November 15th, 2003
KIRKWOOD, NY…Dan Vauter, James Cornell, Jeff Cleveland and Mahlon Shoemaker were all crowned 2003 Five Mile Point Speedway Track Champions at the tracks annual awards banquet on Saturday night. The event, which officially brought down the curtain on the Dan Harpell era at Five Mile Point Speedway, took place at the St. John‘s Memorial Center in Johnson City.
Eighteen year old Dan Vauter became the youngest Track Champion in the 53 year history of Five Mile Point Speedway. Although he had only one win it was a big one as he held off Mike Ricci to win the prestigious Irv Heath Memorial. He finished the year with five top fives and 12 top tens, using consistency to capture the Modified crown.
J.R. Crouse was second in the final Modified standings ahead of Jim Crawn, Glenn Knapp, Jr. and Don Hart, Jr. Positions six through ten went to Bobby Puckett, Rich Keehle, Butch Klinger, Dana Wagner and Bob Hamm, Jr.
Keeping with the youth movement theme, 21 year old James Cornell dominated the Street Stock division to win the 2003 Track Championship. Cornell garnered 12 feature wins and 14 top five finishes to win the title by nearly 100 points.
Rob Harder came out of retirement to finish second in the standings ahead of Jerry Tonti, Jason Schlafer and 2002 champ Brett Spoor. Rounding out the top ten were Fred Christ, Brian MacRabie, Ken Taugher, Ken Sparks, Jr. and Randy Tyler.
Jeff Cleveland dominated the UMP Modified division in 2002 but finished second in points. This year he had far less wins, but used consistency to capture his first career Track Championship. He had three feature wins and 11 top five finishes enroute to the championship.
Joe Price, Jr. was second by just 8 points in the closest point battle of the four divisions. Gary Dence was third ahead of Joe Cole and 2002 champ Mike Stoddard. Finishing in positions six through ten were Kevin Cole, Joel Batzel, Ralph Shoemaker, Jr., Mike Stolarcyk III and Brad Shaffer.
Mahlon Shoemaker was the only driver to successfully defend his crown. The Pure Stock Track Champion also used consistency to win his second title. He had one win, 10 top fives and 13 top ten finishes.
He was followed in the standings by Shane Wolf, Jim Ortiz and Charlie Gilbert, with Mike Lartz and Bryan Lindsey tying for fifth. Seventh through tenth went to Toby Sparks, Jeremy Shaw, Mark Aldrich and Randy Rolison.
Numerous special awards were handed out throughout the evening. Rookie of the Year honors went to Matt Smith (Mods), Dan Pompey (SS), Gary Dence (UMP) and Dee Ramey (PS). Most Improved Driver awards went to Bobby Puckett (Mods), Fred Christ (SS), Joe Cole (UMP) and Jim Ortiz (PS).
Butch Klinger won the Best Appearing Car award for the second time as a Modified and seventh time overall. Brett Spoor (SS), Gary Dence (UMP) and Shane Wolf (PS) also took Best Appearing Car awards.
Hard Luck Drivers for 2003 were Dave Locke (Mods), Randy Tyler (SS), Mike Stoddard (UMP) and Mike Lartz (PS). Most Popular Drivers were Jim Crawn (Mods), Rob Harder (SS), Mike Stoddard (UMP) and Charlie Gilbert (PS).
The Glenn Knapp, Sr. Owner of the Year Award went to Rich Cornell. His son James was the most dominant performer in all of the divisions in 2003. Much like the namesake of the award, Cornell is a former racer that stepped out from behind the wheel and got behind his sons racing career.
The final award of the night was the Irv Heath Memorial Dedication Award, presented in honor of the tracks founder. The award fittingly went to track owner Anna Heath, who has dedicated 53 years of her life to Five Mile Point Speedway.
The awards ceremony culminated with Promoter Dan Harpell presenting an emotional speech that encompassed his 15 years at the helm of the famed quarter mile oval. He chronicled the highs and lows of the past 15 seasons and expressed thanks to the fans, drivers, sponsors, employees and his family members for their involvement over the years.
The night officially ended Harpell’s tenure as Promoter of the track that his grandfather built and grandmother still owns. He announced that, although the deal has yet to be signed, it looks as though the track will open in 2004. Look for an early May opener. Expect an announcement, laying out the future, in the weeks to come.