ECONOMAKI: NASCAR’s Brass Was Prominent At Banquets

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POP THE QUESTION: After being crowned NASCAR Canadian Tire Series stock-car champion Saturday night in the Crown Ballroom in Charlotte, N.C., D.J. Kennington used the stage to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Jamie. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images Photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR’s brass was out in full force at the weekend’s NASCAR Whelen All-American and Touring Series banquets at the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center. NASCAR President Mike Helton stressed the sanctioning body’s support of weekly racing in presenting a championship ring to national titlist Keith Rocco. NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton, marketing maven Steve O’Donnell and George Silbermann, who oversees the weekly and touring programs, were among the attendees. Part of the program was a fitting video tribute to the late Jim Hunter, one of the biggest supporters weekly racing has ever had.

It was interesting to see that three of the top four honorees at the NASCAR weekly racing banquet were dirt-track racers. While champion Keith Rocco races modifieds on Connecticut’s three asphalt tracks, runner-up Craig Preble drives dirt late models in Nebraska, third-place Duane Howard steers dirt modifieds in Pennsylvania and rookie-of-the-year Chad Mahder races dirt late models in Wisconsin. Preble started the season not planning to run for the title, but after a quick start changed his plans. He was the nation’s leading feature winner with 22 triumphs and his wife gave birth to the pair’s first child 22 days before the banquet. “Sometimes life gives you more than you expect; this year life certainly gave me more than I could expect,” Preble said.

The Crown Ballroom was a welcome new host for the banquets with excellent food and a well arranged setting just a few yards from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Banners honoring every NASCAR weekly racing national champion back to the first year in 1982 hanged from the ceiling and the rapid-paced ceremony was masterfully emceed by Fox television announcers Mike Joy and Dick Berggren. enjoyed sharing a table with Area Auto Racing News publisher Lenny Sammons and master wordsmith Bones Bourcier, among others.

A pair of Justin Johnsons were honored with NASCAR State championships. Justin A. Johnson was the California state champ and Justin T. Johnson claimed the Virginia title.

Sebastian Vettel was crowned Formula One World Champion at the FIA prize giving in Monaco Friday. “You cannot believe how much this trophy means to me,” he told Autosport. “It is something so special. And to see the names on there means so much. To have your name engraved there is amazing, and in the same line there are all the champions from 2000, 1990, 1980 and so on. So there is Michael [Schumacher], [Ayrton] Senna, Alan Jones, and of course Jochen [Rindt] from 1970.” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner accepted the constructors’ world champions’ trophy.

Having recently won the Home Depot Humanitarian of the Year Award for his fund-raising efforts, there’s more good news about Tony Stewart’s giving back to society. Stewart is turning his 414-acre Hidden Hollow Ranch, near Columbus, Ind., into a laboratory for Mississippi State University biologists to study habitat, overpopulation and other deer-related issues. And Stewart has made a commitment to the Catch-A-Dream program, which is headquartered at Mississippi State, to allow children with life-threatening illnesses to enjoy various outdoor experiences on his Columbus property. Since 2001, the Catch-A-Dream program has fulfilled the wishes of 339 children in 45 states.

Longtime racing mechanic and owner of C&R Racing Chris Paulsen will need two of the three things that Warren Zevon wrote about in his popular song “Lawyers, Guns and Money” after trying to take the second item through security at Indianapolis Int’l Airport recently.

Continuing to prove he can win in anything with four wheels, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Bobby Santos topped the NASCAR Champions/Media Karting Showdown last week at Victory Lane Karting in Charlotte. The event was part of NASCAR’s Champions Week, which led up to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet and the Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala. Ryan Truex, the defending race winner and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, recovered from an early-race tangle to finish second with NASCAR Whelen All-American titlist Keith Rocco third under the checkered flag. Even though they started at the front of the pack, the participating media members were no match for the NASCAR stars.

Texas Motor Speedway officials and fans got some good news recently with the announcement of the expansion of a 2.95-mile stretch of State Highway 114, which borders Texas Motor Speedway. The $15 million 27-month project is expected to be completed by September 2013 and should make the stretch of road safer and improve traffic flow to and from the race track.

At age 85, former race-car driver Paul Goldsmith continues to make his mark in the world. Goldsmith, a trained pilot, founded Goldsmith Aviation, Inc., in 1984 and in conjunction with Boeing Co. is training Chinese pilots. Working out of Georgia’s Griffith-Merrillville Airport, Goldsmith Aviation has trained 76 pilots since 2007. The demand for trained pilots in China and the Pacific Rim is expected to grow considerably over the next two decades.

The 25th annual Chili Bowl Nationals will be held Jan. 11-15 at the QuickTrip Center’s Tulsa Expo Raceway. In recognition of the Silver Anniversary of this prestigious indoor midget race, www.nationalspeedsportnews.com will be publishing the race reports that appeared in the pages of National Speed Sport News for the first 24 runnings of the event. Beginning with the inaugural event in 1987, race recaps will be posted on a daily basis from Dec. 18 through Jan. 10.

The 26th Racing Promotion Monthly Western National Workshop in Reno, Nev., Dec. 3-5 attracted 126 tracks and associations with 48 exhibiting companies from 24 states and two Canadian provinces. The annual gathering included 27 sessions and a keynote speech from Indy car driver and short-track promoter Davey Hamilton. Thirty-seven other presenters and speakers discussed topics ranging from mobile and web media to food and beverage and sponsorship. The annual Florida RPM session is scheduled Feb. 14-16 at the Hilton Daytona Beach.

At the 42nd annual Western Auto Racing Promoters Ass’n Conference, two ASA-affiliated promoters received prestigious awards. Adam Nelson, promotor of Meridian Speedway, an ASA Member Track in Meridian, Idaho, received the Reg Midgley Perpetual First Class Promotion Award for the annual Diamond Cup event. Scott Ellsworth received the Orval the Clown Award honoring his 40 years of promotion in the Northwest, which included promoting the ASA Northwest Late Model Tour.

Havasu 95 Speedway, an ASA Member Track in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., recently ended its fifth annual Toys for Tots drive with a whopping 88 bicycles, 20 scooters and 20 skateboards donated to the cause. The fans, racers and the speedway itself generated more than $5,000.

Legendary drivers Dan Gurney and Sir Stirling Moss have become voting members of the Speed Performer of the Year panel, joining Mario Andretti in helping select the annual recipient of the Mario Andretti Trophy, which is presented annually by Speed during its Speed Performance Awards, which will air in February. Fans can vote for the winner of this award given to the top racer of the year and other Speed Performance Awards at www.speedperformanceawards.com. Former winners of the Andretti Trophy, a 100-pound bronze sculpture created by artist Elie Hazak, include five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2007, 2008) and NHRA Top Fuel pilot Tony Schumacher (2009).

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As we close the year (next issue is Jan. 19), a humble thank you to our supporters, writers, photographers, subscribers and web fans. We couldn’t continue without any of you. Your support means a great deal to the staff of NSSN, and we hope your holidays are merry and safe. Merry Christmas everyone!

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