For four drivers, Friday morning brought a unique phone call.
Jared Umbanhauer, Jon Plowman, AJ Sanders and Donavan Beacham got the news from NASCAR that they were 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champions.
“That’s crazy,” said the 26-year-old Beacham. “It’s kind of unbelievable. I never really ran for a championship. I wasn’t trying to run for points at the beginning of the season. We started getting a little better, started moving up (in the points) and it just kind of blew up from there.”
In 2014, for the first time, NASCAR recognized champions from each of its divisions of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Anthony Anders of Easley, South Carolina, officially won the Division I championship earlier this week. In previous year, NASCAR’s Finalist Program recognized the achievements of drivers outside of the Division I.
This year, they’ll be crowned champions. They’ll be honored at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame / Charlotte Convention Center on Friday, Dec. 12.
“NASCAR would like to congratulate Jared Umbanhauer, Jon Plowman, AJ Sanders and Donavan Beacham on their outstanding championship seasons,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. “We are proud to recognize the achievements of the drivers at every level of our NASCAR Whelen All-American Series – their hard work and dedication to racing and NASCAR is the foundation of our sport.”
In addition, 17-year-old Dillon Bassett earned the inaugural UNOH Youth Achievement Award national title Friday. The award recognizes the top drivers 17-and-under in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Bassett won 13 times in the Late Model Stock Division at seven tracks throughout the southeast and finished fourth in the Division I national standings.
“It’s truly an honor,” said Bassett. “It’s a big blessing to be part of it and to win it says a lot about our racing program. This year has been really good to us.”
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards will take place on Friday, Dec. 12. Among those honored will be the 2014 national champion, as well as track champions from 58 tracks across the United States and Canada, state and province champions, and top rookies.
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II-V drivers are ranked by their best 14 NASCAR points finishes in series-sanctioned events. Drivers receive two points for every car they finish ahead of – up to 18 cars – and three points for a win, with an additional two points available if the driver starts 10th or lower.
Umbenhauer ran away with the Division II title on the strength of 11 wins and 15 top fives in the Sportsman Division standings at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Penn.
“That’s awesome,” said the 23-year-old from Richland, Pennsylvania, after receiving the news. “The car was phenomenal this year. We had a couple bad nights, but other than that, everything went our way this season.”
Umbenhauer finished with 547 points to out-distance fellow dirt driver Jesse Dennis, who had 478 points racing at Nebraska’s I-80 Speedway and Iowa’s Adams County Speedway.
Plowman, who races in the B Modified divisions at I-80 and Adams County, pulled away to win the Division II national championship by 49 points over runner-up Josh Galvin of Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl.
The 21-year-old Plowman, from Woodbine, Iowa, had 14 wins, 18 top fives and 19 top 10s in 21 starts at the two tracks and won the B Modified championship at Adams County.
For Sanders, the championship is a high point in a long racing career.
The 46-year-old from Mocksville, North Carolina, has been involved in NASCAR racing for nearly three decades and has seen his share of ups and downs. He’s won track titles in and out of NASCAR. Two years ago, he was he was hit by a truck while pushing his race car into his shop’s driveway. Sanders said he was dragged more than 80 feet, and suffered a multitude of injuries.
Sanders won 15 races in 26 starts this year in the Mini Stock/Stadium Stock divisions at North Carolina’s Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, Caraway Speedway in Sophia and Southern National Raceway Park in Lucama. He won a tightly contested national race, where the top six drivers were separated by just 34 points.
Sanders’ final margin of was eight points over Chris Kyer of Ohio’s Columbus Motor Speedway.
Likewise, Beacham was involved in a close battle. His, though, was with his friend Brian King as they went back-and-forth at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway and Anderson Motor Speedway. Beacham won the championship in the Four Cylinder division at Greenville, while King won the Front-Wheel Drive division at Anderson.
Beacham finished with seven wins, 23 top fives and 25 top 10s in 29 starts to edge King by eight points.
“I have been waiting on this all week,” said Beacham. “It was so close between me and Brian, we didn’t know which way it was going to go.”
Now it’s going to take him, as well as Umbanhauer, Plowman, and Sanders to the big stage in Charlotte in December.
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participate.
Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars across North America are among the many showcases for Whelen products.