by Tana Robinson
Ransomville Speedway Marketing and PR Director
Close to 300 guests gathered recently to celebrate the 2011 season of Ransomville Speedway and the accomplishments of many. The night started out with a delicious buffet dinner catered by Johnston's Restaurant and was followed by an awards ceremony and music by Jonesie and the Cruisers. And the celebration lasted well into the night as guests enjoyed the festivities.
Chad Brachmann of Sanborn was honored for his first 358 Mighty Taco Modified title. Brachmann was all smiles as he received thunderous applause from all in attendance. Todd Burley finished in the runner-up position just seven markers behind Brachmann. Burley has captured the title in four of the last five years. Pete Bicknell came home in third.
Don Spatorico of Ransomville took the Original Pizza Logs Sportsman title. Spatorico had a consistent season followed up by a very successful end of the year with back-to-back wins on the King of the Hill weekend. Justin Wright and James Henry rounded out the top three.
Derrick Borkenhagen of Niagara Falls won the 2011 Ki-Po Chevrolet Streetstock title for the second time in three years. Borkenhagen visited victory lane only once, but his consistent finishes had him atop the points ladder as the final weeks came to a close. While it came down to the last event, Borkenhagen would finish well enough to take the title over Billy Coleman. The second place finish was Coleman's career best. Seventeen-year-old Jake Stefanski came home in third.
The Bobcat of Buffalo Fireball Champion, Jamie Woods, received his first-ever champions plaque after also having a very consistent season. Woods beat out 2010 champion Jim Harbison by some 17 points. Jon Stoelting enjoyed his best finish in third.
Marika Morris was honored as the first-ever female champion at the Big R after earning the 2011 Gippsters Collision 4 Banger title. Morris and crew celebrated in style as they cherished every moment of the banquet. Morris took the crown over Gordon Gau and Mike Pahl.
In addition to Ransomville Speedway Point Fund monies, several Modified teams enjoyed bonus checks from Mighty Taco and Hoosier Tire. The Sportsman competitors also received checks from the Ransomville Speedway point fund, Original Pizza Logs and Hoosier Tire.
For the Streetstocks many left with three checks - one from the Ransomville Speedway point fund, one from Ki-Po Chevrolet, and one from American Racer. The top five in the Fireball class received checks from Bobcat of Buffalo while the top three in 4 Bangers received checks from Gippsters Collision. Each champion driver and their significant others received an engraved watch and racer's bracelet from Firth Jewelers of Niagara Falls.
The highly coveted Driver of the Year award went to 2011 Mighty Taco Modified champion Brachmann. In fact, Brachmann's year at the Big R could be considered a dream season. Finishing out of the top five only twice, Brachmann's consistency along with his two victories vaulted him from third to first in the points standings on the final night. Brachmann thanked all his sponsors, family, and crew for their hard work this season.
The Performance Award went to Todd Burley for his victory in the $10,000 to Win Alex Friesen Summer Nationals. Not only was it one of his biggest paydays, but also Burley did it against the best of the best as many invaders converged at the Big R in search of the gigantic check. Burley went on to be the class of the field and took the joyous victory in front of a packed house on Aug. 19.
In other news from the banquet, this year a new award was introduced - the Key Player Award. This award was designed by promoters Jamie and Joel Friesen to honor an individual whose efforts had a significant impact. This year's recipient's effort not only resulted in a great promotional opportunity for the Big R, but also helped the community as it benefits the United Way. Jim Briggs was honored as the inaugural winner for his efforts in the Labor Night at the Races to Benefit the United Way, held early every June.
Owners of the Year honors went to BCL Racing - Ed Briggs, Pete Cocco, and Sam Lehr. The trio own the 7K Modified entry of Scott Kerwin and on special occasions put Modified hot shoes Stewart Friesen and Jimmy Phelps in the team second entry.
The Sportsmanship Award received a new name in 2011 - the Ray MacIver Sportsmanship Award. It's named after the late Ray MacIver, who was a friend of everyone, especially Ransomville Speedway. This year's recipient was Mike Martin.
Martin is a soft-spoken car owner and sometimes driver, who graces the pit area on a weekly basis at Ransomville Speedway. He certainly makes the pit area a better place with his presence.
The Hard Luck awards are presented to drivers who go into the season seemingly hoping not to win. For 2011, two drivers were recognized for their difficult seasons - Mike Short and Rich Vinson. For Short, flat tires while leading on two occasions, and being caught up in so many accidents that were not of his doing led to the award. Vinson started the season off well with a win early on, but it was all downhill from there. Consistent motor issues along with an ill-handling racecar led Big R management to recognize Vinson at the season-ending banquet with the honor.
In still more awards:
Receiving accolades for Original Pizza Logs' Most Popular Drivers were: Jeff McGinnis, Mighty Taco Modifieds; Brett Martin, Original Pizza Logs Sportsman; Gerald Poole, Ki-Po Chevrolet Streetstocks; Gary Watier, Bobcat of Buffalo Fireball; and Jose Torres, Gippsters Collision 4 Bangers. These awards are voted on by the fans on weekly basis through a ballot found in the Ransomville Laps program. McGinnis set a track record with the most votes received at 285.
Most Improved honors went to Mat Williamson, Mighty Taco Modifieds; Greg Martin, Original Pizza Logs Sportsman; and Billy Coleman, Ki-Po Chevrolet Streetstocks. Williamson enjoyed two victories at the Big R in 2011 and a top five finish in the point standings. For Martin, it was a total of three wins and moving up in the point standings from 2010. Coleman gained a total of nine spots in the point standings from 2010 and was in the hunt for the title right up until the final night.
The Trevor Wilkins Memorial Hard Charger award went to Ransomville native Jipp Ortiz. Ortiz suffered a difficult start to the season but rebounded in the month of August with a pair of back-to-back wins. The award traditionally goes to a Sportsman driver whose driving reflects that of the late Trevor Wilkins.
The Mechanic of the Year Award was renamed the Pat Spina Mechanic of the Year award, honoring the engine builder who lost his life earlier in the year. Spina's daughter and son-in-law were present and accepted the first-ever award, which was presented to the late Pat Spina. A second Mechanic of the Year award was given to Corey Brachmann for his part in helping his brother Chad earn his first-ever 358 Modified title. Corey asked his dad Mike and teammate Jason to step forward and accept the award with him.
The Best Appearing awards are probably the most difficult to determine. The work that goes into keeping these cars looking top notch week after week does not go unnoticed. This year's recipients were Anthony Rizzardo and Pete Bicknell in the Mighty Taco Modifieds, Don Spatorico in the Original Pizza Logs Sportsman, Jenn Greenawalt in the Ki-Po Chevrolet Streetstocks and Gordon Gau in the 4 Cylinder ranks.
The 12th annual Hangover 150 is Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, at the Big R.