By Tana Robinson
Marketing and PR Director, Ransomville Speedway
The 58th annual racing season at Ransomville Speedway officially came to a close Oct. 30 as some 200 guests honored Big R's 2015 champions along with many others.
Ryan Susice of Ransomville was crowned champion in the FinditQuick.com 358 Modifieds following a very consistent season. Finishing 11 points over veteran Danny Johnson, Susice claimed his first of what will most likely be many Modified titles.
Susice had one victory, but finished in the top five in all but two of the regular points events. With six wins, Johnson finished in the runner-up position while "Mr. Smallblock" Pete Bicknell rounded out the top three.
As has become customary, the Investors Services Sportsman title came down to the final night as three drivers vied for the crown. Two drivers stood as co-champions as a result of a tie in points between Cody McPherson and James Michael Friesen. It was only the third time in Ransomville history and first since 1996 that a tie was recorded.
For McPherson, it would be his first Ransomville title. What was most impressive is it came in his very first regular season in competition at the half-mile dirt oval. McPherson enjoyed five wins, two of them coming in the Grit Series and DIRTcar Sportsman Series.
Friesen claimed his second championship in the division, enjoying five victories as well and 14 top three finishes. Jesse Cotriss claimed the third-place points finish with four wins to his credit and seven additional top-five finishes.
Brandon Sherwood of Sanborn is a veteran of the Ki-Po Chevrolet Street Stocks ranks. Taking his very first championship in 2015, Sherwood did so by claiming three wins and an impressive six second-place finishes.
After destroying his racer in a mid-season meeting with the wall, Mark Loveland was able to rebound and finish in the runner-up position. Mike Short came home third in points after some dismal luck kept him from possibly winning his first championship.
Austin Susice was named the Van Raine Construction Novice Sportsman champion. And he made the switch from 4 Bangers to Sportsman racing seem easy. Enjoying four wins and six additional top-three finishes, Susice came into the final event with John Conklin mathematically still in the hunt. Susice would take the championship with Conklin settling for second.
Conklin also made the move from 4 Banger racing into the open wheel ranks in 2015, picking up three wins. Tony Muscato enjoyed three wins, as well, and earned a third-place points finish.
Chris Leone took yet another track championship in the Gippsters Collision 4 Banger ranks. This driver has proven to be one of the most competitive at the Big R on a weekly basis. Leone won three of the last four points events, solidifying himself as 2015 champ.
Ryan Plante had one victory on the season and 10 additional top-five finishes to claim the runner-up position. Steve Matson of Ransomville finished in third with two wins and three top-five finishes.
The 2015 Ray MacIver Sportsmanship Award went to Pat Dell. When Mark Loveland's Street Stock was absolutely destroyed in a mid-season crash, it looked as if any chance of a top points finish - much less the chance of racing again soon - was gone. However, Dell was quick to step in and lend him his backup racer, allowing Loveland to stay in the championship hunt, where he ultimately finished second. This selfless assistance earned Dell 2015 honors.
Rookie of the Year honors went to Investors Services Sportsman campaigner Brett Senek, who finished 12th in points. Kenny Wills took top rookie honors in the FinditQuick.com Modified class.
Tommy Flannigan won Most Improved Modified Driver honors. He scored seven top-five finishes and an impressive third place at the Battle at the Border.
The Most Improved Driver award went to James Sweeting, who also claimed his first win in the Investors Services Sportsman ranks this year.
Ryan Stephenson was named Most Improved Street Stock driver. After finding success in the Gippsters Collision 4 Bangers, Stephenson moved up to the Street Stock ranks, leading feature laps in 2015, with two third-place finishes and finishing seventh in points.
The National Maintenance Contracting Corporation Most Popular Driver Awards are voted on by the fans using weekly ballots found in the Ransomville Laps program. Taking this years' honors were Jeff McGinnis (FinditQuick.com Modifieds), Cotriss (Investors Services Sportsman), Randy Zimmerman (Ki-Po Chevrolet SS), Dave DiPietro II (Van Raine Construction Novice Sportsman) and Justin McKay (Gippsters Collision 4 Bangers).
Best Appearing Awards for 2015 went to McGinnis (FinditQuick.com Modifieds), Cotriss and Sweeting (Investors Services Sportsman), Mark Loveland (Ki-Po Chevrolet Street Stocks) and McKay (Gippsters Collision 4 Bangers).
The Trevor Wilkins Hard Charger Award is presented to a sportsman driver who exhibits the desire, commitment, and competitive nature as the late Trevor Wilkins. This year's recipient is McPherson, who consistently worked from the back of the field to the front in first full season at Ransomville.
The Hard Luck Award went to Mike Hossfeld, who, following a decent start to the season - including a trip to victory lane - had it all come to literal crashing halt at the end of June with a vicious flip into the front stretch moat.
The 2015 Pat Spina Mechanic of the Year award went to Pat O'Keefe, while Owner of the Year honors went to Guy McPherson.
Other Big R contributors recognized were: Johnson, with the Performance Award for 2015; the Cotriss/Fearby team and the McGinnis team - winners of the Nice Guy award; Pete Bicknell, with the Key Player award for his 42 years of perfect attendance; and Ryan Susice with Driver of the Year honors.
Susice's development as a racer has been witnessed many at Ransomville Speedway. His dad was a competitive racer for many years, and Susice would quickly himself as a youngster as a competitive go-kart racer. He made the move to stockcars seem effortless, with championship seasons in the Street Stocks and Sportsman. His move to the Modifieds came together this year with his first ever Modified title, all while he was expanding his racing horizons with competitive outings in a Sprint Car and TQ Midget.
Wrapping up, feature winner plaques were awarded to Leone, Brendan O'Keefe, Ashley Harbison, Hossfeld, Brian Monahan Jr., Chad Lederhouse, Dave Dussault, O'Keefe, Plante, Austin Susice, Conklin, Anthony Muscato, Darrell Borkenhagen, Short, Sherwood, Loveland, Jesse Johnston, Ken Camidge, Jaren Israel, Pat Dell, Cody McPherson, James Michael Friesen, Cotriss, Greg Martin, Brett Martin, Sweeting, Mike Williams, James Henry, Justin Sharp, Johnson, Erick Rudolph, Phil Vigneri Jr., Chad Brachmann, McGinnis, Bicknell and Ryan Susice.
Mark you calendars for the Big R Hangover 150, coming up on Jan. 1, 2016. See www.ransomvillespeedway.com for details.