CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Three young, rising stars received their first NASCAR championships, and four veteran drivers added to their already impressive resumes.
On a night where the remarkable achievements of 2015 were recognized, it was seven drivers who stood on stage at the Charlotte Convention Center Saturday at the conclusion of the NASCAR Touring Series Night of Champions who accomplished the sport’s ultimate honor.
“After my first championship in 2012, nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik shook my hand and said to me, ‘You know they don’t just hand these things out to anyone,’ and that’s something that has stuck with me every time I have been here,” said Doug Coby, who celebrated his third NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title Saturday.
The evening was a coronation for Coby and six fellow 2015 NASCAR touring series champions:
NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Ander Vilariño, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 champion Scott Steckly, NASCAR Mexico Series champion Rubén García Jr., NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Andy Seuss, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Chris Eggleston and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion William Byron.
For 26-year-old Eggleston and 17-year-old Byron, their NASCAR K&N Pro Series trophies were the results of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in their young careers that they transformed through skill and determination into a championship run.
Eggleston’s first full season with Bill McAnally Racing produced the sixth NASCAR K&N Pro Series West title for the venerable car owner. Byron joined the likes of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Joey Logano and Kyle Larson in simultaneously earning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East crown and Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
García completed a four-year run that took him from NASCAR Mexico Series rookie of the year in 2012 to the series champion, as he clinched the title in the season finale just one day after his 20th birthday.
García and Byron are members of the NASCAR Next program – an industry initiative designed to spotlight the sport’s best young talent.
As Eggleston, Byron and García received their championship rings from NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, the other four have made a steady habit of collecting hardware. Combined, they’ve won 12 titles since 2008.
Coby continued his amazing career resurgence. The 36-year-old from Milford, Connecticut, has raced on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for all or part of 14 seasons. In the last four, though, he’s earned three championships and one runner-up finish.
Steckly, 42, from Milverton, Ontario, hasn’t finished worse than fourth in the championship standings over the last nine years. He led an astonishing 1,090 laps over 11 races – winning three times – en route to the Canadian national title.
A year after watching Anthony Kumpen grab the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series crown, Vilariño wrestled it back for his third championship in the series’ four-year history under the NASCAR banner. The 36-year-old from San Sebastian, Spain, added three more victories to his series record win total.
“The third time here…am I dreaming right now?,” Vilarino pondered in his acceptance speech. “Losing the 2014 championship by just one point was hard to accept, and that puts this 2015 championship as the best of the three I’ve won.”
Seuss, a 28-year-old Hampstead, New Hampshire, native became just the third driver in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour history to win back-to-back championships. Seuss has finished in the top five in points in each of the last eight seasons and is second only to four-time tour titlist George Brunnhoelzl III in career wins.
The championship car owners and crew chiefs were also recognized Saturday night.
Those weren’t the only trophies handed out, though.
In addition to the championship awards, each series rookie of the year was honored. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award winners were Byron, Noah Gragson in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Chase Dowling in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Trey Hutchens III in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Top rookie performers in the three international series were Gary Klutt in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Manuel Gutierrez in the NASCAR Mexico Series and Alon Day in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
The Most Popular Driver Awards for each series were also presented during the ceremony. The seven drivers honored with the award, which was voted on by the fans through NASCAR.com, were Rico Abreu in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Nicole Behar of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Jason Hathaway in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Rodrigo Marban of the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, Alon Day from the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, Melissa Fifield from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Hutchens from the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
The top-10 drivers and car owners from each of NASCAR’s touring series also were recognized during the gala.
The awards ceremony was streamed live online at NASCARHomeTracks.com – the official online home of NASCAR’s touring series – in English, French and Spanish.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com