CRA Super Series
For the second straight year, the CRA Super Series has taken the honor as the top series as voted by the fan of Speed51.com. CRA had several marquee events on the schedule with the Redbud 300, Winchester 400 and All American 400.
The Southern version of the Pro All Stars Series was a close second once the votes were tallied up and the ASA Midwest Tour completed a Super Late Model sweep of the top three vote getters.
Most Improved Short Track Driver
Ryan Blaney's 2010 season started with a victory at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) in the PASS South ranks and from there, he was a factor all season long. With four wins, he found himself contending for a championship in both PASS and in CRA's Southern Six Pack Tour. One, the CRA crown, he captured while the other, the PASS South title, slipped by him with bad luck. Sometimes in sports people say that a team is a year away. If that's the case with Blaney then look out…2011 could be really huge for him.
Fellow Super Late Model pilots Nick Murgic (ASA Midwest Tour) and Preston Peltier (PASS South) rounded out the podium for this honor.
Biggest Surprise of the Year
Corey LaJoie Wins at Atlanta
Corey LaJoie is known as a fendered-car driver, with success in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and Late Model Stock Cars, so his appearance in a second Hillbilly Racing Modified for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour opener at Atlanta Motor Speedway (GA) was a bit of a surprise. What was even more shocking though was the fact that LaJoie didn't just race - he won. Yes, that is correct….LaJoie made the most of his first ever Modified start by winning a NASCAR Touring Modified feature. Short track fans were surprised enough by that to vote it as the biggest surprise of the year in the 51s.
Coming in at second was another surprise touring victory - Andy Bozell scoring the Sunoco National Tour win at The Milwaukee Mile, which was his first tour victory since the 1990s. Placing third in the voting was Andy Loden scoring his first…second…and third…career PASS South victories all in a row.
In the middle of Indiana cornfield country is a magical place where the banks are high and the speeds are fast. It's Winchester Speedway and it's the track that Speed51.com fans voted as the Best Track in the land for this past season. Winchester is a wild place that is scary fast. It also packs the fans in - neither an empty seat or a camping spot can be found during the Winchester 400 weekend.
Winchester squeaked out a narrow victory this year over the home of the Snowball Derby - Five Flags Speedway (FL). Rounding out the top five vote getters were Gresham Motorsports Park (GA), Madison International Speedway (WI) and Bowman-Gray Stadium (NC).
James Civali vs. Tim Brown & Junior Miller
James Civali and Tim Brown tangled early in the season during a NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified race at South Boston Speedway, but the fun didn't end there. Later in the year, Civali went to Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) for a weekly show and had a good run going. That was until he tangled with Junior Miller and then Brown. The rest is history - as Civali showed 20,000 fans his disapproval by throwing his HANS device at Brown after the blue 83 showed him who's house it was. It created a popular nickname and T-shirt in the Southeast for Civali, as he know became known as “The Rocket Launcher”.
Mike Garvey and Ryan Lawler's tangle at the Snowball Derby was second in the voting and the Dennis Huth vs. Ron Varney ASA scrabble match was third.
It's the biggest stage in all of short track racing. You had a rising NASCAR star, a upstart from the Midwest, a pair of Georgia boys duking it out against a hometown hero who can also play the girl next door. Some nights you leave the race track and think Hollywood couldn't script a race any better and the 2010 Snowball Derby was that and more - as Johanna Long made her way to victory lane in what the fans votes as the greatest finish of 2010.
Chase Elliott's final corner pass on Augie Grill at Mobile was second when the votes were counted up and Darrell Wallace Jr's late-race triumph in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Lee USA Speedway (NH) was third.
There are two camps when it comes to opinions of Jeff Fultz. There are people who think the world of the transplanted-to-North Carolina Midwestern racer and those who haven't met him yet. Fultzy, a regular guest on our Speed 51 Radio show, is a throwback to the good old days of racing. He runs hard, appreciates the history of the sport and is just a nice guy. After a career turning wrenches at the NASCAR Cup level, Fultz has rededicated himself to helping out young drivers in the short track ranks while also running his own #67 Super Late Model on occasion.
Fultz beat out a close race of other “nice guys” including Madhouse media darling Burt Myers, old school Midwestern racer Dan Fredrickson, Michigan native Brian Campbell, PASS North hard-luck boy Travis Benjamin and Modified barnstormer Andy Seuss.
Most Inspirational Moment
Johanna Long Wins Derby at Home Track
The message of Johanna Long's victory in the 2010 Snowball Derby was that dreams really can come true. Long is a hometown girl who not only grew up in the shadows of Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida, but also spent much of her youth there watching her father Donald compete in races at the track, including many Derbies. Donald stepped out of the driver's seat a few years ago to make way for his daughter and that paid off big as Johanna did something that Donald never accomplished and won the Derby.
Scott Hantz winning the Redbud 300 in tribute to his late car owner Dick Poe ranked second in our fan vote and Bubba Pollard adopting the paint scheme of friend, fellow driver and cancer patient Beau Slocumb at the Snowball Derby placed third.
You wouldn't know it today, with the success of the Blizzard Series and the Snowball Derby, but it wasn't that long ago that Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida was struggling. That was before Tim Bryant and his family stepped in though to turn the track around. That fact helped lead the fans of Speed51.com to vote Bryant as the Best Promoter for 2010.
The CRA duo of RJ Scott and Glenn Luckett finished second in the voting, with PASS head honcho Tom Mayberry taking down the third position.
43rd Annual Snowball Derby
The most recent Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL) lived up to its hype. The biggest Super Late Model race all season long attracted plenty of talent and fans and the final segment of the race rewarded them all with a wild finish. Contender after contender beat each other out of contention before Johanna Long shoved her way into the lead and never looked back. That made the race the fans' vote for “Best Race of 2010”.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour show at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) placed second with the Redbud 300 at Anderson Speedway (IN) placing third.
The Rattler is usually one of the great Super Late Model events in the Deep South, but that wasn't the case this past year. A lot of factors went into The Rattler ending up here. Several drivers, who were expected to take part in the Spring weekend of racing, were no shows for this big money race leaving only a handful of cars to battle it out. A handful of Pro Late Model drivers were going to start the race on Sunday, but ironically they were all taken out in the same wreck. As the Rattler fell well short in 2010, it's already shaping up as one of the better events in 2011.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Gresham Motorsports Park (GA) and the North South Shootout at Concord Speedway (NC) were on the podium of this category thanks to the extreme number of wrecks in each event.
Short Track Bad Boy
In Cup racing, he's possibly the most polarizing character out there right now. Fans either love Kyle Busch or hate him. On one hand, he drives his heart out and puts on a show every time he gets into a racecar. On the other hand, he can be a bear to the world when things don't go his way. Well, Busch isn't just a racer in the top divisions of NASCAR. He's a short tracker as well. When the #51 Super Late Model pulls into a pit area with Kyle driving, it strikes fear into the competition, making everyone want to step their game up to compete with it. In the past few seasons, Kyle has won the Winchester 400, Snowball Derby, SpeedFest and the Redbud 300. He spends his own money to run a Super Late Model team and gives nothing less than his best every time his straps into a car. He'll beat and bang and make no excuses or apologies for it. That is why fans voted him the Short Track Bad Boy by a country mile in this year's 51s.
Another magnet for trouble, Ted Christopher, ranked second in the voting followed by long-time bad boy Mike Garvey.
Johanna Long Wins Snowball Derby
Everyone loves to see a first time winner, and we've already told you how inspirational that Johanna Long's Snowball Derby victory was. So it comes as no surprise that the fans of Speed51.com also voted Long's Snowball Derby victory as the “Best Story” of the 2010 season.
In this category, Long won by a landslide over Burt Myers winning both the Bowman Gray and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championships and Todd Annarummo winning the $10,000 Modified Madness show at his hometrack of Seekonk Speedway (MA).
Nashville Fairgrounds Saga
We've all seen too many historic racetracks go extinct, so following along with the saga of Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway is painful to short track fans. The track, which is legendary for the All-American 400, is in the middle of a Fairgrounds property that many in Nashville government want to see redeveloped. A grassroots campaign of fans led by former NASCAR Cup star Sterling Marlin is fighting to save the speedway and they are making progress. But will it be enough at this point? The story will continue on through 2011.
Following the Nashville situation in our fan voting were the tire soaking disqualifications at New Smyrna Speedway during Florida Speedweeks and the legal battle over the ASA name.
It's a nice concept - put the fast cars on the rear and turn them loose. Chase Elliott started the Snowflake 100 in the 31st spot at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida last December. On lap 81, he took the lead and went on to score the win in one of the most competitive races ever at Five Flags Speedway.
Elliott beat out Tony Hirschman's return to the seat and victory lane in the Race of Champions at Oswego when the votes were counted up in this category.
In 2010, Donnie Wilson led the Snowball Derby, the World Crown 300 and the Winchester 400, but he didn't go to victory lane in any of those races. Donnie Wilson was so close in 2010 he could taste it. Wilson has always been a good Late Model driver, but the combination of him and Freddie Query has made him a contender. We expect to see him in victory lane in 2011.
PASS North driver Travis Benjamin, who once again saw the path to victory lane blocked by all kind of bad luck, and Florida youngster Stephen Nasse made up the rest of the top three.
We'll say it - he's just cranky. Robert Hamke is well known for his Hamke Race Cars, but now he's a 51 award winner. Needless to say he's not going to be thrilled about this honor, but the reason people know who he is because his equipment gets the job on the track.
Modified “Rocket Man” Tim Brown, another star of the History Channel's Madhouse show, was second in the voting with the always quotable, but not-always-loved Ted Christopher in third.
Photo of the Year
Jim Lambert - Steven Reed in Fence at North South
They say a photo is worth a thousand words, so without any further explanation check out this image by Jim Lambert of Steven Reed getting into the fence during the North South Shootout weekend at Concord Speedway. It was voted as the Photo of the Year.
Rookie of the Year
In his first full season of Super Late Model racing, Ross Kenseth won races and battled toe-to-toe with the best of them all across the county. An unlucky spin and a small fuel cell cost him victories in the North South Shootout and the World Crown 300. Kenseth did visit victory lane in his first trips to Lucas Oil Speedway (formally ORP) and Winchester.
Kenseth beat out Legends driver Daniel Hemric who was sharp in his first few Late Model races and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rookie Justin Bonsignore who won the pole at Bristol.
Driver of the Year
He was only 14! The rap sheet for this youngster in 2010 was almost too much. Blizzard Series Champion, Miller Lite Series Champion, Gulf Coast Champion, Winchester 400 winner and Snowflake 100 Winner. Once the totals were added up, we see that Chase Elliott collected a total of 13 wins. Elliott had a dream season that amazingly could be topped in 2011 as he already has two wins in the first month of the season.
Elliott beat out ASA Midwest Champion Steve Carlson and 2009's 51 Driver of the Year Bubba Pollard. Their win totals together tied young Elliott's.