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51 Racing







"2002 Awards"

by Steve Turnross 02/17/03

Mr. Versatile --- JJ Yeley is one of the best ever at only 25 years of age. ...Has wheeled every kind of openwheel car on pavement and dirt with great results. Top ten finish in his 1998 Indy 500 start as a rookie. He drives 'em, wrenches on 'em, and wins a bunch.

Coolest Helmet --- Bradley Bumgarner uses a sweet lookin' hat done up big by Randy Frank out of Chico. He has showed steady improvement over the last year racing a USAC Western States sprinter on asphalt for his Grandpa.

Best T-Shirt --- Ricci Faria provides a nice Hanes Beefy T with a cool design that glows in the dark for his fans. It's bright, tight, and right. Check them out next time you get to a Rebel Cup event.

Rookie of the Year --- Jerome Rodela became an instant contender on the USAC Western States Midget tour in 2002. Fast on dirt or pavement, he shocked many by winning the Vukovich race at Madera in May with only one previous asphalt start.

Call him Champ --- Darrell Hanestad garnered his first ever sprint car title in twenty plus seasons of racing. The wingless spec sprints of Antioch Speedway were dominated by "The Hammer" as he won a whopping nine features. Crew chief Gary Faw had the car looking good and fast all season.

Best Track --- Cottage Grove Speedway located in the middle of Oregon provides a beautiful little track with great racing action. The campground is nice and track officials are very hospitable. A must see track for the true fan. Let's just hope recent rumblings of "The Grove" closing are false. It would be a shame to lose another track for no real good reason.

Most Improved --- Steven Tiner showed some of what is to come in the future as his leaped to the next level this year. Impressive runs throughout the 2002 campaign on the Civil War Series and NST tour led to more confidence. The capper was winning a Rebel Cup event at Hanford in October a week prior to the Trophy Cup.

Best Food --- Santa Maria Speedway has been on top for 25 years with their version of the Corn Dog. A huge hot dog smothered in some ultra fine batter and dipped in the fryer that produces a true winner.

Wheel Feeder --- Jason Meyers hit everything but the pace truck in California with his win it or wear it attitude. I thought he was a punt, pass, and kick champion. Now I understand it was square dance champion.

Biggest Surprise --- Tony Stewart making the call to run with USAC Western States sprints at Altamont on a cup weekend in California. Stole the show and the win by passing Jason McCord on the last lap of the main event.

Best Race --- SCRA at Ventura on Labor Day weekend. Damion Gardner won the deal from 14th starting after all others who led couldn't find the way to the checkered flag. No less than five different drivers held the top spot before DG took control. It was one to remember as "The Demon" aired 'em up to take hold of the race and gain the victory.

Best Appearing Car --- Midget --- Frank Guerrini Jr. is the owner of the immaculate # 63 Stealth cars on the BCRA circuit. These award winning racers always look cherry whenever rolled out of the trailer. The time spent in upkeep and weekly maintenance of these cars is insane.

Best Appearing Cars --- Sprints --- (TIE) Tony Iacobitti and Burt Foland field a pair of sweet lookin' sprinters that run on the USAC w/s tour. The early season favorite for this award was certainly the Yak Graphics # 31 until the Foland Family rolled out the # 78 Scuderia Boranda entry for youngest son Billy "BF" Foland.

Future Star --- Brad Sweet is a 16 year old budding superstar. He may look a bit young and small for driving these 700 horsepowered beasts of the 360 sprint car wars, but he is not afraid to gas it up. Look for him to climb the ranks at a steady pace. I would guess in 2010 Nascar or Indy type racing may look to someone like Bradley to carry the torch into the future.

Hard Luck Award --- Garrett Andrews took a rough ride at Santa Maria on June 1st in a Ford Focus heat resulting in a broken neck and back. He has been doing great with his recovery and is still crew chief for Johnny Rodriguez on the # 30 Beast midget in BCRA/USAC w/s. One of the true nice guys in racing.

Pass of the Year --- Bud Kaeding swooped by JJ Yeley in turn one at the Perris Oval Nationals to gain the $25,000 paycheck for the BK Motorsports team. It wasn't all that flashy of a move, but the opening was there and Brandon Kaeding seized the oppurtunity to cash in.

Win it or Wad it --- Damion Gardner had 'em covered at SCRA's Tulare show. For unknown reasons DG got a bit wide exiting turn four on lap 27 collecting the wall resulting in several cartwheels down the frontchute. It went from a healthy payday to junkin' a car in about 6 seconds. Also known as going from the penthouse to the outhouse.

Best Interview --- Andy Forsberg is good on the mic and he will tell it like it is. If he's a backmarker he tell ya so. Seems to run up front most nights with several podium finishes yearly. Still winning the fastest open trailer award on a annual basis.

Most Dedicated --- Tim Boychuk and Wade Fleming for being true racers and making the extra long tow from Edmonton, Alberta to California for at least two visits. Boychuk owns the Budweiser Motorsports Park that is home to the sprint cars where Fleming is the current track champion.

Hard Charger --- Damion Gardner wins this one hands down as the SCRA was taken by storm in 2002. After a 6th place run at the opening race. It took DG only until June to crack the winners circle on the toughest circuit around. Wins at Perris, the infamous Williams Grove and Manzanita Speedways, capped by a bullring bonaza at Ventura highlighted the season. "The Demon" also led the most laps in feature competition, had the most fast qualifier awards to go along with most wins in the Passing Masters Dash. He also led the league in bold moves and intimidation which left the veteran teams scratching thy heads.

Comeback Driver --- Bud Kaeding took a hard ride at Terre Haute on lap two of time trials after setting fast time on his first lap. The resulting eye injury kept Kaeding sidelined more than half the busy season waiting for his vision to clear. Once released by doctors Bud wasted little time making believers at of all as he returned to previous form winning all of the big non-wing shows at the end of the season.

Team of the Year --- Terry Cowan and ABC Ready Mix for landing the big one. After a late season split between newly crowned King of California Tim Kaeding and The Wright One team this group put together a deal for Tim to finish out the year. The result was all top finishes to wind up the season. This team headed up by Veteran crew chief Rod Tiner assisted by Greg Yannazzo should be good to go for 2003. I would be suprised to see TK on the road in 2004 with the big boys.

Crew Chief --- Davey Jones is the man when it comes to preparation and set-up knowledge. When the big money is on the line.....This is the guy you want making the calls. His track record speaks for itself with many big wins with some darn good pilots. Look for him to be in the running for this award again at seasons end.

Drivers of the Year --- Tim Kaeding and Steve Kinser share this award as the King did his thing in returning to the top of the heap on the national tour with the World of Outlaws. It was a stellar year to say the least win a huge win at the Knoxville Nationals and the Gold Cup in Chico. The new King of the west coast ran a close second to Kinser at Chico to earn props from the man himself. It was a true confidence builder that led to the late season heroics. Look for no less from these guys in 2003.

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