2013 Awards Banquet
FRIENDS OF AUTO RACING HONORS: HIRSCHMAN & COTRISS
INDUCTS: BENDER, HAINER, PANGRAZIO TO "HALL OF FAME"
Asphalt Modified ace Matt Hirschman and dirt Sportsman racer Jesse Cotriss were named as the Drivers of the Year at the Friends of Auto Racing (Foar Score) Fan Club Annual Awards Dinner, held on Saturday evening, December 7, 2013. Approximately 225 people attended the event, held at the Elks Club in Lancaster, NY. This annual affair of the Buffalo-based fan club honors top drivers in Western New York and the Niagara Region of Ontario.
In addition, the Friends of Auto Racing inducted Tim Bender, Harvey Hainer, Jr., and LaVerne Pangrazio into its Hall of Fame.
Hirschman was the dominant force in asphalt Modified racing in New York state in 2013, capturing eight of ten start on the Sunoco RoC Series, including his second straight Oswego Race of Champions victory, en route to his sixth overall RoC Series title. He swept all four events held at the area tracks at Elegant Builders Raceway Park and at Holland, and overall, snared 20 victories on the season. Matt was unable to attend the gathering, but did send along a note of thanks and appreciation which was read to those in attendance.
Cotriss had a career best year at Ransomville Speedway, picking up wins in two of the three legs of the VP-D98 Series en route to that Series title, took the checkers in the September visit by the DIRTCar Sportsman Series, and earned a first career divisional title...Jesse was unable to attend the ceremony due to family considerations, but exressed his thanks through Club President Paul Faleski.
Colden, NY native Tim Bender established himself as a star on the snow, as he was a top snowmobile racer in both oval and snowcross competition, including four consecutive Formula III World Championship event victories in the 1980's. He also made a name for himself on the asphalt, racing a competitive Modified for a number of seasons, then moving onto Busch North and Busch Series racing. While in the Busch Series, he set a track record at Atlanta in qualifying for the pole for a 1997 race. He was named to the snowmobile racing Hall of Fame in 1999. Tim was away from the region dealing with his snowmobile racing team responsibilities, but was represented at the dinner by his son Brett.
Harvey Hainer, Jr. had a twenty plus year career focusing on the dirt tracks of the Niagara Region. The son of noted mechanic and car owner Harvey, Sr., Harvey Jr. was Merrittville Speedway's Modified Rookie of the Year in 1976, and earned Modified track titles at Merrittville in 1981 and at Humberstone in 1987. All told, he notched 37 DIRT Modified victories over his career, competing with the likes of Moore, Treichler, Bicknell, Stevens, Iulg, and Rudolph over the years. Harvey was in attendance to accept the honor.
LaVerne Pangrazio had successes on both dirt and asphalt over his 35 plus year racing career. He earned numerous titles in the 1960's racing on the Holland-Perry based ERCA circuit, and captured the World Series of Mini Stock title racing at New Smyrna in 1972. He competed in full-boded racers and open wheeled racers, and had victories in virtually every division in which he competed, approaching 200 victories in his career. He started a family tradition, as 26 different members of his clan have followed him into competition in motorsports in the region. LaVerne now resides in Florida and was represented at the ceremony by his son, Brian Farnsworth.
Brad Rouse was honored for his Syracuse Super DIRT Week Sportsman race victory and overall DIRTCar Sportsman title with the Achievement on Dirt Award, while Kyle Hutchinson received the Achievement on Asphalt Award for his NYPAMA TQ Midget Series Championship in just his second year of competition in a Midget racer.
The Davidson and Layfield families were honored with the Families in Racing Award. Bob Davidson was a top competitor at Merrittville and Speedway Park, son Ralph was a racer and respected mechanic, and son Barry a racer and longtime area flagman. Bobby Davidson continued the family racing tradition in Sportsman and Modified action and currently serves as General Manager at the New Humberstone Speedway, while the next generation of Davidsons, Dylan and Tyler, are making their marks in karting.
The Layfield racing legacy dates back to 1939 when the first of six racing brothers competed. Dean Layfield was the 1957 Pennsylvania Late Model champ and had 8 starts on the then NASCAR Grand National Series, including a 4th on the Syracuse mile and a 12th on the final race on the Daytona Beach course. Brother Herb scored over 300 wins and 17 track titles, while brother Bill earned 25 track titles over a 52 year career. Bill's sons Joe and John continued the racing tradition at tracks in the New York Southern Tier and Northern Pennsylvania, before John opened the Allegany Memorial Speedway kart track, on which young John, the next generation of Layfields, is honing his skills.
The Dick Hammond Dedication to Auto Racing Award was presented to Larry Woodruff, who has long served as a competition official for many speedways and racing series in the region. Street Stock driver Dave Vona was named the Rookie-of-the-Year on asphalt. The Most Improved Driver on Dirt Award went to Ransomville and Canandaigua Modified racer Brian Sage, while Spencer and Holland Modified Sportsman driver Tommy Catalano earned the Most Improved Driver on Asphalt Award.
The Perserverence Award was presented to Wyoming County SST Modified racer (and 2013 track champion) Steve Fuchs. Asphalt Modified Sportsman racer Sherri Hogan received the Woman in Racing Award; Ransomville Street Stock competitor Don Hermanson was named as the Sportsmanship Award winner.
Car builder and noted mechanic Bill Eschborn was named as winner of the Mechanical Achievement Award; Steven Petty, who serves as the Holland Motorsports Complex Media Relations Director and Assistant Announcer, Humberstone Speedway's Media Relations Director, Spencer Speedway's Trackside Announcer, and is a columnist for Gater Racing News, was presented with the Media in Racing Award.
The top seasonal awards of the NYPAMA TQ Midget Series were also presented. Kyle Hutchinson and the John Casey Racing Team were honored as Series champions; Camden Barber received the runner-up trophy, and Shawn Nye received third place honors. Nick Groff was presented with the Series Rookie of the Year award, and Chad Heywood was named as the Series Most Improved Driver.
In addition, the Friends of Auto Racing, who sprearheaded the fund-raising for the points fund at Elegant Builders Raceway Park, distributed point fund awards to the top drivers from that Lancaster speedplant who were in attendance, including Sportsman champ Andy Jankowiak and 4-Cylinder champion Bobby Woch.
Funds were raised throughout the evening to assist Jody and Bucky Sossong. Jody, an employee at Elegant Builders Raceway Park, and Bucky recently lost their home to a fire.
by Rick Mooney
Contact: Rick Mooney: Rmooneypr@aol.com