CHARLOTTE, NC — Anthony Anders’ dream became reality Friday night.
Since he first came to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards in 2011, he imagined a day when his name would hang on one of the banners of national champions that ring the Crown Ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
As the 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion, Anders not only saw his name on the latest banner, he collected his championship ring from NASCAR President Mike Helton and the championship trophy that’s etched with all the national champions in the series’ 33-year history.
“This was a dream come true for me and a long time coming,” Anders said. “I painted my name on the historic wall alongside NASCAR greats Ralph Earnhardt, David Pearson and many other local legends.
“I want to thank NASCAR and the Whelen series for all of their support and for playing a role in making the past 18 years the best of my life. I want to thank all the local tracks and all the racers involved in the series. It is an honor to be your 2014 National Champion.”
Anders piled up 30 wins, 44 top fives and 48 top 10s in 51 races at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway, Anderson Motor Speedway and Myrtle Beach Speedway, as well as North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway
The national championship wasn’t the only honor Anders took home.
He also won the South Carolina championship for the fourth straight year and the Late Model Stock Car championship at Greenville.
That title earned Anders the right to add again to the Wall of Champions as the Late Model Stock Car champion at Greenville. The outside retaining wall around the flat half-mile lists the names of all the track’s champions, including the likes of Pearson and Earnhardt, as well as 1997 NASCAR national champion Dexter Canipe.
The state championship traces its lineage back to 1953 and also includes Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Isaac.
And now Anders’ name is permanently added to that storied track, state and national short-track history.
Anders wasn’t the only member of his team taking home hardware. Crew chief Lee McCall received the Lunati Crew Chief Award, while McCall and Randy Hawkins of Hawk-McCall Motorsports were honored with the Lincoln Electric Car Owner Award.
Anders and his team reached their crowning achievement by out-distancing a pair of national champions, who were also honored Friday for their outstanding seasons.
North Carolina’s Lee Pulliam, who won the national title in 2012 and 2013, finished second to Anders, while Connecticut’s Keith Rocco, the 2010 champion, took home the trophy for his third-place performance.
It is the fourth straight year Pulliam has been among the top three, while Rocco stretched his run to a record eighth consecutive seasons in the top four.
Pulliam, 26, collected his third Virginia championship and first North Carolina championship. He had 25 wins, 41 top fives and 42 top 10s while competing at North Carolina’s Caraway Speedway in Sophia and Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, and Virgina’s Motor Mile Speedway in Radford and South Boston Speedway.
Rocco, 29, had 16 wins, 35 top fives and 40 top 10s in 46 starts at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Waterford Speedbowl. He won his seventh straight Connecticut title and the SK Modified Division championship at Waterford.
Highlighting the evening’s festivities were several special awards.
Nick Heywood, 26, of Plattsburgh, New York, received the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Rookie of the Year Award presented by Jostens. Heywood had five wins, 18 top fives and 21 top 10 finishes in 21 starts at Airborne and finished second in the New York standings.
Toni Marie McCray, of Highland, California, was presented the prestigious Wendell Scott Trail Blazer Award. Dillon Bassett, 17, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was the inaugural recipient of the UNOH Youth Achievement Award national championship.
Additionally, NASCAR awarded national championships for Divisions II-V: Jared Umbenhauer of Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania (Division II); Jon Plowman of I-80 Speedway in Omaha and Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa (Division III); AJ Sanders of North Carolina’s Bowman Gray Stadium of Winston-Salem, Caraway Speedway in Sophia, and Southern National Raceway Park in Lucama (Division IV); and Donavan Beacham of Greenville and Anderson (Division V).
Track Division I champions, U.S. state and Canadian province champions and rookies of the year were also recognized the stage.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards was streamed live online in English, Spanish and French on FansChoice.tv and simultaneously onNASCARHomeTracks.com.
Saturday night’s NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards will also be streamed live from the same location, in English, Spanish and French, starting with the pre-event Red Carpet Special at 5 p.m. ET with the awards ceremony getting underway at 6 p.m.