Ty Dillon’s Crowning Achievement
COVINGTON, Ky. — Richard Childress Racing’s Ty Dillon finished the 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season as the champion 55 days ago, but has since watched brother Austin win and celebrate a title of his own.
This evening was Ty’s time to shine, with his brother, parents, grandparents, and a wealth of team members at his side.
Dillon and his No. 41 Chevrolet team were officially crowned ARCA champions at the series’ annual Championship Awards Banquet at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. The 19-year-old from Lewisville, N.C., was among 15 drivers from the top 20 in the final point standings to be honored on stage, and left with more than $100,000 in point fund and special award earnings, as awarded by the numerous series partners at the ceremony.
To honor Dillon’s position as the 29th ARCA Racing Series champion in 59 seasons, ARCA president Ron Drager presented the driver a letter signed by North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue, as well as a series championship ring and a leather championship jacket featuring the series logo.
As is the custom, a video tribute featured photographs from the champion’s youth and ascent to championship status; special additions to this season’s video included special messages from Richard Childress Racing drivers Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, as well as a collection of footage showcasing Dillon’s use of the word “awesome” in victory lane interviews.
Joining Dillon on stage were his grandfather and team owner, Richard Childress, grandmother Judy Childress, and crew chief Scott “Flash” Naset, who was joined by his wife Stephanie.
“It doesn’t really hit you, how special it is to do something like this, until you’re up on the stage like this and all these people you’ve worked so hard against all year are staring up at you and you’re getting crowned the champion,” said Dillon, who finished the season with seven wins, 13 top fives, and 16 top 10 finishes. “It hit me pretty hard, and I’m just proud to be with the group of guys I’m with. It’s almost just surreal, to finally take it in. This experience right here has changed me a lot.”
Among the top awards Dillon and his team received were: $10,000 for winning the Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell after securing seven poles in 2011; $6,000 from Sunoco Race Fuel; $5,000 for winning the Aaron’s Lap Leader of the Year Award; $5,000 from Messina Wildlife Management; $5,000 from Hoosier for most wins by a car owner; $2,500 from the University of Northwestern Ohio; and the Fast Track High Performance Driving School Award. Jeff Abbott of Menards presented Dillon a check representing his winnings from the series points fund.
Naset also visited the stage on his own to accept the Cometic Crew Chief of the Year Award.
David Ragan, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and ARCA Racing Series race winner, served as the Guest of Honor. Speed television analyst Phil Parsons acted as the banquet host for the third consecutive year.
Chris Buescher, who drove to second place in the final standings for Roulo Brothers Racing, received the $10,000 ARCA Rookie of the Year Award, as well as $2,500 in cash and product certificates from Print Resources and $500 from JRI. Buescher also accepted the $15,000 Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge Award and the R.E. Lightning Challenge Award, among other prizes.
Buescher won three of the season’s last four races, and the team’s Russell Roulo won the Klotz Engine Mechanic of the Year Award. Gary Roulo joined Buescher on stage when he was introduced for finishing in second place.
The team left with more than $100,000 in point fund and special award earnings after a season in which Buescher drove to three wins, 14 top fives, and 16 top 10s.
Frank Kimmel was recognized on stage for finishing third in the series standings, as well as for winning the CGS Imaging Hard Charger of the Year Award and the S&S Volvo Laps Completed Award. He was joined for a final time on stage by brother and crew chief Bill Kimmel; the two will separate for the 2012 season with Frank Kimmel moving to ThorSport Racing.
Chad McCumbee, who finished fifth in the final series standings, joined owner Jennifer Belmont on stage to accept the Bill France Four Crown Award for his combined performances at New Jersey, Michigan, Springfield, and Salem.
Fourth-place driver Grant Enfinger and owner Mike Allgaier were introduced, as were fellow pairs from the top 10 in the standings: Tom Hessert and team owner Ken Schrader (sixth); Tim George, Jr. and crew chief Gere Kennon (seventh); Chad Hackenbracht and team owner Greg Hackenbracht (eighth); Sean Corr and team owner John Corr (ninth); and Darrell Basham (10th).
The top-10 honor – Basham’s first since 1976 – turned out to be the second recognition of the night for Basham. Earlier, he was honored with his second Spirit Award, following the same honor in 2003.
The Spirit Award is given to a person for dedication and support of ARCA, uplifting spirit by way of example, perseverance, and positive attitude. Despite a late 2010 garage fire that destroyed nearly all his race equipment, Basham displayed all of those characteristics in driving to his best season finish in 35 years.
Nick Ramey accepted the Crane Cams Engine Builder of the Year Award on behalf of Roush Yates Engines, and Ramey himself was presented the H.G. Adcox Sportsman of the Year Award for his consistent willingness to assist any team in the garage.
In addition to stepping to the stage with Hessert, Schrader appeared to accept the Marcum Award, annually presented to an individual or entity whose positive efforts have elevated ARCA’s motorsports stature to the benefit of all associated. Schrader is a 15-time winner in the ARCA Racing Series, and continues to promote the series today as a team owner and television broadcaster.
Cathy Venturini and Nate Thiesse, the fourth and 10th-place owners, respectively, both spoke on stage.
To complete the honoring of the top 20 drivers, James Hylton (11th), Brad Smith (12th), Levi Youster (14th), Will Kimmel (15th), and Maryeve Dufault (16th) visited the stage to receive congratulations.
Jeff Kettman accepted the Manufacturer Championship on behalf of Chevrolet.
Andy O’Neal, dean of the College of Technology of the University of Northwestern Ohio — ARCA’s Official High Performance Education University – awarded a group of ARCA scholarships on behalf of the university.
Parsons announced the winners of the Bob Loga Memorial ARCA Scholarships. Brianna Peterson — granddaughter of ARCA competitor Wayne Peterson — won $1,500. Peterson, of Hoover, Ala., holds a 4.23 grade point average as a sophomore veterinary student at Auburn University. Brittany Gaddis of Romulus, Mich. won $500. She is the daughter of ARCA Figure 8 driver Danny Gaddis, attends Romulus High School, and plans to study nursing at Wayne State University in Detroit.