Devil's Bowl Speedway honored the achievements of its star stock car drivers on Saturday, February 1 at the annual Banquet of Champions, held at the Holiday Inn Rutland-Killington in Rutland, VT. The sold-out crowd of nearly 300 guests enthusiastically applauded the champions of the track's four NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions along with the Northern Modified Challenge Series, the Vermont State Late Model Championship Series, and the Enduro Series.
Todd Stone of Middlebury, VT was officially crowned the champion of the headline Bond Auto Parts Modified division after a record-breaking season of 10 victories in 17 starts. Stone's crew chief Jeff Carter received NASCAR's UNOH Ultimate Mechanic Challenge prize, and the owner's championship, won by Gardner Stone, was accepted by long time team member Rob Lowell. Hunter Bates was honored as the Modified division's runner-up, with Vince Quenneville, Jr. third.
Veteran Modified racer Leon Gonyo of Chazy, NY received a standing ovation and the track's highest honor with the second annual John Bruno Award. Named in honor of the late multi-time champion driver and owner, the John Bruno Award is given in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in racing while maintaining high standards of conduct on and off the track. Gonyo is a veteran of more than 40 years of racing at several paved and dirt tracks in the U.S. and Canada; the biggest victory of his career came in the 1986 Yankee 200 at Devil's Bowl Speedway, and he is still a regular weekly competitor at the track.
Chris Bergeron of Claremont, NH collected the Late Model division championship in his first season racing at Devil's Bowl. The long-time racer's four wins were enough to fend off rookie Josh Masterson by a scant four points. Another rookie, Brandon Atkins, was third overall. Richie Turner of Fairfax, VT picked up hardware for his Renegade division title, and Benson, VT's Jake Noble was crowned the champion of the Central Vermont Motorcycles Mini Stock division. Rookie of the Year awards were presented to Modified racer Jamie LaFountain, Late Model driver Masterson, Renegade freshman Brad Bushey, and Mini Stock runner Chuck Bradford.
Brandon, VT driver Quenneville received awards for winning the inaugural championship of the Northern Modified Challenge Series, and Nick Sweet of Barre, VT went home with the Vermont State Late Model Championship. Eric "Mongo" Messier of Hinesburg, VT was also recognized as the first-ever Enduro Series champion at Devil's Bowl.
Several other special awards were given during the evening, with sportswriter Tom Haley and Devil's Bowl staff member Jeff Champine among the honorees. Haley received the second annual Award of Excellence for his outstanding coverage of the speedway in the Rutland Herald, while Champine – affectionately known by racers as "The Tire Guy" – received the first-ever Dedication Award for his unwavering commitment to the track. Each received a raucous standing ovation.
Renegade rookie Stephen Donahue provided one of the evening's several humorous highlights as the Sportsmanship Award winners were announced. Having been in attendance to receive his fourth-place point trophy earlier in the evening, the soon-to-be-16-year-old was absent when his name was announced as a Sportsmanship Award winner. Once he was retrieved from the hotel pool, he returned barefoot and wearing swim trunks to accept his award. Other Sportsmanship awards were given to Modified driver Dave Snow, Late Model rookie Seth Bridge, and Mini Stock veteran Matt Monaghan.
The keynote address was given by Tom Donahue, Executive Vice President and CEO of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce, with closing speeches given by legendary broadcaster and race promoter Ken Squier and Devil's Bowl Speedway promoter Mike Bruno. Prizes were also given prior to the awards ceremony from Bond Auto Parts, Five Star Racecar Bodies, and New England Racing Fuel.
In his speech, Mike Bruno revealed the full 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Schedule, which begins on Sunday, May 4 with the historic Spring Green for the American-Canadian Tour Late Models. Weekly summer Friday night racing begins one week earlier in 2014, on Friday, May 16. Other highlights include the Vermont State Late Model Championship Series on Friday, May 30, the Coca-Cola Firecracker special on Friday, July 4, the third annual C.J. Richards Memorial 67 on Friday, August 1, and the Vermont 200 Weekend season finale on September 13-14.
Bruno also announced the return of dirt track racing with a three-event post-season schedule beginning in late September. Events will be held on Friday, September 26, on Saturday, October 4, and on Saturday, October 18. Further details will be announced soon.
Courtesy: Devil's Bowl Speedway
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