Stafford Springs, CT — Stafford Motor Speedway welcomed a guest list of nearly 500 people consisting of teams, drivers, sponsors, and employees this past Friday night, November 20, 2009 at the La Renaissance Banquet Facility in East Windsor to officially honor Ted Christopher, Jim Peterson, Michael Gervais, Jr., Andrew Durand, and Don Wood as the 2009 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions.
With Stafford Motor Speedway broadcasters Matt Buckler and Joe Coss serving as the Masters of Ceremony, the 40th annual Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Champions Awards Ceremony not only honored the five track champions, it also honored the top-20 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions. Other awards that were presented during the evening’s festivities were Most Popular Driver Awards, Most Improved Driver Awards, Reliable Welding & Speed Rookie of the Year awards, and the Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award.
The race for the 2009 SK Modified® championship began with several contenders in Jeff Malave, Keith Rocco, and Ted Christopher, but slowly Malave and Rocco faded from contention and Christopher once again demonstrated a season long consistency that drove him to his record seventh career Stafford championship. For the season, Christopher posted 4 wins, 11 top-5, and 13 top-10 finishes in 15 starts with the #13 Broadband Access Chevrolet. Christopher’s 4 victories this season brought his career SK Modified® victory total at Stafford to 91 wins. Combined with his Whelen Modified Tour Tech-Net Spring Sizzler victory at Stafford, his grand total of Stafford career wins now stands at 106 career victories.
The 2009 Late Model championship chase was a three-man race for much of the season with Jim Peterson, Ryan Posocco, and Dillon Moltz as the main contenders. All three drivers quickly established themselves as championship contenders with Moltz winning the first two races of the season while Posocco won the third race of the year and Peterson scored two second place finishes and a sixth place finish in the first three races. Moltz faded from contention as the summer approached, turning the championship fight into a two-man show. Peterson and Posocco ran neck and neck for much of the summer, but Peterson posted three podium finishes and a fifth place finish in the final four events of the year to take the championship by a 20-point margin over Posocco. Peterson and the #13 Hamm’s Welding Dodge team posted 2 wins, 12 top-5, and 15 top-10 finishes in 16 starts.
Ted Christopher and Jim Peterson made a special presentation to Shawn Waddell. Waddell was the spotter for Christopher and Peterson this year at Stafford, and they presented Waddell with a special plaque that commemorated his dual championships as a spotter. Both cars Waddell spotted for this year at Stafford were numbered 13, the second time Waddell has spotted for championship cars in different divisions in the same season with the same car number. In 2002, Waddell spotted for Bo Gunning in the SK Modified® division and Peterson in the Late Model division when both cars carried the number 17.
The race for the SK Light Modified championship was won handily by Michael Gervias, Jr., who came to Stafford this season from Legends cars, having never sat behind the wheel of a modified car. After a slow start to the 2009 season, Gervais quickly adapted to Stafford, posting 9 top-5 and 15 top-10 finishes in 16 starts this season to win the championship by a 72-point margin over Jay Goff.
After several seasons of being in championship contention but coming up short, 2009 was finally the year that Andrew Durand was able to take home a Stafford championship in the Limited Late Model division. Durand opened the season with a two wins and a second place finish to establish himself as the early season favorite for the championship. Dan Flannery slowly but surely worked his way into championship contention as the season wore on and was Durand’s chief rival for the track title. Flannery was in position to win the championship with only a handful of laps to go in the final race, but a flat right rear tire ended his hopes and Durand came away with the championship by 32 points over Flannery. Durand’s championship season consisted of 5 wins, 11 top-5, and 14 top-10 finishes.
Just as Norm Sears did one year ago, Don Wood won the season opening DARE Stock feature event at the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler and used that victory to propel himself to the DARE Stock track championship. Wood and his John Berardi owned #51 R.A.D. Automachine team drove to 2 wins, 11 top-5, and 13 top-10 finishes in 16 starts to take the championship by a 98 point margin over Cliff Saunders.
Receiving awards for Most Improved Driver were Richie Pallai, Jr. in the SK Modified® division, J.J. Hill in the Late Model division, David Webb in the SK Light division, and Dave Yardley, III in the Limited Late Model division. The Most Improved Driver award is given to a driver who exhibits the greatest degree of improvement in on-track performance over the past season. Nominees are selected and voted upon by a committee of select Stafford Motor Speedway management and track officials.
The Reliable Welding & Speed Rookie of the Year awards were presented by Brad and Linda Hietala of Reliable Welding and Speed to Mark Bakaj from the SK Modified® division, Adam Gray from the Late Model division, Michael Gervais, Jr. from the SK Light division, and Dan Flannery from the Limited Late Model division. The awards will be worth a $700.00 bonus to Bakaj, and $500.00 bonus to Gray, Gervais, and Flannery from Reliable Welding and Speed. Each Rookie of the Year bonus will be paid out in $100.00 weekly increments to each driver as they attend events during the 2010 season.
The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Woody Pitkat in the SK Modified® division, Dillon Moltz in the Late Model divisions, Heather DesRochers from the SK Light division, Carla Botticello from the Limited Late Model division, and Kyle Casagrande from the DARE Stock division. The Most Popular Driver Awards are voted on by the fans who attend Stafford Motor Speedway race events and fill out the ballots found weekly in the track’s PitStopper Magazine.
The Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award was awarded to John Berardi. Berardi prepared and maintained Don Wood’s championship winning DARE Stock car as well as his daughter Stephanie’s DARE Stock, which went to victory lane once during the 2009 season at Stafford. The Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award is voted on by Stafford crew members who possess a valid 2009 NASCAR License.
For more information about the 2009 Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony, or to order a video of the night’s festivities, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway’s track office at (860) 684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.
Sources: Scott Running/Stafford Motor Speedway PR