Erie, PA : Stateline Speedway formally concluded its 2014 season, the first under the direction of the Catania family, with a gala banquet at the Ambassador Banquet and Conference Center in Erie, PA.
The top ten competitors in each division were honored with Rob Blair picking up his first Stateline Speedway Super Late Model championship. Scott Gurdak was crowned the Crate Late Model champion with Brent Rhebergen the E-Mod champion. The Limited Late Models honors went to Ryan Scott with Ted Kosinski conquering the Sportsman division. The Street Stock champion was Brandon Groters and Roger Hall end the season at the top of the Challenger points.
Several special awards were presented to drivers who excelled during their season. The Rookies of the Year were Max Blair in Super Late Models, Wyatt Scott in Crate Late Models, Rob Middleton in E-Mods, Wes Vollentine in Street Stocks, Mike Burnham in Sportsmen, and Charles Morris in Challengers.
For overall excellence Brent Rhebergen was named “Driver of the Year”. Rhebergen won the E-Mod championship and finished sixth in the Super Late Model standings. Rhebergen always had the respect of the rest of the racing field for his sportsmanship in all areas.
The “Rising Star” award is for a young competitor who demonstrates a dedication to the sport and the ability to learn and improve. This driver shows every indication of being a force to reckon with for the future of the sport. That driver in 2014 was Crate Late Model driver Wyatt Scott, a third generation driver who showed improvement every week of the season and a maturity beyond hi fourteen years.
Brian Larson was recognized as “Founders Award” for his excellence and continuous display of service above self. The award is in honor of Stateline’s founders; Leonard Briggs, Jerry Frank, Don Frank, Marv Thorpe, and Lloyd Williams. Larson earned the award by “acting like an owner” for his diligence and dedication to the track preparation and all maintenance at the track. He was also given the title of “Dr Dirt”.
Stateline Speedway’s final event of 2014 saw history made at the historic oval when Dick Barton, racing Dirt Late Models since 1986, surpassed the record for wins set my Bobby Schnars when he made a thrilling pass on race-long leader Chris Hackett coming to the white flag after a duel that had started on lap seven of the fifty lap Julian Buesink Memorial. Blair, driving the iconic #28 retro schemed car, then went on to win #80, surpassing the 79 wins of Bobby Schnars, set in 1976. Barton announced his retirement from the sport a week later. For his lifelong achievements Barton was given recognition, being named “Top Gun” at Stateline. In an emotional address Barton thanked his long-time crew for their dedication and work ethic, giving special thanks to crew chief John Lamb, who had been with him from the beginning of his career in the 1970s in the old Sportsmen division.
Lamb, in turn, was recognized by the track for his contributions over the years, being named “Top Wrench”, the winningest crew chief in Stateline’s history.
The Keynote Speaker for the evening was Ernie Irvan, named by NASCAR as one of the sport’s 50 greatest drivers ever. Irvan, who retired in 1999, spoke about the importance of short track racing, especially dirt tracks, noting how his career started on the short tracks of California and North Carolina. Irvan’s father was a racer in California and now his son, Jared, is starting a racing career in the Carolinas. He noted the importance of families in racing and attracting younger fans so racing will still be available for the fans in the future. He also noted the importance of confidence and all sponsors, even the seemingly inconsequential sponsors.
Sunday Ernie joined his son, Jared, at Stateline’s Karting Award’s Banquet where both spoke on the importance of working hard for the goal and respecting parents and other mentors to enjoy the experience. After speaking on Sunday a question and answer period was offered to the karting competitors.
The evening progressed with an overview of the proposed 2015 racing schedule presented by owner Bill Catania. Several premier events will be conducted in Super Late Models, Crate Late Models, Modifieds, and Street Stocks. Several series will be involved in the season including World of Outlaws Late Models, Renegades of Dirt Modifieds, the Penn-Ohio Street Stocks, ULMS, and both area sprint series, the Patriot Sprint Tour and the Empire Super Sprints. Several special nights with live music entertainment are also planned as well as Enduro events and other specials. The season will officially get underway with the first annual Winter Extravaganza on February 21. A mall-style car show is being planned with two practice sessions (April 11 and 18) planned prior to the season of racing action getting the green flag at 7 PM on Saturday April 25.