
starts, earning himself a plaque to commemorate the feat. Justin White (Marion),
Ken McMahan (Marion) and Randy Harmon (Galax) were each called as they rounded
out the top five in points. Thomas Poole (Ennice, NC) turned in a Rookie of the
Year worthy season and 2003 Limited LM Champ Brandon Umberger (Rural Retreat)
was recognized for turning the fastest lap of the season. Umberger, who placed
seventh in the final point tally, lapped the half-mile oval in 18.347 seconds. A
total of 30 different drivers competed through the season and the class saw
three different winners.
R.K. Dix is bound for Costa Rica -- the alternative option to the champion's purse -- after a season-long battle atop the Crate Late Model charts. Dix (Rural Retreat) was crowned champion of the class with 362 points, three wins and 10 top-five finishes.
"This class is so competitive," Dix said. "Some nights, you just take what you can get and this season was good to us."
Troutdale racer and defending Crate Late Champion Jack Scott logged a single
victory in his title-defending season, but eight top-five finishes helped him to
a strong runner-up showing. Danny Burks (Abingdon) fell to third after a super
season; he missed a handful of the final races while helping with the
post-Hurricane clean-up efforts in Florida. Burks and Dix shared the Most
Victories (three each) while fourth-place point-getter Randy Taylor tallied the
most poles (six). Brian Woodward won the final race of the season, collecting
his first checkered flag of the season in his final chance. The finish boosted
the Saltville racer to fifth in the standings. Kim Gollehon (Chilhowie), a
former Limited LM racer, collected Crate Late Rookie of the Year honors and Tony
Farris (Charlotte, NC) was recognized as the season's fastest time trialer,
turning in an ultra-quick 19.076-second pass. Kelly Fegter (Mooresville, NC)
could not attend, but will receive a jacket as the winner of the National Crate
Late Model Championship at Wythe Raceway. A total of 35 different drivers
entered this past season and there were nine different winners. Dix's head
wrench Fred Riley was deemed Class Crew Chief of the Year.
In the Modified Street division, Eddie Bentley (Chilhowie) received the last Mod Street Title that will be awarded at Wythe Raceway. Bentley and the Mod Street contingent will welcome the Street Stock class as the two divisions combine for 2005. This will help make room on the weekly schedule for the IMCA/UMP style Modifieds.
Bentley scored three wins and logged 10 top-fives on his way to the title, under the watchful eye of Class Crew Chief of the Year George Bentley.
"Everything sort of came easy this season," Bentley said of his Championship run. "It's not exactly what I am used to."
In total, there were eight different winners in the class and 19 different
entries. Brian Coake (Max Meadows) tallied the most wins, taking five checkered
flags. Daniel Moss (Elk Creek) picked up two wins and 10 top-fives and was the
only driver to win in two classes in the same night this season. Keith Griffitts
(Sugar Grove) tallied 13 top-fives to pace a consistent third in the points.
Michael Davis and Coake rounded out the top five.
Bare Defends 2003 Street Stock Crown with 2004 Gold
Duke Bare (Meadowview) successfully defended his 2003 title with three wins and 12 top fives in 2004. In a season that focused more on fun that finishing, Bare and his crew built an early lead and never looked back through the season.
"The whole point of racing is to have fun," Bare said. "We had a blast. We didn't go out for a title, but we came out and had a good time and stayed cool about a lot of different things through the season and it paid off.
"We had a lot of help and we're like one big group, like a family. And that is what groups of people do, they get together to have fun. And we all think the same: when it stops being fun, we'll stop racing."
Bare also made sure to thank crew chief Travis Stoots, who was recognized as
Class Crew Chief of the Year. Fourteen-year-old Daniel Cox (Galax) came up for
second and Rookie of the year honors. Jimmy Tate (Wytheville) scored third with
four wins but Ron Lyles (Chilhowie) took the Most Wins honors with five
victories. Lyles was a late bloomer in the class, but clawed to fourth in the
standings. Andy Joliffe (Abingdon) filled out the top five. The entire
contingent will be chasing the Modified Streets next season, hoping to take a
Street Stock-legal car to a win over the only slightly stronger Modified Street
Randy Kincer (Rural Retreat) made a mid-season roll endure as he won seven of the final eight Modified Mini races, tallying four in a row from June 19 to Aug. 14. Kincer will continue to roll on as he heads for Costa Rica.
"We struggled a little in the first half of the season," Kincer said, "But we sort of got a handle on things as the season went on."
Kincer bagged the Most Wins title by way of strong motors, tuned by Dennis Scott. With his outstanding stretch run, Kincer held the 32 different drivers who entered the class out of victory lane almost single-handedly; five different drivers made it to victory lane.
Daniel Moss saw three wins, logging nine top fives and taking second in points. Jason Powers (Marion) tallied nine top fives and took third; each of the top three received prizes from MDM Machine. Billy Sisk (Wytheville) and Kevin Atwell (Rural Retreat) rounded out the top five. John Hickman (Abingdon) earned Rookie of the Year Honors, placing sixth in points.
Through the night, Hickman's young son, Kyle, entertained the crowd by
filling in for owner/promoter Fred Brown through the course of the evening.
Young Kyle was able to gather many laughs with few words on the microphone. At
one point, Kyle held a question-and-answer session with the crowd about his
current year at school; his answers typically consisted of "yes" or
A total of 49 drivers produced nine different winners but consistency ruled the Mini Stock class. Ron Jackson (Chilhowie) collected both the Rookie of the Year and Track Championship without earning a single victory. In an effort keyed by Co-Class Crew Chiefs of the Year John Carlin and Marietta Bentley, Jackson collected 279 points and four top fives. Tim Barr (Chilhowie) earned a class-high five wins but finished one point short of Jackson in his hunt for the title. Doug Monday (Max Meadows) ranked third ahead Brandon Bentley (Chilhowie). Monday and Bentley actually tied, but Monday was given the position as season wins provide a tiebreaker. Gator Cornett rallied for fifth, posting one win and eight top-fives. Fifth-place Cornett was just 20-points off the leader's pace. The top three received prizes from MDM Machine.
Entering the last race of the year, there were still five cars mathematically
in the hunt for the Mini Stock class championship.
Darrin King (Wytheville) came out on top of the Mark IV Honda Pro Truck heap. King had three wins and 12 top fives at season's end, helping him to edge out Max Meadows racer and defending class champ Dale Sutphin. Entering the last race of the year, the two were tied, but Sutphin suffered an injury to a disc in his lower back and could not make the race. Shawn King (Wytheville) scored his class-leading fourth win of the year in the event while Darrin ran second. With Dale Sutphin MIA, Darrin merely had to start the race to seal the title. Dennis Scott turned the wrenches on King's no. 5; the class saw five different winners and 19 different drivers made a start. The top three were given prizes from MDM Machine. Jimmy Buchanan (Wytheville) placed fourth while Rookie of the Year Brandon McClure (Troutdale) took fifth on the heels of six top-fives.
Five Hornet racers were on hand and were recognized for their season efforts. Oakley Slaughter (Indian Valley), winner of the last race of the season, was joined by Pie Short (Abingdon), Jeffery Earnhardt (Kannapolis) and Taylor Hayes on stage.
Fourth-generation racer Jeffery Earnhardt was at the speedway the weekend before the Banquet filming a special with Spike TV that focused on father and son racing duos. Earnhardt is the son of Kerry Earnhardt and grandson of the late racing star Dale Earnhardt. This season, Wythe Raceway has been aired on Discovery Channel, SPEED Channel and the upcoming Spike TV special. Also, their information has been disseminated up and down the east coast. Press releases and race results have been carried on Websites in New York, Ohio and Massachusetts, not to mention Virginia and Georgia. The results stories have been carried regularly in the North Carolina-based trade publication, The Racing News and in the nationally recognized Area Auto Racing News, based in New Jersey.
Jack Scott was honored with the Pud Tanell Memorial Award. Tanell was a long-time race fan and supporter of firefighting efforts. Tanell himself was a firefighter and Viet Nam Veteran. Tanell passed away and his friends visit different tracks and give the award out to a racer who demonstrates the qualities of Tanell. The group of friends happened to visit on the night Barry Arnold wrecked off the fourth turn and his car caught fire. Scott helped pull Arnold from the car before Arnold -- who was left breathless from the impact -- was harmed by the flames. For his quick efforts, Scott was given a set of Motorola radios, a carrying case, a charger, earpiece and headset.
Scott was also part of the Contingency Collection, which includes contingency awards from sponsors such as: Mr. Gasket, Freedom Grill, Richmond, Competition Cams, Crane Cams, RIS Engineering, Sunoco, Holley, Lincoln Welders, Accel, Auto Meter, Parts Pro, M&R, JE Pistons, Full Boar Mufflers, Cometic Gaskets, Stage 8 Locking Fasteners, Hays, Mallory, Jacobs Electronics and Impact Safety Gear. Four drivers signed up for the program and showed how beneficial the package can be. Scott earned $3,850 in contingency money. Andy Joliffe tallied $3,150 and Joey Steele collected $3,250. Duke Bare showed the most gains, pocketing over $9,000. He signed up for the maximum allowed sponsors, displayed the stickers, filled out the paper work and marched to the bank. There will likely be more drivers signed up for 2005.
Wythe Raceway will reopen on April 23, 2005 in Rural Retreat, Va. They feature eight classes of racing every Saturday night at 7:30 pm. The Limited Late Models and Crate Late Models headline the weekly eight-star card. Adult general admission to a regular weekly show is just $7. Prices vary for special events.
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