2011 Awards Banquet
AMY CATALANO AND CHAD BRACHMANN 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 December 10, 2011 at the Elks Club in Lancaster, NY. A crowd of approximately 160 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 Tom McGrath, Jay Milligan, Bill Milliken, and Ron Smoker into the Friends of Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the presentation of Driver of the Year Awards to Chad Brachmann of Wheatfield, NY (dirt racing) and Amy Catalano of Ontario, NY (asphalt racing).
Second generation driver Chad Brachmann captured his first career Modified points title at his home track Ransomville Speedway, with only two finishes outside of the top five all season long. Competing against the likes of Pete Bicknell and Todd Burley on a weekly basis, Brachmann scored a dramatic victory on the final points night to vault from third to first in the standings for the title. In addition, Chad raced to wins in some special late season events, including the Modified portion of the prestigious Pittsburgher in his first ever visit to the Pittsburgh PA Motor Speedway, the finale for the BRP Modified Tour in the Steel City Stampede at Lernerville Speedway, and the “Win-and-In” Modified race at Rolling Wheels Raceway during Super DIRT Week. He also scored a pair of victories in Modified special events at the New Humberstone Speedway. Chad was unable to attend the gathering; Bill Anstett accepted the award on his behalf.
Amy Catalano received her second FOAR SCORE Driver of the Year trophy in three seasons. She secured a first Holland Motorsports Complex Pro Modified title on the strength of two victories and not a single finish outside of the top three, and placed third in points at Spencer Speedway, with three victories at the Williamson oval. Her combined Holland and Spencer finishes gave her the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series New York State Championship, and she placed 24th in the national rankings for the Whelen All-American Series. Amy was attending the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet in Charlotte, NC over the weekend; her sons Tyler and Trevor and her sister-in-law Kathy Catalano Reissner accepted the award on her behalf.
The Catalano Family was also honored with a Families in Racing Award. Numerous members of the clan over three generations have been involved in the sport, most notably, Buck Catalano, who has earned ten Spencer Speedway titles in four different divisions, along with a Lancaster Modified title and a NASCAR NorthEast Regional crown. His son Patsy also notched a pair of Spencer championships in the Modified ranks. Dave Catalano is a long time racing veteran with visits to victory lane, while Dave’s wife Amy has had a championship record, and their son Tommy was the 2010 Wyoming County 4-cylinder title holder. Kathy Catalano Reissner and Tyler and Trevor Catalano accepted the award for the family.
The Friends of Auto Racing Hall of Fame added four more to the prestigious ranks. Tom McGrath recently retired from a 20 year career spent primarily in the asphalt Modified ranks. Tom earned 18 Lancaster Modified wins throughout his career, and was the 2005 Modified champion at the Western New York speedplant. Over the last few years of his career, he added an asphalt Sportsman to his racing stable, and garnered top three points finishes in four straight seasons at Lancaster/Dunn Tire Raceway Park, including the 2011 championship. He has also been the crew chief and mentor for the competitive 4-cylinder racing teams of his daughter Cassie and of Kalie Clementi. Former Modified driver, Hall of Fame member, and Friends of Auto Racing Board member Ron Martin presented the induction trophy to Tom.
Jay Milligan was the initial promoter of Lancaster Speedway when it first opened in 1959, and was responsible for the star studded USAC Sprint Car show at the oval in 1961, featuring 23 drivers who had competed in that year’s Indy 500. He moved on to ABC Sports, for whom he co-ordinated motorsports broadcasting coverage, working with noted announcers such as Chris Economaki, Bill Flemming, and Jim McKay. After his stint at ABC, he worked as a managing official at Holland Speedway for a few seasons, while growing his own company, JM Productions. JM Productions now provides motorsports entertainment in the form of Demolition Derbies and Figure 8 Car events at over 70 venues in North America. Through JM Productions, Jay worked to present the “Astro-Spiral” Car at the Houston Astrodome, and then was part of the stunt team that used the Astro Spiral stunt in the James Bond film, “The Man With the Golden Gun,” which was filmed in Thailand - Jay did some of the other stunt driving for that film. Jay personally accepted his award, which was presented by past Friends of Auto Racing President Butch Fleetwood.
Bill Milliken was a road course racer through the 40's and 50's. He gained his original notoriety in the Watkins Glen area for an incident in the very first street race at the Glen in 1948, in which he rolled his racer at a sharp curve, giving rise to the corner being referred to as “Milliken’s Corner.” Bill was intimately involved with the Glen racing scene in the early years, helping design the original course, serving on the first rules committee, and later serving for ten years as Chief Steward for the Formula One Grand Prix events at the venue. He was recently honored as one of the “Legends of the Glen.” Bill also put his background as a aeroflight engineer to use to improve automobile dynamics, with his research providing the background vehicle design improvements, for highways and for race tracks. He has authored multiple books on the subject. Bill, who recently turned 100 years of age was in attendance along with his son Doug; Friends of Auto Racing Vice-President Bob Duell made the presentation.
After a stint in the 6-cylinder Modified class in the mid-eighties, second generation racer Ron Smoker made a move to the Modifieds and was on his way to successes covering a wide territory. Though the mid-nineties, he was one of the top area drivers in dirt track Modifieds, with a 1991 Merrittville title and a memorable last turn pass of Brett Hearn for a victory in the 1992 big block DIRT Modified Series race at Merrittville. He then had an opportunity to compete in a USAC Midget, and found success there, earning USAC Rookie of the Year honors in 1998, and capturing the Indianapolis 16th Street Speedway Midget title in 1999. He would return to Modified racing in 2002, and concentrated his efforts at Sharon Speedway in Ohio and the BRP Modified Series, winning three straight BRP titles from 2002-2004, and notching the Sharon track title in ‘02 and ‘03. He would later earn one more championship at the then Gasport Speedway in Port Colborne, ON before retiring following the 2008 season. Ron joins his father Jim as the fifth father/son combination in the Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame racer John Casey presented the induction trophy to Ron.
This Hall of Fame induction class brings the total membership in the Friends of Auto Racing Hall of Fame to 110.
The Dick Hammond Memorial Dedication to Auto Racing Award was presented to the mother and son team of Phyllis and Barry Decker, for all the behind the scenes work they have done to ensure the success of the annual George Decker Memorial race at Holland. Since creating the race in 2000 to honor their late husband/father, they have nurtured this event so that it has become the premier event for asphalt Sportsman Modified racing in the region.
The Casey’s TQ Midget Series awarded their top three drivers at this affair as well - Owen Bednasz and Camden Barber received second and third place awards, while Justin Mapes was recognized for his fourth straight Series title with a specially designed trophy and championship jacket. In addition, Series chief sponsor and organizer, John Casey, was recognized for his efforts behind the success of the TQ Midgets in the region.
Track championship certificates were presented to area champion drivers (or their representatives) who were in attendance at the banquet, including: Casey’s TQ Midget Series - Justin Mapes; Dunn Tire Raceway Park - Tom McGrath and Charles Buchanan; Holland Motorsports Complex - Amy Catalano, Jim Loffredo, and Camden Barber; Bliss International Karts - Blaise Leone; Ransomville Karts - Jeff Anstett.
By: Rick Mooney
Contact: Rick Mooney: Rmooneypr@aol.com