Lancaster, Pa. - November 19 - A crowd of 360 Lanco Micro-Sprint enthusiasts enjoyed a Saturday night filled with good food, dancing and socializing, and celebrating the recently completed season at the Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway.
While the awards banquet, held once again at the Host Resort in Lancaster, Pa., honored Lanco's 2011 point champions and special award recipients, the attendees also paid tribute to a pair of long-time, loyal supporters of the Micro-Sprint club who suddenly and quite unexpectedly passed away during the season.
Dick Greenawalt, who served as the track photographer for many, many years, died suddenly on July 5 of this year. Club officials decided to honor Greenawalt, beginning with Saturday's Awards Banquet, by attaching his name to one of the awards presented annually - the Dick Greenawalt Best Appearing Car Award.
Driver, car owner, and crew chief Mark Geib, one of the most popular people in the Clyde's pit area for several years, tragically perished after helping a neighbor during the floods created by Tropical Storm Lee in September. His wife, Sportsman Class competitor Donna Geib, was visibly touched during Saturday's gala when it was announced that one of the club's most prestigious awards will now be called the Mark Geib Sportsman of the Year Award.
Manheim's Heath Hehnly, who said, "it's sometimes better to be lucky than good, and this year we were lucky," was recognized for winning his second Weld Racing 600cc point title at the Clyde. Hehnly, who also won the championship in 2009, had to claim this year's crown without the benefit of a single feature win. He drove the Cooke Roofing, Hyper, Spar Engines No. 2 to a 36-point margin over runner-up Shane Lewis.
Nick Skias trailed his father, Pete, by eight points as the green flag waved to begin the final 270cc feature of the season on September 17. Nick stormed to the victory, his fourth of the year, while Pete suffered mechanical ills and fell out early. The win propelled Nick to his first Lanco track championship, backing up his 2010 title at Linda's Speedway. His family and large group of supporters and crew surprised the new Weld Racing 270cc champ, who hails from Wernersville, Pa., at the banquet with a radio-controlled replica of his Viper Chassis, BDB Graphics No. 88.
Three feature triumphs and 15 top-ten finishes (in 16 races) produced another 125cc point title for Jesse Maurer. The Mount Joy Outlaw captured his fourth championship in the past five years in the highly competitive 125cc division. Maurer secured the point lead by the halfway mark of the 2011 season, then ran away from the rest of the field, laying claim to the Weld Racing 125cc crown by a whopping 206 points. Maurer thanked his car owner, Gary Gorski, for making his Pork Producers No. 21 fast and virtually bullet-proof all season long.
The banquet proved to be very emotional for the Weld Racing Sportsman Champion, Jason Swavely. Just prior to the start of the 2011 season, Swavely lost his father (former Lanco racer Jay Swavely). "The last words he said to me," related Jason in his championship acceptance speech, "were 'you're going to win a championship this year'. To win this title, especially the way we did it, is unbelievable and I know he (his dad) was helping me."
Swavely trailed one of his Miller Racing teammates, Bret Habecker, by an almost insurmountable 36 points heading into the final race of the year. Swavely charged to victory, his sixth of the season, while Habecker had problems and struggled to an 18th-place finish. That was enough to give Swavely the title by 26 points. He had to pause repeatedly during his heartfelt speech on Saturday, and it was very easy to see how important the Sportsman Championship was to the Douglassville driver, especially since it happened this year.
Seventeen-year-old Jared Esh, son of 410 Sprint Car chauffeur Doug Esh, just completed his second season of racing - not just Micro-Sprint racing, but it was only his second year of any type of racing. And he showed everyone just how far he's come in two seasons by winning the Weld Racing 270cc Four-Stroke point title.
Esh, from Lancaster, Pa., notched his first feature win - ever - on July 23. Two weeks earlier, he had taken command of the point chase, and the high school student steadily pulled away from veteran performers like Craig DeSantis and Chip Geib to secure the championship. Esh was a model of consistency, recording 13 finishes inside the top five in the 15 events held for the 270cc Four-Strokes this season.
The President's Award went to longtime Lanco Race Director Jeff Widders, who is stepping down from his post after several years of manning the stressful position.
The other recipients of this year's Special Awards included:
Mark Geib Sportsman of the Year:
Sportsman Class......Matt Abers
270cc Four-Stroke...Kimberly Enck
270cc Two-Stroke....Jason Swavely
Dick Greenawalt Best Appearing Car Award:
Sportsman Class......Donna Geib
270cc Four-Stroke...Travis Esh
270cc Two-Stroke....Jason Swavely
J.S. Weld-Rite Heat Race Challenge:
Sportsman Class......Ken Miller (11 heat race victories)
125cc.........................Dave Grube (7 heat race victories)
270cc Four-Stroke...Chip Geib (8 heat race victories)
270cc Two-Stroke....Devin Harron (5 heat race victories)
600cc.........................Chris Gerhart (4 heat race victories)
Rookie of the Year:
Sportsman Class......Brad Kemp
270cc Four-Stroke...Ryan Morris
270cc Two-Stroke....Charles Hellinger
Most Improved Driver:
Sportsman Class......Tim Ziegler
270cc Four-Stroke...Travis Esh
270cc Two-Stroke....Zack Fouse
Hard Luck Award:
Sportsman Class......Dave Schroeder
270cc Four-Stroke...Matt Swift
270cc Two-Stroke....Tyler Reinhardt
Forty-five drivers were inducted into this season's Upside Down Club during Saturday's banquet festivities. Each driver who managed to turn over, at least once during the year, received a t-shirt and posed for the traditional group photo.
The 2012 racing schedule was released at the banquet and printed inside the program booklet. The upcoming slate of events will begin on Saturday, April 14, 2012, with a pre-season practice session set for April 7.
The schedule is highlighted by several traditional, high-paying events such as the Memorial Day Open Show on May 26; the double-point Clyde Martin Memorial Race on July 28; and the two-day Labor Day Shootout on September 1st and 2nd.
The MicroMania event for 600cc competitors typically ends the annual PA 600 Speedweek with a big payday for the race winner and the crowning of the Speedweek Champion. In 2012, however, the Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway and MicroMania will open the Speedweek tour with a huge two-day event on Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1. The exact format and payoff amount have yet to be announced, but Lanco officials and Speedweek organizers Dan Little and Trip Kone have promised to make the revamped MicroMania a blockbuster event.
One thing's for certain...in 2012, you've gotta come out and LIVE the excitement that is Lanco!