Since the creation of the 51’s presented by JEGS on Speed51.com, two of the most popular categories have been “Best Photo” and “Best Finish.” While the award for “Best Photo” has been around since the first edition of the 51’s in 2004, the “Best Finish” category was introduced in 2015 and has quickly become one of the most popular categories. Today, Speed51.com is pleased to announce the winners for each of those two awards for the 2016 season.
At most short track racing events, fans can look into the infield and spot photographers wearing their florescent yellow vests while attempting to capture the best photo possible through their camera lens. Each year during the annual 51 Awards, Speed51.com accepts nominations from all over the country to award the “Best Photo” of the season.
In 2016, the number and the quality of nominations received by our staff was higher than ever before. With over 200 pictures to sort through, we narrowed it down to 20 and then left it up to the fans to ultimately decide which photo was the best.
When the votes were tallied, it was Duane Canfield of Speed51.com and MoJo Photos taking home the top prize for the second time in three years. Canfield captured an unbelievable shot of a flip during a Sportsman Modified feature at Lancaster Speedway (NY) in 2016. The car, driven by Dave Rigan, crashed hard into the outside foam wall and pirouetted on it’s nose before crashing down onto the pavement. The shot captured by Canfield showed the car mid flip and quickly made it’s way to thousands of people on social media.
Mark Keeler’s unique shot of Jimmy Blewett during the annual North South Shootout at Concord Speedway, a race held in memory of his brother John Blewett III, finished second in the voting. Scott McIlwaine’s crazy shot of a car going out of the park and nearly hitting a track official at Shady Bowl Speedway finished third. Bruce Nuttleman, the defending winner of the award, finished fourth in the voting with his “High Above the Snowball Derby” shot and Heath Lawson’s photo of Jared Landers’ wild ride in a Dirt Late Model rounded out the top five.
Former Best Photo Winners
2015 – Bruce Nuttleman – High Above the Snowball Derby
2014 – Duane Canfield – Race of Champions Four Wide
2013 – Alan Ward – ACT Four Wide
2012 – Deborah Horn – Mods on Top
2011 – Jamie Williams – Derek Thorn Snowball Derby Flip
2010 – Jim Lambert
2009 – Jamie Williams
2008 – No Vote
2007 – Blewett Brothers
2006 – No Vote
2005 – Matt Dillner
2004 – Norm Marx
Best Dramatic Scene
Why do race fans spend their hard-earned money to go to the race track? To see a good race, right? And in most cases, a good race usually translates into a good finish. With thousands of short track races held all over North America in 2016, we narrowed it down to 20 of the best finishes we could find on video and put it in the fans hands to decide which one was the best of them all.
After the votes were tallied, it was the thrilling finish to 49th Annual Snowball Derby that was named “Best Finish” for the 2016 racing season.
The finish was one that people at the track and watching on Speed51.com will remember for decades. Christian Eckes, the underdog, went toe-to-toe with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver John Hunter Nemechek and prevailed after a thrilling final five laps that saw the two drivers exchange the lead multiple times. At the end of the race, it was Eckes shocking the short track racing world and winning the Snowball Derby after a last-lap pass.
Another unbelievable finish that was talked about for many days after the race occurred at Seekonk Speedway was the U.S Pro Stock/Super Late Model Nationals, the second-place finisher in this year’s voting. Derek Griffith, a local shoe from nearby New Hampshire, battled the invader Dalton Sergeant in the final laps before the two made contact in turn four on the final lap. The end result saw both drivers slide across the finish line and weekly racer Tom Scully, Jr. capture the $10,000 pay day.
The finish to the Hall of Fame 100 at Weedsport Speedway (NY), which featured a last-lap pass for the lead by Gary Tomkins finished third in the voting. A thriller at the inaugural Gateway Dirt Nationals in St. Louis finished fourth and a crazy finish to the Granite State Pro Stock Series race at Claremont Speedway (NH) rounded out the top five.
Former Best Finish Winners
2015 – Lucas Oil Modifieds at Rocky Mountain Raceway
-Text by Speed51.com Staff