For several weeks, short track racing fans have voted in record numbers for the 2014 51’s presented by JEGS, Speed51.com’s annual balloting of the best in short track racing. Keeping up with 51’s tradition, this year’s voting included categories that resemble categories in the annual Academy Awards for films, which were handed out Sunday. After careful counting of each ballot, Speed51.com is now revealing the winners of the 2014 51’s presented by JEGS.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
(Pavement Driver of the Year)
The fans of Speed51.com powered by JEGS have voted Senoia, Georgia Super and Pro Late Model standout Bubba Pollard as the 2014 Pavement Short Track Driver of the Year. With stats like Pollard put up last season, it’s hard to disagree with the masses. Pollard won the 2014 Southern Super Series championship and accrued 14 victories from the deep south to the midwest. The exclamation point on Pollard’s season came in December when he won the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway (FL). While the fans voted Pollard’s season as the best by a runaway, the west coast short track supporters came out in droves in support of 2014 SRL champion Derek Thorn, who finished second in the balloting. NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Rookie of the Year and series champion Ben Rhodes finished third in the pavement Driver of the Year voting.
Best Actor in a Leading Role (Dirt)
(Dirt Driver of the Year)
With 17 World of Outlaws Late Model victories and the series championship in 2014, Speed51.com’s viewers voted Darrell Lanigan as the Dirt Driver of the Year for 2014. Lanigan, of Union, Kentucky, started his 2014 campaign as the Winter Nationals winner at Bubba Raceway Park (FL) and ended it with the 2014 World Finals victory at Charlotte, where he celebrated the WoO title. Along the way, Lanigan also won the $30,000 Firecracker 100 at Lernerville (PA) and the $15,000 Down & Dirty 100 at Berlin (MI) along the way. It was a close battle of the ballots as Rico Abreu finished a close second in the voting thanks to his breakout Sprint and Midget racing season. The 2014 Chili Bowl winner edged out 2014 Renegades of Dirt Series titlist Kyle Strickler, who finished third.
Best Actor In a Supporting Role
(Weekly Series (Non-Touring) Driver of the Year)
While Lee Pulliam didn’t win the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title, he may have had his best season ever and it was recognized by 51’s voters who elected him as the top non-touring series Driver of the Year. Pulliam scored 25 wins in the 46 starts that were counted towards NWASS national points, with wins at Motor Mile (VA), Southern National Motorsports Park (NC) and a huge win in the MDCU 300 Late Model Stock Car race at Martinsville Speedway (VA) in October. Pulliam just barely beat out Alex Papini, the NWAAS Illinois state champion and Connecticut Modified and Late Model standout Keith Rocco for this award.
Breakthrough Performance Actor
Short Track Rookie of the Year
Entering the 2014 season as a driver relatively unknown, Timmy Solomito burst onto the scene during his rookie season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, which led him to being voted as this year’s Rookie of the Year on the 51’s. Driving for car owner Wayne Anderson, “The Natural” scored two top-five and six top-10 finishes on his way to winning NWMT Rookie of the Year honors. Blaine Perkins, a five-time winner on the SRL S2 Tour, finished second and 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Rookie of the Year contender William Byron finished third.
Best Performance in a Tour Role
(Touring Series of the Year)
With events all over the country and a popular television presence gaining its drivers exposure, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series has been voted as the top short track touring series of 2014. The “Newport Nightmare” Jimmy Owens earned the series title in 2014 after numerous on-track battles with big-name dirt Late Model stars such as Scott Bloomquist, Don O’Neal, Steve Francis, John Blankenship and more. With the young stars of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East getting exposure through several different traditional and social media outlets, fans recognized the series by voting it second in the Touring Series of the Year balloting. The Southern Super Series was voted third and was the highest-finishing asphalt late model touring series.
Best Performance in a NASCAR Role
(NASCAR Home Tracks Touring Series of the Year)
Fans have recognized the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season as the top touring series season of the year and what a season it was. The 2014 season started off in fashion with a photo-finish at New Smyrna Speedway (FL), and ended with a fresh-faced rookie champion in Ben Rhodes. The series saw great finishes all year, including a wild one at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that resulted in Jesse Little scoring his first win after the two leaders tangled ahead of him. NASCAR’s premier driver development division narrowly beat out its oldest division, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and its southern counterpart, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
Most Improved Actor
(Most Improved Driver of the Year)
J.R. Bertuccio turned in his most impressive season to date behind the wheel of a ground-pounding Tour-Type Modified. The fans noticed his performance and voted him the 2014 Most Improved Driver. After going winless in 27 career starts, Bertuccio picked up his first career win on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2014 at Southern National Motorsports Park (NC). 2014 Bowman Gray Stadium Modified champion Danny Bohn finished second, while two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East winner Scott Heckert rounded out the podium in this category.
Get Your Popcorn Ready
(Best Finish of the Year)
The Race of Champions Modified 100 at Holland Speedway (NY) had fans on their feet during the closing laps as Tour-Type Modified stars Andy Jankowiak and Matt Hisrchman duked it out for the lead. The two sliced and diced their way through lapped traffic before Jankowiak fended off a last ditch effort from Hirschman on his way to winning his first career RoC event. Fans voted the photo finish between Kyle Busch and John Hunter Nemechek in the ARCA/CRA Super Series event at Lucas Oil Raceway (IN) as the second best finish of 2014. An exciting end to the Valenti Modified Racing Series event at Seekonk Speedway (MA), which saw Norm Wrenn go from fourth to first on the final lap, was third.
(Short Track Promoter of the Year)
New and returning names were voted to the top of this category in 2014 by the fans of Speed51.com. Multiple-time Promoter of the Year winner Tim Bryant of Five Flags Speedway (FL), the home of the Snowball Derby, was voted as the top asphalt promoter of 2014. On the dirt side, fans of Speed51.com elected Cody Watson, the director of the Renegades of Dirt modified series throughout the southeast, as the top dirt promoter. Tom Mayberry, the series president for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) touring series and the owner of Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway was voted into the runner-up spot.
Box Office Bust
Some drivers had some bad luck and devastating stories in 2014, but Tim Schendel received the most votes for having the worst luck last year. In December, an insulation company’s truck got knocked out of gear with nobody in it, rolled down a hill and totaled Schendel’s racing team’s Ford dually. Then a few days later, he lost his entire racing operation when the heating system failed in his race shop causing a massive fire. His Iron Eagle team lost their cars, tools, pit cart and more. But, he hopes to be racing in the Midwest in 2015. Right behind Schendel in voting was Augie Grill and Ali Kern who each, couldn’t get a break on track and sometimes were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Most Shocking Ending
(Biggest Short Track Surprise)
Race fans in the Northeast never imagined it would happen, so there’s no questioning why fans would vote the partnership between the American-Canadian Tour and Pro All Stars Series North as the biggest surprise of 2014. After many years of competing for Late Model fans and competitors in the region, ACT promoter Tom Curley and PASS promoter Tom Mayberry shocked the racing world when they announced a partnership that will fans to watch both touring series at one race track on multiple dates throughout the 2015 racing season. Finishing second in the voting was the surprising 80 drivers on the pre-entry list for the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway. Fans voted the 12 different winners in 12 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour events as the third biggest surprise in 2014.
Best Dramatic Scene
(Inspirational Moment of the Year)
Brian Brown had been competing in World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series events for 13 years before he finally scored his first victory on the tour at the end of the 2014 season at Charlotte’s World Finals event. That accomplishment earned Brown the 2014 Inspirational Moment of the Year. Brown’s accomplishment, which came on the heels of numerous second-place finishes in some of Sprint Car racing’s biggest events, topped Chris Eggleston’s first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory at his home track of Colorado National in the voting. Jay Middleton, who opened up to Speed51.com about his alcoholism, recover and return to short track racing in 2014, was voted third.
Best On-Screen Hero
The friendly yet intense demeanor of SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour champion Derek Thorn was voted by the fans as the best in short track racing in 2014. Thorn is always a great interview for the media and his popular presence outside the racecar was backed up by his stellar season on the track as well. Second in the voting was Burt Myers from the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Third was Daniel Hemric, the man who does a backflip every time he scores a win.
Actor Achievement Award
(Comeback Driver of the Year)
After a few years away from Super Late Model competition, Casey Roderick responded in a big way during the 2014 season. The Georgia driver picked up wins in two of the biggest Super Late Model events in the country, the Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway and the World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park (GA). Six-time PASS North champion Johnny Clark, who picked up his first PASS North win after a nearly two-year drought, finished second in the voting. 44-year-old Donnie Wilson picked up his first three Southern Super Series wins in 2014 and was third in the voting.
(Short Track Bad Boy of the Year)
The 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Anthony Anders tops the charts in this category after a year full of controversy. Regardless of how one feels about Anders, he scored the hardware at the end of the year, and now he’s got another award to go with it. Second in the voting for this award was Brandon Jones, and Scott Bloomquist finished third.
Best Set Design
(Short Track of the Year)
In November 2013, Speed51.com introduced the racing community to Millbridge Speedway. A little clay oval located north of Mooresville, North Carolina has become the place where NASCAR families got and race as a family. Jeremy and Ashley Burnett have put a lot of time and energy into making the track one of the premiere places for micro sprints and go-kart events, and is now being recognized as the Short Track of the Year by the fans of Speed51.com. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, which hosts some of best Modified and NASCAR WAAS races in the country was second. Five Flags Speedway, home of the Snowball Derby, was third.
(Best Annual Short Track Event)
For the second straight year, the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway was voted as the best annual short track racing event in 2014. The event, which is known for bringing together the best of the best in Super Late Model racing and beyond, once again ended the short track racing season with a bang this past year. Oktoberfest at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway (WI) finished second in the voting, while the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (NC) rounded out the podium.
Best Sound Production
(Short Track Announcer of the Year)
Eric Huenefeld has become a familiar voice in the Midwest as the voice of the action from Rockford Speedway (IL), Madison International Speedway (WI), Big 8 Series, ARCA Midwest Tour and more. His famous lines like, “kick save and a beauty” to getting everybody on their feet before a feature event, help fans realize they are about to see something special. While he came up a few votes shy of being the announcer for the inaugural Battle at the Beach in 2013 at Daytona International Speedway, he won’t be denied as this year’s Announcer of the Year. Huenefeld beat out Johnny Gibson of the World of Outlaws and Bobby Prezeau from Autodrome Chaudiere for the crown.
Best Graphic Achievement
(Best Series/Track Website)
The website for the United States Modified Touring Series has been named the best in the nation according to the fans, and it’s easy to see why. The website is full of behind-the-scenes videos that keep fans in the loop all week long, the points standings are front and center and updated frequently, and just about everything is easily accessible. NASCARHometracks.com took home second, and the site for the ARCA Midwest Tour finished third in the voting.
Best Actor Promotion
(Best Driver Social Media Presence)
Burt Myers has long been one of the most approachable and well-known Modified drivers in the Southeast and his use of social media has helped raise his popularity over the years. That’s why fans voted the North Carolina Modified champion as the driver with the best social media presence in 2014. Myers’ weekly YouTube videos and fan interaction on both Facebook and Twitter help keep the Modified events at Bowman Gray (NC) on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and KOMA Tour packed with “Dirty South” racing fans. Ryan Preece, who has a popular following on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, was voted second, while short track newcomer Dalton Sargeant’s use of Instagram, Twitter and more with creative photos earned a podium finish in the voting.
Best Film Production
(Best Track/Series/Media Social Media Presence)
In 2014, MAVTV made big waves by broadcasting the Chili Bowl main event live for the first time ever, which left social media buzzing. Race fans found a new home for short track racing broadcasts, and the fans responded by giving MAVTV the Best Track/Series/Media Social Presence award for 2014. From all of the Lucas Oil sponsored series to the SRL Southwest Tour, MAVTV is filling that void for fans who want to see more short track events on their cable and satellite provider. MAVTV beat out DIRTcar and NASCAR Home Tracks for this honor.
Best Candid Cinematography
(Candid Photo of the Year)
The Martinsville 300 is one of the most prestigious short track events for Late Model Stock Cars. Winning there is like winning the Daytona 500. Drew Hierwarter captured what this race meant for Lee Pulliam when he won it in 2014. Hierwater captured the moment when Pulliam jumped over the pit wall to his crew and celebrate his win. This is the second year in a row that Hierwater receives this honor. Eamon Bauman was second with image of Corey Jankowski having fun with TUNDRA Racing Series head tech official Mike Panure. John Driscoll’s photo of Rowan Pennink getting immersed with confetti was third.
Best Action Cinematography
(Action Photo of the Year)
Duane Canfield won the Best Action Photo award with this submission as he was in the right place at the right time to snap a three-wide battle in a Race of Champions Modified event at New York’s Chemung Speedrome. from a RoC Series race at Chemung Speedrome. Second in the voting was Pete MacDonald’s artsy shot through the inside retaining wall at Williams Grove (PA) as Dale Blaney whizzed by. Third was some bumping and rubbing between Patrick Laperle and Kyle Busch in a PASS Super Late Model race in Canada, a shot taken by Lindsay Ellison.
Best Crash Cinematography
(Crash Photo of the Year)
This year’s nominees each captured a unique, yet scary moment in 2014. Alan Ward’s photo of Joe Krawiec’s midget flipping in the air at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford, VT received the most votes out of all of the great nominees. Krawiec went for a tumble during a USAC Midget hear race on July 26, 2014. Duane Canfield’s image of a Super Modified crashing into a Styrofoam barrier at Oswego Speedway was second. Stephen Furst’s photo capturing two Limited Sportsman cars colliding at Seekonk Speedway was third.
– As voted by fans on Speed51.com. Text by Speed51.com staff.
– Featured photo credit: Alan Ward