2015 Awards Banquet

FRIENDS OF AUTO RACING HONORS KYLE HUTCHINSON and GARY LINDBERG  and INDUCTS KEN BAINBRIDGE, DICK BARTON, DAVE HEITZHAUS & GENE SCHULZ TO HALL OF FAME

NYPA TQ Midget Champion Kyle Hutchinson and dirt Sportsman standout Gary Lindberg 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 5.  Approximately 250 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 Ken Bainbridge, Dick Barton, Dave Heitzhaus, and Gene Schulz into its Hall of Fame.

Hutchinson earned his second career NYPA TQ Midget Series championship in 2015, piloting the John Casey owned machine to a total of nine feature victories at Holland, Spencer, and Chapel Hill, and never finished out of the top four throughout the season.  He also captured a first career Holland TQ Midget points title.

Lindberg notched his third consecutive Sportsman points title in Sunday racing at the New Humberstone Speedway, scoring six wins at the Port Colborne ON track.  He also visited victory lane on nine different occasions at Merrittville Speedway en route to a first career Sportsman championship at the Thorold ON raceway.  At the Merrittville awards banquet, Gary was presented with that speedway's Performer of the Year award.  Gary was unable to be present; Humberstone track official Fran 
Bushart accepted the award on Lindberg's behalf.

The late Ken Bainbridge was known as one of the great innovators in area racing.  He constructed the first ever junior dragster, piloted by his then five year old twin sons in the 1970's.  He designed and constructed what, for the time, was the most radical and inventive asphalt Modified in existence, the famous "Roman III."  He was nationally known for his racing transmissions, and for a number of seasons through the '80's and '90's, his transmissions were being run in the majority of Modifieds throughout the northeast.  He was also one who would open his garage to anyone who needed assistance, and was a mentor to many in the sport.   The entire Bainbridge clan accepted the award, which was presented by Friends of Auto Racing Membership Secretary Pat Valentine.

Dick Barton established himself as one of the top dirt Late Model drivers in the southwestern New York area.  A fixture at Stateline Speedway in Busti NY and Pennsylvania's Eriez Speedway, he rolled to 267 feature race victories and 48 track and series championships over a 42 year career, which ended at the conclusion of the 2014 season.  He is the only driver to have won three consecutive Stateline-Eriez circuit titles ('93 - '95), holds the record for most career Late Model victories at Stateline with 80 wins, and captured a World of Outlaws Late Model checkered flag at Stateline in 2006.  He is a member of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.  Dick was in Florida, celebrating the recent birth of his grandson, and was represented at the banquet by long-time crew member and Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame President Randy Anderson.  Past Foar Score President Roger McCabe made the presentation. Dave Heitzhaus showed versatility in his long career behind the wheel.  
He dominated the 6-cylinder Limited Modified class at Holland in the mid-80's earning three consecutive track titles and racing to thirty victories in just four seasons in that open-wheeled class.  He continued his successful runs after a move to the Late Models, with a Holland Late Model track title in 1994, bracketed by runner-up points finishes in '93 and '95, and raced to Lancaster US Open Late Model victories in '89, '93 and '94.  From 1996 through 2004, he competed in selected NASCAR Dash Series events, highlighted by a 10th place Daytona finish in 2002 and a 3rd place run at Charlotte in 2003.  He raced a Super Modified a Oswego weekly in 1997, earning three top ten finishes as a rookie in the class.   Foar Score President Paul Faleski made the presentation to Dave.

"Gentleman Gene" Schulz was one of the top asphalt Street Stock/Super Stock drivers in Western New York through the 1980's.  After getting his start on the dirt at his hometown Ransomville track, he shifted his emphasis to asphalt racing in the late '70's, and with championship results.  He scored three consecutive divisional crowns at Lancaster from '82 through '84, and added a Perry title to his collection in '84.   His victories included Street Stock Race of Champions qualifying 
events at Lancaster in '81 and '88.  After hanging up his helmet, he became the mentor/crew chief to his sons, all of whom found degrees of success in both dirt and asphalt competition.  Foar Score Board Member Bill Anstett made the presentation to Gene.

Andy Jankowiak received the Achievement on Asphalt Award for his Labor Day weekend double of Modified victories at Oswego NY in an RoC Series 
race and Hickory NC in a KOMA Unwind Modified Series event.  Brandon Sherwood was honored for his first Ransomville Street Stock title plus his win in the season ending Ransomville King of the Hill race with the Achievement on Dirt Award.

The Hanel and Maltby families received the Families in Racing Awards.  Norm Hanel launched his family's involvement competing in a Lancaster Street Stock in the 1980's, with nephew Bobby, Jr. getting into a Street Stock in the late '90's.  After serving as crew chief for his son, Bob, Sr. decided to get on the track himself.  Christine Hanel then followed the footsteps of her brother and father, and started her own racing career in a 4-cylinder racer.  The third generation of the Hanel family is now getting involved, as Christine's son Billy has begun competing in a 4-cylinder.

Floyd Maltby was a driver in the early years of Holland Speedway, competing in the Super B-Modified division on the then dirt track.  Floyd's son Ken started his racing career in the 1980's in the v-8 Challenger division, before taking a sabbatical in the early '90's to raise his family.  Ken returned to racing in 2011, and in 2015, earned a Holland Charger division feature win, his first victory in over 25 years.  Ken's daughters Michele and Nikki have established themselves in Holland's 4-cylinder Hornet division, with Michele taking a fourth place points finish in 2015, and Nikki earning a feature win in a Future Four rookie division event.

Long-time car owner Jim Thompson, who, with Mark Pennell behind the wheel of his Lancaster Sportsman, won his first track title since 1996, received the Dick Hammond Dedication to Auto Racing Award.  Jim's daughter Tracey Thompson, an ardent Lancaster supporter and an active member of the Friends of Auto Racing, was presented with the Woman in Racing Award.

Most Improved Driver awards were presented to Sprint Car driver Todd Hoddick, Big 10 Super Stock Champion Jake Wylie, and Wyoming County Super Stock competitor Joe Horvatits.  Perserverence Awards were presented to Lancaster Street Stock and Late Model driver Terry Weldy, and Flamboro ON Late Model and Holland Pro Modified racer Jeff Ruddy.

Dave Catalano, who oversees a very busy and successful racing program for his wife Amy and sons Tommy and Timmy, was named as winner of the Mechanical Achievement Award.  The Media in Racing Award was given to Jacquie Walker, news anchor at Buffalo's WIVB-TV, Channel 4.

A special Youth Achievement in Racing Award was presented to Jacob Bansmer, who competed weekly in kart racing at Ransomville, Bliss, and Allegany Memorial, and won divisional titles at all three tracks.

The Emily Casey Memorial Award for Open Wheel Achievement, was presented by Emily's daughter, Roberta Ream.  Long time racing supporters Don and Marilyn Toal were recognized  for their tireless contributions to the sport.

The top seasonal awards of the NYPA TQ Midget Series were also presented.  In addition to Kyle Hutchinson's 2015 Championship Award, Nick Groff and Charlie DiRosa received second and third place points awards.  Sean McNamara was named as the NYPA Series Most Improved Driver.


 

BY: Rick Mooney

Contact:  Rick Mooney: Rmooneypr@aol.com