By Jeffrey Sachse
Oshkosh, WI; January 12, 2013 - It was time to put the wraps on the 2012 racing season. A time to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year and to look forward to the season ahead as the Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway hosted it's annual awards banquet at the LaSure's Banquet Hall in Oshkosh, WI.
Over 220 people were on hand to witness more than $10,000 in prizes and awards distributed to the competitors who had participated in 70% or more shows at the track during the 2012 season and attend the awards banquet.
86 drivers had met the requirements to receive awards.
The event had a unique feel to it given the circumstances of having a Green Bay Packer playoff game displayed on a large projector screen during the ceremony. The cheers and jeers taking place as attendees celebrated the game led to some unique moments as drivers accepted their awards throughout the evening.
Prior to the start of the banquet a moment of silence was observed for the recent loss of track photographer Ron Sonntag who passed away suddenly just a week earlier.
Members of the Sonntag family made it known that the website www.sonntagphotography.com which hosts many seasons worth of images from the racetrack would be closing at the end of the month. Drivers and fans who wish to obtain images from the site before it closes should contact Tammy Hazel at (920) 299-1122.
Earning top honors for the second straight year in the Automotive Supply Company Modified division was local hot-shoe Brian Drexler. Considered one of the strongest fields of Modifieds, the weekly car count in the class at Oshkosh Speedzone was among the highest in the Nation in 2012, with several weeks showing over 40 participants in attendance in the class.
For the second straight season Drexler managed to edge out Tim Lemirande for the championship which came down to the final night of action. A mere 9 points separated the two drivers in the final point tally. Both drivers had recorded 7 top five feature finishes during the 14 race season and both had collected a pair of heat race victories. Lemirande actually edged out Drexler in top ten performances turning the trick ten times to Drexler's eight. The difference came down to the fact that Drexler was able to complete all the feature races while Lemirande suffered several dnf's tipping the point battle in Drexler's favor.
Johnny Wittman finished a solid third in the final standings followed by Brian Mullen and Travis Spaulding. Five drivers achieved perfect attendance with Drexler, Lemirande, Wittman, Spaulding and Charlie Ewald turning in that effort.
The Miller Lite Grand National division also had a hotly contested title chase at 2011 track champion T.J. Smith and this season's title winner Brian Henry did battle until the final lap of the final feature. Henry, who had finished runner-up in the standings on multiple occasions emerged as the title winner this year by a mere seven points. Like Drexler the key to Henry's success was avoiding the dreaded dnf. Henry recorded the most top ten feature finishes and has the best average feature finish rating of all the drivers, while Smith collected the most feature wins.
Steve Schneider finished third in the standings staying in the title chase until the closing weeks. Tim Reichenberger and veteran racer Terry Van Roy comprised the top five point earners.
The consistency key continued to play out in the Total Power Sales Street Stock division, as Richard Garb collected his first track championship in the closest title chase among all the divisions. Garb edged out Jerry Winkler for the title by a slim five points. As Garb indicated not once during the racing season did he have to head down pit lane for repairs during a feature contest and as a result he finished in the top ten in every feature race, failing to make the top five on only three occasions.
Winkler earned the second spot having captured a pair of feature wins. 2011 champion Jeff Jungwirth would settle fir third this season with Jerry Kope and Frank Knaus comprising the top five.
In the Leon's Frozen Custard IMCA Northern Sport Modified division it was a case of domination winning the title as Troy Jerovetz would thrill fans with his hard charging driving style. Jerovetz competing at the Speedzone for the full time for for the first time this past season laid claim to six feature wins. When the final checkered flag fell Jerovetz was a comfortable 50 points ahead of his nearest rival Ryan Besaw. Besaw's run was especially impressive given the fact that on multiple nights he would compete in both the Modified and Sport Modified division, having to hurry to switch cars to do so.
Kelsy Hayes finished highest of all the female competitors at the track as the young lady proved her on track prowess to go wheel to wheel with the boys resulting in the third place point finish. Todd Wiese and Jon Schultz would complete the top five.
The Lynn's Service Center Dirt Devils would see Jason Fairbank repeat as division champion fending off Mike Montie for the title by 27 markers. Fairbank had a pair of victories to Montie's seven feature checkered, but it was Fairbank with the most top five and top ten feature finishes resulting in claiming the title. Christopher Maas earned third place in the standings with Ben Meyerhofer and Erik Kollmann completing the top five.
Special awards were also presented throughout the awards ceremony. Tracy Peebles was awarded the Lynn's Service Center Dirt Devil rookie of the year award, while Brandi Luebke turned the fete in the Total Power Sales Street Stocks. Jeremy Vander Zanden was Rookie of the Year in the Grand Nationals. The closest rookie battle would take place in the Leon's Frozen Custard IMCA Northern Sport Modifieds where Derek Schnetzer edged out Brock Saunders by 10 points for that title.
Other special awards included the Sportsmanship award going to Sport Modified competitor Jon Schultz. The hard charger award went to Troy Jerovetz also of the sport modified class. The hard luck award was given to Dwight Mason in the Street Stock division.
A new award was given this year in honor of Dave Conger. A star driver at the former Leo's Speedway, the predecessor of the current Oshkosh Speedway Raceway. Known as the Dave Conger Man of the Year Award, the award is given to a person whose efforts in area racing past would prove to further the sport. The award sponsored by Competition Products was given to Jim Blake, who was a long time competitor in the 1950's and later became a flagman at many area tracks. Blake, who is also a member of the tracks "Walk of Fame" gave those in attendance a brief insight to racing past through a very thoughtful speech.
Employees of Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway were also honored including Sierra Edlund and Michelle Diener whose efforts with the tracks Kid's Club have kept that program working flawlessly. Shane Rasmussen and Mary Kiefer were honored as Employees of the Year.
Banquet sponsors for 2012 included Richards Outlaw Chassis, Jerovetz Motorsports / Shock Service, Competition Products, Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway, Tiry's Race Engines, 5-Star Stock Car Bodies, Johnny's Racing Parts, Gold Star Racing, Jackie's Parkside, Weyauwega Star Dairy, Knaus Cheese, B&B Racing Engines, Panske Enterprises and Babbling Brook Tavern.
The Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway would like to thank Dave Panske and his wife Yvonne for donating the championship jackets.
The 2013 season is set to begin with practice on Saturday afternoon April 6th, with the first event of the 2013 season set to take place on Saturday night April 20th with the running of the Spring Brawl. The event will feature IRA Outlaw Sprints, MSA 360 Sprints and a non-points race for the Street Stock division.
The weekly Friday Night show will begin the following week April 26th with Modifieds, IMCA Northern Sport Modifieds, Grand Nationals, Street Stocks and Dirt Devils on the card.
Fans can turn to the track website at www.oshoshspeedzone.net and the track Facebook back www.facebook.com/thespeedzone for additional off season information. Fans and competitors are also encouraged to signup for the tracks FREE electronic newsletters to stay abreast of all the upcoming highlights of the season ahead.
This article was posted to the website on January 13th, 2013