2009 Awards Banquet
AMY CATALANO AND RYAN SUSICE NAMED AS DRIVERS OF THE YEAR
AT FRIENDS OF AUTO RACING AWARDS BANQUET
The Friends of Auto Racing (F.O.A.R. S.C.O.R.E.) Fan Club held their annual awards dinner on Saturday January 30, 2010 at the Elks Club in Lancaster, NY. A crowd of approximately 200 gathered for the affair which annually recognizes deserving drivers and key racing supporters from Western New York and Ontario’s Niagara Region. The highlights of the evening included the induction of four members into the Friends of Auto Racing Hall of Fame (see accompanying release) and the presentation of Driver of the Year Awards to Amy Catalano of Ontario, NY (asphalt racing) and Ryan Susice of Ransomville, NY (dirt racing).
In just his second season of open-wheeled racing, Ryan Susice capped a solid season by claiming DIRTCar Sportsman track titles at both Ransomville and Canandaigua Speedways and placed second in the overall Mr. DIRTCar Sportsman Series. The second generation driver earned multiple victories at both his home tracks, and at Ransomville, ten of his finishes were either first or second.
In just her first season in an open-wheeled car after much success in full-bodied racing divisions, Amy Catalano raced to her first ever SST Sportsman Modified feature win at Spencer Speedway, had 11 additional top five finishes, and claimed the Spencer track crown. Adding the Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex to her regular schedule midway through the year, she claimed three Holland wins in just seven starts. She earned the overall SST Championship and was 5th in New York State NASCAR Whelen All-American Sereis points. Amy becomes the first woman driver to be recognized as a Friends of Auto Racing Driver of the year.
Two drivers were presented with the Achievement on Dirt Award. Pete Stefanski of Wheatfield, NY was recognized for his first career Pro Stock victory at the Syracuse Mile during Super DIRT Week, and for his fourth consecutive Mr. DIRTCar Pro Stock title. Kevin Aube of St. Catherines, ON was honored for his phenomenal 13 wins in 13 starts record in Pro Four Truck racing at Humberstone Speedway.
Bill Putney of East Aurora, NY was presented the Achievement on Asphalt award for his impressive victory in the Modified Race of Champions 200 at Oswego Speedway in September, after missing what looked to be a certain dominating Modified victory at Oswego in the Richie Evans Memorial race earlier in the year when brake problems knocked him out of action just three laps from the checkers.
The Families in Racing Award, which recognizes area families who have had long, successful involvements with the sport in the region, was presented to three families: the Newton family, the Willard family and the Fleetwood family. The Newtons, based in East Pembroke and Medina, NY, have a three generation, fifty year history in area motorsports, as owner/mechanics, racers, and track promoters. Although various family members over the years have raced just about any type of car on both dirt and asphalt, they have been most noted for asphalt Modifieds and dirt Sportsman. Rich and Rick Newton have each won Sportsman track titles (at Perry and Genesee, respectively), while Mark, after a solid racing career in an asphalt Mod, joined brother Bobby to become the first promoters of weekly racing at the Genesee County Fairgrounds in the early ‘80s. Numerous family members were on hand to accept the award, including Mark, Rick, and family elder statesman Norm.
The St. Catharines, ON based Willard family has been involved in motorsports for four generations and 55+ years. The origins were with Bill and Anne Willard, who provided the towing service for the new Merrittville Speedway (a connection which continues to this day) and also put their familiar red racers containing the numeral 7 in various combinations on the track for a number of top wheelmen to drive. Son Al continued to oversee the racing and towing operations, and family championshp runs would begin with third generation, as Al’s son and daughter, Bill, Jr. and Tammy, drove the red Willard racers to titles at Merrittville, Humberstone, Genesee, and Ohsweken Speedways. Currently, the fourth generation is making a name for itself, most notably Tyler McPherson, Al’s grandson, who has two Street Stock and two Sportsman titles to his credit. Bill, Jr. and B.J. Willard accepted the award on behalf of the family.
The Buffalo based Fleetwood family was also honored. Patriarch Russ Fleetwood was a Western New York racing pioneer competing in just about any type of race car throughout the northeast and midwest from the mid-thirties through the fifties, and also served as a long time officer of the Foar Score Fan Club, and is in the Club’s Hall of Fame. Son Russell (Butch) had a short racing career, was a long time track official in the area, has served many terms as an officer and director of the Foar Score Fan Club, and is actively involved in historical race car restoration and keeping alive the rich history of the sport. Russ’ wife Rita also played an active role in the club, while Butch’s wife Barbara has served as a track scorer and assisted in the club, and Butch’s son Scott also active in the club. Butch, Barbara, and Scott were present to accept the award. The families were presented with a recognition trophy while a permanent trophy is housed at the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen.
Rookie of the Year awards were presented to Ransomville, Merrittville, and Humberstone 358 Modified racer Mat Williamson (dirt) and Wyoming County and Holland SST Modified Sportsman driver Patrick Emerling (asphalt). Most Improved Driver awards went to Arcade Fastrak Late Model third place points finisher Tom Kemp (dirt) and Holland SST Pro Modified top five points finisher Tim Welshans (asphalt).
Ransomville Speedway Street Stock driver Kirk Sherwood received the Perseverance Award, marking his return to racing (and victory lane) in 2009 after losing most of his left arm in a workplace accident a few years earlier. Terry Zacharias and the Zacharias Racing Team (represented by Jimmy Zacharias) won the Sportsmanship Award for providing two of their Modified racers to Matt Druar and Andy Jankowiak to take part in the memorial race for their fathers (the Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial) at Dunn Tire Raceway Park in August.
The Dick Hammond Dedication to Auto Racing Award was presented to long time area announcer and personality Ken Hangauer, Jr., in recognition of his 40 year involvement in the sport.
Life-long race fan Laura Schroeder, currently a marketing assistant at Dunn Tire Raceway Park and the Recording Secretary of the Foar Score Fan Club, earned the Woman in Racing Award. The Mechanical Achievement Award was presented to Debbie Drennan and Susan Lewis (aka, the “Kluth Girls”) for their efforts behind the scenes for the entries on the Kluth/Lewis racing team.
Humberstone Speedway’s owner/promoter (and Modified owner and racer) Pete Cosco was awarded the Promotional Efforts honor for the very successful NASCAR driver night at the Port Colborne, ON oval. Eric Zwirlein, Western New York columnist for the Gater Racing News, was presented the Media Award.
A Special Recognition Award was presented to the Bennett Family of Holland, NY for 50 years of continuous ownership and operation of the Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex. Track General Manager Tim Bennett accepted the award on behalf of the family.
Two series/track champions received special honors. Rogers Repair Shop and the Michael Racing Team presented Street Stock ace Andy Michael a four-pillared, four-foot trophy to mark his incredible 2009 season of four track titles: Arcade, Little Valley, McKean County, and Bradford. John Casey and Charlie DiRosa of the Casey’s TQ Midget Series presented special recognition plaques to driver Justin Mapes and owner Gordon Steffan for their second consecutive series championship.
Released 1/31/10) BY: Rick Mooney
Contact – Rick Mooney: Rmooney@aol.com