DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – For the past seven years, Matthew Turner was known as the “Ironman” of the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series.
On Saturday night, Turner earned a new moniker – champion. Turner and 19 other drivers were honored on Saturday night at the NeSmith Chevrolet DLMS Awards Banquet at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
Turner, who earned his “Ironman” name by competing in all 146 NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series events that have been held since 2005, was honored as the 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet DLMS Touring Division Champion and received the NeSmith Cup Trophy along with a point fund check for $20,000.
“For 146 consecutive races, this is what we’ve worked for, and to receive it in my hometown makes it extra special,” Turner said. “This would not have been possible if it wasn’t for my family and my hard working crew, who spent many long nights working in the shop.”
Turner was then joined on the stage by his wife Brandi, his mother and father David and Janice Turner, and his crew. Earlier in the evening, his crew chief Dustin Gee was named the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Touring Division Crew Chief of the Year, and David “Turkey” Turner was honored as the NeSmith Chevrolet DLMS Car Owner of the Year.
In accepting the Car Owner of the Year Award, “Turkey” Turner received a standing ovation and gave an emotional and unscripted acceptance speech that came straight from the heart in what his son’s championship meant to him personally.
“I am the proudest Daddy in the world because my son has accomplished in racing what I couldn’t,” the senior Turner said. “When Matthew was a kid, I tried to get him interested in racing, but he would rather play sports. He got hurt in high school and couldn’t play sports anymore and that made him so depressed. One day he came to me and told me he wanted to try racing. I bought him a race car the next day, and the rest is history.”
From that day forward, Turkey Turner was right at his son’s side helping him with his racing program. But Turner told a story about an argument he and his son had early in the 2012 season that at first upset the father, but at the end of the day made him proud.
“Matthew and I have very few disagreements, but we had a big one early in the season,” Turkey Turner said. “Matthew came to me and said if he was going to compete for the NeSmith Championship, he was going to do it his way. Well, I sat back, stayed out of the way, and let him do it his way. I kept thinking about that Elvis Presley song “I Did It My Way” and here we are. Matthew won the championship, he did it his way, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of my son tonight.”
Turner accumulated 1,862 points with one win, 9 top five finishes, 16 top ten finishes, one fast time award, led 30 laps of competition, and completed 1,004 out of a possible 1,010 laps of 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series competition driving the Hedman Husler Special.
In addition to his championship, Turner also received $1,000 check from Chris Vandergriff of Hedman Husler Headers for winning the 2012 Hedman Husler Hard Charger of the Year Award. Turner passed 112 cars over 22 races in 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Competition.
In 2012, Turner earned $33,975 in prize money, point fund money, and special awards. He also moved into second spot on the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series all-time Career Earnings list having pocketed a total of $108,315 since 2006.
Chase Washington was honored as the 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series Champion. Washington and Mickey Trosclair of Luling, LA actually tied in points with 798 points apiece at the end of the 27-week season, but Washington won the tie-breaker with 14 50-point wins to 12 50 point wins for Trosclair.
Washington competed in 44 NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series events in 2012 and turned in a total of 15 wins, 34 top five finishes, and 43 top ten finishes driving the Jerry Inmon Racing Special. Washington’s crew chief Joel Murphree was named the NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series Crew Chief of the Year.
Despite losing the tie-breaker for the 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series Championship, Trosclair graciously accepted the championship runner-up honors, and was class act in dedicating his season to his mother Sharon Trosclair. While accepting his award, Trosclair had a bouquet of flowers brought in to present to his mother.
Over 200 people filed into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame on Saturday night to witness the Top 10 drivers in both the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Touring Division and the NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series receive their awards.
Among the dignitaries on hand were National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame drivers Jeff Purvis of Clarksville, Tenn., (Class of 2001), Jerry Inmon of Bruce, Miss., (Class of 2002), Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn., (Class of 2004), and Herman Goddard of Knoxville, Tenn., (Class of 2008).
Purvis was the recipient of the Annual Bob Cross Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award named after Chevrolet Performance Engineer, the late Bob Cross, who was the father of the Chevrolet Performance Circle Track Crate Engine Program.
During his career, Purvis won over 350 dirt late model feature races including three World 100 wins, two N.D.R.A Championships, and a Southern All-Star Championship. Purvis went on to an illustrious short track asphalt career with three All-American 400 wins, and a win in the Snowball Derby.
That led to a NASCAR career where Purvis won four races in the Nationwide Series in 187 starts, and he also had 50 starts in the Sprint Cup Series. Purvis was also recognized for his courage off the track, having survived life-threatening two accidents. The first came on the track in 2002, and the second one off the track in a highway accident in 2006.
Purvis was also instrumental in the formation of the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series in 2005, and encouraged Chevrolet Performance to produce an economical 500 to 600 horsepower all-aluminum engine for super late model racing on the dirt. That led to the development and production of the $7,000 Chevrolet Performance CT 525 Engine.
Goddard accepted the 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Touring Division Chassis Manufacturers Championship on behalf of Warrior Race Cars and Goddard Performance of Knoxville, Tenn. It was Warrior Race Cars third Chassis Manufacturers Championship with the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series.
Johnson is the leading NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series all-time race winner with 14 victories, and he was the 2010 recipient of the Bob Cross Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award. Inmon was on hand with his protégé, 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series Champion Chase Washington.
Chris Cantrell received a $5,000 check from VP Racing Fuels for winning the 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series VP Racing Fuels Rookie of the Year Award. Cantrell finished sixth in the 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet DLMS Touring Division point standings with 1,498 points, five top five finishes, 11 top ten finishes, two fast time awards, and led 16 laps of competition driving the CANCO Rocket.
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series National Championship Runner-Up, two-time series champion David Earl Gentry of Murfreesboro, TN, was presented a $2,500 check from Jim Hiland of Bilstein Shocks as the 2012 Bilstein Bandit Champion.
Gentry accumulated 409 points with three wins, 11 top five finishes, 15 top ten finishes, two fast time awards, and led 135 laps of NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series competition in the Eads Farms/Hardy & Associates Warrior using the $135 Bilstein Spec Shocks.
Phil and Judy Santie, the owners and promoters of Malden (Mo.) Speedway were named the 2012 NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series Promoters of the Year. The Santie’s and Malden Speedway have been a part of the NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series since 2006, and have helped the series with their westward expansion through the years.
GRT Race Cars of Greenbrier, AR won the NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series Chassis Manufactures Championship for the fourth time and the second straight year in 2012.