ALTOONA, Iowa – United States Modified Touring Series competitors, car owners and crew members were honored for their efforts during the 2012 racing season Friday as the USMTS hosted the annual awards banquet at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, Iowa.
For the first time in its 14-year history, the series crowned two champions from two separate and distinct tours. However, just one name needed to be etched into the champion’s trophies as Ryan Gustin nailed down his second USMTS National Championship in a row and also captured the USMTS Casey’s Cup Series crown.
“With the caliber of drivers we race against every night, it just makes this that much sweeter knowing we did it against the best there is,” Gustin said as he accepted his awards Friday night. “I can’t say enough about my team and all of our sponsors. None of this would be possible without them.”
‘The Reaper’ and the Gressel Racing team bested nearly every statistical category in 2012. The 22-year-old from Marshalltown, Iowa, won 10 USMTS National Championship Series features and topped four USMTS Casey’s Cup Series races in 2012.
For the second straight year, Gustin led more main event laps than anybody. He passed beneath the flagstand as the leader 538 times during the year. Gustin also claimed the AFCO Pole Award by earning the most passing points during heat race competition and laid claim the season-ending Mesilla Valley Hard Charger Award.
Earning $30,000 for winning the USMTS National Championship and $15,000 for capturing the USMTS Casey’s Cup Series crown, plus a victory on July 28 at the World Modified Dirt Track Championships where he pocketed a cool $25,00 for his efforts, Gustin’s purses and points fund rake for the 2012 campaign totaled just under $170,000 plus thousands more in product and contingency awards from numerous and generous sponsors.
Gustin’s 61 career wins ranks him third behind nine-time USMTS national champ Kelly Shryock (178) and 2010 USMTS national champ Jason Hughes (111) on the all-time wins list.
Hughes wound up second in the USMTS National Championship Series standings, with Rodney Sanders finishing third, Chris Brown fourth and Shryock in fifth. Stormy Scott bested twin brother Johnny Scott by eight points for the sixth-place check, Dereck Ramirez earned the eighth spot, Zack VanderBeek was ninth and Terry Phillips rounded out the top 10.
In the USMTS Casey’s Cup powered by Swan Energy, Sanders was the runner-up behind Gustin followed by Stormy Scott, Hughes and Jeremy Payne. Completing the top-10 in the standings were Johnny Scott, Shryock, Jason Cummins, Ramirez and VanderBeek.
Points funds were also up for grabs for the next five spots with Bryan Rowland, Jon Tesch, Al Hejna, Corey Dripps and Daniel Hilsabeck securing 11th through 15th in the final rankings.
Stormy Scott took the lead in the USMTS Rookie of the Year points on the first night of the 2012 season and never gave it up. Previous Rookie of the Year Award recipients include Jason Grimes (2011), Johnny Scott (2010), Grant Junghans (2009), Brandon Kenny (2008), Scott Green (2007), Jay Poidinger (2006), Brad McEwan (2005), Zack VanderBeek (2004), Corey Dripps (2003), Justin Boney (2002), Jason Hughes (2001) and Kevin Peters (2000).
After nearly a decade of domination by Shryock’s Skyrocket Chassis, Hughes Racing Chassis secured its third straight Tiger Rear Ends Manufacturers Championship. Adding to his haul for the night, Gustin garnered a new complete rear end from Tiger Rear Ends after his name was drawn at random from all drivers earning points and competing in a Hughes chassis in 2012. GRT Race Cars, Skyrocket Chassis, BC Chassis and Side Biter Chassis completed the top-5 in the year-end standings.
Another back-to-back-to-back title went to Mullins Race Engines as the Mt. Olive, Ill., -based engine builder captured its third straight USMTS COMP Cams Engine Builder of the Year Award. Geddes Racing Engines made a lot of noise in 2012 and finished second in the standings, followed by Pro Power Racing, Sput’s Racing Engines and Roush Yates Engines.
While the drivers basked in the spotlight throughout the night, the crew members were not forgotten. CPD Racing Tools presented the Crew Chief of the Year Award to Joey “Joe Bob” Ciechanowski. This was the second straight time that the crew chief of Gustin’s Gressel Racing team took home the top honors.