January 10th, 2006
BINGHAMTON, NY- When Brian Weaver sauntered on stage Saturday night at the Binghamton Regency Hotel and Conference Center, a weight more burdensome than a 2,400-pound dirt Modified rolled off his shoulders.
Finally, Weaver is the Five Mile Point Speedway Modified champion.
Weaver led a long list of honorees at the historic quarter-mile oval's Awards Banquet. Every seat was filled for the gala affair, held in conjunction with the Race of Champions Dirt Modified/Sportsman and Asphalt Modified Tour presentations.
Leon Andrus served as the emcee as the top 10 drivers from each of the five weekly divisions at the Kirkwood track collected their portion of the $100,000 point fund distributed throughout the evening. The awards portion followed a first-rate dinner.
For Weaver, the FMP title is one of 14 championship trophies on the mantle. But it's arguably the most significant. The Windsor, N.Y., star had little trouble racking up Modified championships at Penn-Can (Pa.) Speedway and Thunder Mountain (N.Y.) Speedway over the years. Five Mile Point, however, had been a sticking point. Weaver raced there weekly from 1982 to 1994 before returning in 2004 with championship aspirations.
"Winning a championship at Five Mile Point has been very important to me for a long time," Weaver said. "I needed to get it done while the potential was still there." Weaver started the season at FMP driving a Ritter Performance Machine-powered Bicknell No. 5 for Brad Grammes. When the combination didn't click (their best effort was a second in the May 7 50-lap Season Opener), Grammes and Weaver parted ways following the June 25 41st Heath Memorial. Weaver had finished an unspectacular 12th in that event.
The split opened the door for Weaver's Friday-night and Race of Champions Dirt Modified Tour car owner Randy Decker to fill the void. Weaver won the first night out with Decker's familiar No. 9R, a Bicknell mount equipped with Wally Fiehl power, taking the checkered first on July 9. When he won the RoC Dirt Modified Tour South Region 75-lap event at FMP on July 13 and recorded a runner-up finish on July 16 in a regular night 30-lapper, Decker decided to stick it out for the title run. "We had planned to use the July 9 show as a warm-up for the RoC race, and that was it," Weaver said. "When we had some success right off the bat, Randy decided to run the rest of the races."
Weaver was quietly consistent for the rest of the season, outrunning J.R. Crouse by 16 point with a series of top-five and top-10 finishes. The 43-year-old was quick to offer praise to both owners, recognizing the effort Grammes put forth as well as Decker. "That was a great deal on paper," Weaver said of the Grammes deal. "It just never panned out on the track like it should have. Brad gave me all the best stuff, he worked hard at it, but it wasn't meant to be. "Luckily Randy came through and we're able to be here tonight."
Crouse, 46, of Nazareth, Pa., registered his third runner-up finish in the FMP standings. It was a productive year for Crouse, who drove his familiar No. 8JR TRC chassis. His best finish - a second - came on Sept. 3 in the Season Championship Night 50-lapper. Rich Keehle Jr. of Windsor, N.Y., three-time winner Jim Crawn of LeRaysville, Pa., and Joel Batzel of Kirkwood, N.Y., rounded out the top five. Finishing sixth through 10th were George Hildebrant, Glenn Knapp, Brian Malcolm, Dana Wagner and Russell Hendrickson Jr.
Eric Palmer will always remember his first full season at Five Mile Point. After all, he won a division-leading five features and walked away with the Sportsman championship. Wheeling his Dave Van Horn-powered No. 12E Bicknell, Cresco, Pa.'s Palmer thrilled the fans with his weekly high-line charges through traffic. Palmer's outstanding season came in his just his second year in Sportsman racing. He graduated from the 270cc Micro-Sprint ranks to win his second and third Sportsman starts at Moc-A-Tek (Pa.) in 2004 before the speedway ceased operation.
His limited '04 appearances at FMP set the tone for the future: Palmer won a feature by July. Palmer's closest pursuer, Brad Grim, was 46 points back at season's end. For Coplay, Pa.'s Grim, a third-generation driver, his three-win season resulted in a runner-up effort in the standings. Brian Decker, Rick Raisner and Jesse Kline completed the front five. Rookie Brian Puckett, Jeremy Holt, Ricky Rutt, Mike Mammana and Archie Myers III finished sixth through 10th, respectively.
Bill Trego accomplished something in 2005 he hadn't done in 15 years: he won a Street Stock championship. The Gouldsboro, Pa., driver, last a title winner in Moc-A-Tek Speedway's Street Stock division of 1990, scored five wins, including the April 17 Southern Tier Open and June 25 41st Heath Memorial. An accomplished driver who has raced numerous types of cars on dirt and asphalt, Trego got the upper hand in a seesaw title fight with young Dan Pompey, taking the championship by a 14-point margin.
Glenwood, Pa.'s Pompey, whose seven checkered flags included triumphs in the July 2 Street Stock Challenge, Sept. 3 Season Championship Night and Oct. 15 National Quarter Mile Dirt Track Championship, placed second. He will move into the Sportsman division in 2006. Les Gillette, Joe Krisovich and Ken Taugher finished third through fifth, respectively. Carl Heater, Darren Stout, Nick Petrilak, Jerry Tonti and Chad Hyzer rounded out the top 10.
K.C. Cole of Conklin, N.Y., broke the ice by winning the FMP Modified championship. It was his first-ever title. A former track official who now finds a home behind the wheel of his No. 24 every Saturday night, Cole notched four wins. He didn't reach Victory Lane until July 2, but he proceeded to rack up three straight wins (July 2, 9 and 16).
Cole's final advantage was 10 points over Mike Stolarcyk III, who led the division with six victories, including the April 17 Southern Tier Open, June 25 41st Heath Memorial Night and Season Championship Night. Mike Stoddard, Joe Cole and '04 champion Gary Dence filled out the front five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Scott Bennett, Bob Chapman, Dan Harpell, Tyler Stoddard and Tom Pickerell.
For the third time in his career, Mahlon Shoemaker of Johnson City, N.Y., received top Pure Stock honors. Driving his familiar blue and silver No. 7, Shoemaker won five features, including consecutive wins on June 25 and July 2. Despite running a back-up, borrowed engine from Charlie Gilbert's team for much of the summer stretch, Shoemaker outdistanced Jeremy Shaw by 27 points. Shoemaker also represented Five Mile Point by winning the touring Hurricane Pure Stock Series by one point.
Shaw, of Downsville, N.Y., placed second with a three-win season, including his career-first on June 4. Five-time winner Charlie Gilbert was third, ahead of Mike Codington and Chris Wood. Matt Spencer, Eddie Felker, Jamie Batzel, Darl Ellis Jr. and Chad Stone/Joe Rafferty Jr. (tie) rounded out the top 10.
A number of special awards were presented, including:Best Appearing Car - Glenn Knapp (Modified); Mike Mammana (Sportsman); Ken Hineline (Street Stock); Mike Stoddard (FMP Modified); and Joe Rafferty Jr. (Pure Stock) Most Improved Driver - Joel Batzel (Modified); Eric Palmer (Sportsman); Joe Krisovich (Street Stock); Mike Stolarcyk III (FMP Modified); and Chris Wood (Pure Stock) Hard Luck Award - Chris Ostrowsky (Modified); Jeremy Holt (Sportsman); Ken Taugher (Street Stock); Scott Bennett (FMP Modified); and Eddie Felker (Pure Stock) Rookie of the Year - Dave Zona (Modified); Brian Puckett (Sportsman); Chad Hyzer (Street Stock); Dan Harpell (FMP Modified); and Jamie Batzel (Pure Stock). The coveted Glenn Knapp Sr. Owner of the Year Award, in memory of a true FMP supporter, was presented to 2005 FMP Modified champion K.C. Cole. The Knapp family made the presentation to a teary-eyed Cole. Bob Whitman, the pace car driver and the facilitator of the many giveaways each week at FMP, received the Special Recognition Award. Brian Cochardo's Pit Steward Awards went to Ray Ayres and Tom Slesinsky, pit crew members on Charlie Gilbert's No. 28. Ayres and Slesinsky are known to offer a helping hand to other teams in the pit area, including Mahlon Shoemaker's championship-winning No. 7. "Tiny" the track welder handed out a number of certificates and cash prizes to drivers in all divisions. D.J. Drew provided music and entertainment to cap off the evening. Andrew Harpell said the 2006 season at FMP would begin in early April with the Southern Tier Open, which will be a one-day event this year. A month will be taken off from on-track action to allow for facility improvements, before the official 56th Season Opener kicks the point battles off in May. For more information on Five Mile Point Speedway, contact the track office at (607) 775-5555 or visit the website: www.fivemilepointspeedway.net.