WATERFORD, Conn. - More than 500 guests packed Groton Inn & Suites Saturday evening to celebrate Waterford Speedbowls 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and other Saturday series track champions.
Tyler Chadwick took home the hardware for his first career track championship in the SK Modified division. Joining Chadwick as first time champions were Dillon Moltz, who won the Late Model division title and Walt Hovey Jr., champion in the Street Stocks.
Ken Cassidy Jr. and Paul French each added a title to their racing resumes in the Mini Stock and SK Light Modified divisions respectively, rounding out the Speedbowls NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions. Paul Kusheba led the Speedbowls other Saturday division titlists which included Dan Butler, Wayne Shifflett and Jacob Urch.
In addition to the champions, a total of 70 race teams and drivers were recognized Saturday evening for their achievements on the track during 2012. Special awards for the Top Rookie Driver, Sportsman of the Year, Most Improved Driver and Pit Crew of the Year were named in the SK Modifieds, Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, Street Stocks, Mini Stocks, SK Light Modifieds and Legends Cars.
Chadwick, of Ledyard (Conn.), became the youngest SK Modified champion in Speedbowl history at 24 years of age. He bested Jeff Pearl of Salem in a fight for the title that went down to the final event of the year.
Chadwick posted five victories on the year in 22 events. Consistent top runs over the second half of the season put Chadwick in position to close out the title run over the final weeks of competition.
Jeff Chadwick, Tylers father, was awarded the SK Modified championship car owner hardware. The elder Chadwicks determination and support for his sons racing career has been the core of their success since Tyler was seven years old, culminating in their first Speedbowl title. It was Chadwicks eighth full season competing in the division and he plans to defend his championship in 2013.
Moltz joined the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division for 2012 driving for car owner Mark Cooper. The tandem proved to be potent from the start, capturing wins in two of the first four races. Moltz, a Waterford (Conn.) native, finished every event and rose to the top of the standings early due to his hot start. He posted seven victories in 18 races on the year, leading the division. Moltz became one of the youngest Speedbowl champions ever in a Saturday night division at just 21 years of age. Last years Late Model champion Jeff Smith was also 21 years old when he claimed the title. Plans call for Moltz and Cooper to team up again for a championship run in the division in 2013.
Hovey, of Chaplin (Conn.), finished on top in the Street Stock division for the first time in his racing career after coming close in previous campaigns. The champions path was not without drama, however, as he endured the rough and tumble division in addition to overcoming late season mechanical hurdles. Hovey won a total of four races, including two in the final three events to vault him to the division crown in a tight battle among several teams. Hovey plans a limited assault on the Street Stock division in 2013 as he focuses on his sons youth racing efforts.
Cassidy accepted top honors in the Mini Stock division for the fourth time. The title matches his championship efforts in 2007, 2008 and 2010. Cassidy, a Lisbon (Conn.) native, dominated the division from the beginning of the year winning nine of the first 10 races and 12 of 21 races overall – a record in the division.
The remarkable season earned Cassidy a national championship in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division IV asphalt ranks and cemented a place in Speedbowl history as arguably the most accomplished Mini Stock driver of all-time. Cassidy hopes to be a major factor in the division again in 2013.
French, of Andover (Conn.), was the years only repeat champion. He successfully defended his 2011 title in the SK Light Modified division. In just its second season as part of the Saturday lineup, the division competed on a limited basis. French was the most consistent competitor over the nine-race season, winning twice. French has 2013 aspirations in the SK Light Modified division at the Speedbowl.
The Saturday Legend Cars series was taken by Paul Kusheba of Monroe (Conn.). Kusheba racked up nine podium finishes in 12 races on the season, including one win. His quiet, yet steady front-running style buoyed his championship run. He became the 12th different champion of the division in 12 seasons.
The Bandolero, X-Car and Super X-Car divisions, attractions for the Speedbowls mid-week Wild n Wacky Wednesday series, competed in an abbreviated Saturday Showdown Series. Claiming titles in their respective divisions were Jacob Urch of West Suffield (Conn.) in the Bandoleros, Wayne Shifflett of Preston (Conn.) in the X-Cars, and Dan Butler of Waterford (Conn.) in the Super X-Cars. Brad Voglesong of Middletown (Conn.) and Peter Pollard of Old Lyme (Conn.) were each recognized as Wacky Race champions on the year.
Picking up hardware for Top Rookies included Ed Puleo of Branford (Conn.) in the SK Modifieds, who also won NASCARs Connecticut State Rookie of the Year honor, Anthony Ryan Jr. of Danbury (Conn.) in the Late Models, and Tim Morse of Southbury (Conn.) in the Street Stocks. Columbia (Conn.) driver Joseph Fogarasi won the honor in the Mini Stocks, Corey Barry of Plainfield (Conn.) for the SK Light Modifieds and Stephen Kopcik of Newtown (Conn.) in the Legend Cars.
Sportsman of the Year Award winners went to Al Stone III of Durham (Conn.) in the SK Modifieds, Rich Staskowski of Hope Valley (R.I.) in the Late Models, Joe Arena of Bristol (Conn.) in the Street Stocks and Jeff Cembruch of Wallingford (Conn.) for the Mini Stocks. Also earning the award were Chris Ignazio of Colchester (Conn.) in the SK Light Modifieds and Kyle Rogers of Waterbury (Conn.) for the Legend Cars.
Taking home the Most Improved Driver honors included third generation racer Joe Gada of Salem (Conn.) for the SK Modifieds, Jason Palmer of Berlin in the Late Models and Garrett Denton of Hope Valley (R.I.) for the Mini Stock division. Tyler Jackson of Milford (Conn.) won the award in the SK Light Modifieds and Nicholas Sowa of Middletown (Conn.) won it in the Legend Cars. Arena was the recipient in the Street Stocks.
Pit Crew of the Year went to hometown drivers Rob Janovic Jr. and the VoJan Motorsports team for the SK Modifieds, and Moltzs championship team in the Late Models. The teams of Dan Darnstaedt in the Street Stocks and Ray Christian III in the Mini Stocks took the honors, while Frenchs SK Light Modified team and Dylan Izzos Legend Cars team were also recognized.