INDIANAPOLIS – USAC National driving champions Kody Swanson, Robert Ballou and Tracy Hines shared the spotlight along with other 2015 USAC champions and special award recipients at Friday night’s 60th USAC Night of Champions celebration at the Indiana Roof Ballroom.
Swanson, of Kingsburg, Calif., Ballou, of Rocklin, Calif., and Hines, of New Castle, Ind., earned National championships. Swanson was a repeat Silver Crown titlist, Ballou the AMSOIL Sprint Car king and Hines the Honda Midget champ.
Hines also secured the USAC Triple Crown Championship, adding the Midget title to his previous championships in USAC’s Silver Crown and National Sprint series. He was presented the coveted True Speed Triple Crown ring by Nelson Stewart, father of the award sponsor, Tony Stewart.
Car owner National champions for 2015 included DePalma Motorsports of Lima, Ohio (Silver Crown), Ballou (Sprint) and Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports of Columbus, Ind. (Midget).
Emcees Dillon Welch and Butch Lamb orchestrated the presentations, which included driver and car entrant champions, Rookies of the Year, Most Improved Drivers and special award recipients.
Among items presented to the 2015 champions were Keys to the City of Indianapolis from the Mayor’s office, trophies, plaques, Hoosier jackets, medallions, distinctive art canvases and remote-control TRAXXAS trucks.
Sprint Car driving champions in addition to the aforementioned include Damion Gardner of Concord, Calif. (AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprints); Danny Faria Jr. of Tipton, Calif. (West Coast Sprints) and R.J. Johnson of Phoenix, Ariz. (Southwest Sprints).
Other 2015 champions included Ronnie Gardner of Norco, Calif. (Honda Western Midgets); Adam Pierson of Bradford, Vt. (DMA Midget); Alex Watson of Columbus, Ohio (HPD Midwest Midget); Cody Jessop of Madera, Calif. (HPD Western Midget), Shawn Buckley of Simi Valley, Calif. (HPD Western Dirt Midget); Dylan Nobile of Clovis, Calif. (HPD Western Pavement Midget); Chris Lamb of Colfax, N.C. (HPD Eastern Midget) and Jesse Love IV of Menlo Park, Calif. (HPD Western Restricted Midget).
Also honored for their 2015 championships at Kutztown, Pa.’s ActionTrack USA, which operated under the USAC banner in 2015, were Billy Pauch Jr. of Frenchtown, N.J. (SpeedSTRs); Tim Buckwalter of Douglassville, Pa. (Pioneer Pole Buildings 600 Wingless Sprints); Brett Bieber of Oley, Pa. (NAPA AllStar Slingshots) and Jared Silfee of Saylorsburg, Pa. (Junior Slingshots).
Honored as USAC Honda .25 Midget National Champions as a result of their “Generation Next Tour” titles were drivers Chase Burda of Columbiaville, Mich. (Light Mod Pavement); Johnathon Gallagher of Oxford, Pa.(Heavy Honda and Heavy 160 Dirt); Connor Gross of Middleton, Mass.(Senior Animal and Light AA Pavement); Carson Hocevar of Portage, Mich.(Heavy Honda and Heavy 160 and Heavy World Formula and Heavy AA Pavement); Kevin Holt Jr. of Flemington, N.J. (Light 160 Dirt); James JJ Horstman of Stroudsburg, Pa. (Senior Honda Dirt); Brady Johnson of Terrell, N.C. Junior Honda & Junior Animal Pavement; Ray Kable of Mt. Airy, Md. (Heavy World Formula Dirt); Gavin Miller of Mooresville, Ind. (Junior Honda and Junior Animal Dirt); Tori O’Neal of Everett, Pa. (Unrestricted Animal Dirt); Justin Oplinger of Mt. Holly, N.C. (Senior Honda Pavement); Gage Painter of Statesville, N.C. (Light World Formula Pavement); Steven Snyder Jr. of Rising Sun, Md. (Light World Formula Dirt); Mike Thompson of Holland, PA. (Senior Animal Dirt); Connor Yonchuk of Winston Salem, N.C. (Light 160 Pavement).
USAC President Kevin Miller presented USAC Special Appreciation Awards to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (corporate) and Mike Grosswendt of All Coast Construction (individual) for their contributions and dedicated service to the racing community.
USAC Chairman of the Board Jeff Stoops was presented USAC’s prestigious Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence, recognizing his commitment to the overall sport of auto racing and his numerous contributions to USAC.
Tony Elliott of Warsaw, Ind., posthumously received the Jason Leffler Award, in recognition of his intense appreciation of the sport’s history reflected in his professionalism and outstanding representation as an ambassador of the United States Auto Club, exhibiting the same standard of ideals upheld by the late Jason Leffler during his USAC racing career. Elliott perished in an aircraft accident this year and his award was accepted by his widow, Cindy.
USAC’s 2015 National Race Organizer of the Year Award was awarded to Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway race organizer Don Kazarian.
Dave Darland earned the Mike Curb Super License Award and its $5,000 cash bonus for scoring the most points of all drivers participating in USAC’s 2015 National racing series.
C.J. Leary of Greenfield, Ind., earned the 2015 USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year honor. Aaron Farney of Brookston, Ind., was honored as the National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year and the Bob Stroud Memorial National Midget Rookie of the Year Award for the National Midget Series went to Spencer Bayston of Lebanon, Ind.
Tanner Thorson of Minden, Nev., was named USAC’s “Most Improved” National Driver of 2015.
USAC’s 2015 Chief Mechanic of the Year awards went to Derrick Bye of Westfield, Ind., who guided Ballou’s drive to the Silver Crown title, and Keith Kunz, whose Midgets dominated this year’s Honda National Midget series.
Chase Stockon of Haubstadt, Ind., accepted the ProSource Fast Qualifier bonus for leading all other National drivers with eight fast time awards during 2015.
Second and third-place drivers and car entrants in USAC’s National racing series also received their year-end recognition and awards.
All USAC driving champions were also presented one-year memberships by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.