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Champions and Heroes Awarded at Ocala

. Posted in Racing News

The 2009 Ocala Speedway Championship Awards Banquet got off to a false start in January when the local company that was to host the event suddenly closed without notice, but as many racers, staff, and fans, found out, sometimes things work out for themselves.  The lack of a host banquet hall resulted in the event being held in the Budweiser Beer Garden behind the grandstands at the speedway, and it attracted a large crowd who reveled in seeing many people get to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

The top five in divisional racing points standings were awarded trophies at the event, including Jason Gamble who raced his way to more than a points championship in the Amsoil V8 Thunder Stocks.  Gamble many times fought his way though the field from the rear of the pack, and each time he did it without shoving his way forward. That exciting, clean racing and good sportsmanship also garnered the V8 Thunder Stock Driver of the Year Award for Gamble, plus the hardware for the points championship.

Paul Combast used consistency and competitiveness to become the points champion in the Mini Stock Division for 2009.  After finishing second in points for 2008, Combast was at Ocala Speedway for every Mini Stock race in 2009, and rarely faltered below a top three finish.

Another racer who consistently finished well on his way to a points championship was Bubba Christian.  After spending 2008 racing in the shadow of his uncle, Grady Christian, Bubba emerged early in 2009 as one of the top Hobby Stock racers in the state of Florida by beating his uncle and many others as well.

The Gladiator Division saw a lot of talented racers who would show up and race from time to time, but in the end Paul Hahn was the one who earned a championship trophy with strong finishes and solid competition.  Paul's red number 78 was not always at the front of the pack, but it was always there as the others came and went.
On a typical Friday afternoon an early arrival at Ocala Speedway would normally reveal one team alone in the pit area, busily preparing for a night of racing.  J.O. Nobles' familiar yellow late model received some hard knocks during 2009, but Nobles overcame the bumps and earned the top spot in the final points standings against a particularly strong field of late model racers.

And although he could not be there to receive his award due to a prior commitment, Jeff Mathews topped the points standings in the Open Wheel Modified Division for 2009.  Mathews raced hard and overcame some trying conditions at times to earn the top spot over many of the top modified teams in the region.
In addition to the points champions, other drivers were honored for their efforts during 2009, including Gladiator sensation, Devin Walker.  Walker received the First Annual David Reutimann Most Likely to
Succeed Award, which goes to a racer selected personally by David Reutimann and Ocala Speedway owner Michael Peters.  Walker earned his first win in the Gladiator Division in 2009, and caught the eye of World of Outlaws driver Danny Lasoski.  Lasoski was so impressed with Devin's skills that he immediately came on board as a sponsor for Walker's car.

Kody Fisher took home the trophy as Driver of the Year in the Gladiator Division, finishing 3rd in points and never giving up even after a frightening head on impact with the turn one wall.  Kody has yet to earn a victory at Ocala, but that day is coming as he continues to use patience and reserve to learn, and continue to improve in each feature race.
Rookie of the Year honors went to the youngest late model racer as Christian Augsperger spent his first year learning the ropes of racing with some of the top drivers in the region.  Christian raced hard and yet showed ample patience as he competed in the Late Model Division at Ocala Speedway, and with The United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series.

Hard Charger of the Year went to Terry Dunbar, who usually found himself relegated to the rear of the pack for this and that in the Amsoil V8 Thunder Stocks, but who turned that adversity into success by charging through the field, sometimes more than once in a 20 lap feature race.  While no one was actively charting the details of Dunbar's performance, it is likely that he passed more cars on the track in 2009 than any other racer in any division.

Glenn Vincent was another V8 Thunder Stock racer who earned a special award as Most Improved Driver.  Vincent seemed to always be mired in the heart of the pack each race, and yet continued to fight each week and slowly emerged as a top ten driver.

An Outstanding Perseverance Award was given to Eubanks racing for 2009.  As Ocala Speedway owner Mike Peters described it, Eubanks Racing was the victim of a few negative situations in 2009 which Peters personally took the blame for when his staff was in error. Although mistakes were few and far in between, Eubanks Racing somehow seemed to be on the receiving end when they happened, so the award was a thank you for hanging in there and a promise to everyone that Ocala Speedway is always trying to be better.
And some Ocala Speedway employees were awarded plaques for outstanding service and dedication as well, including the ever present David Mills who is as much a fixture at the speedway as anyone else.  Mills walks to work each morning at the track and performs whatever task is asked of him, making him more or less Mike Peters' right hand man behind the scenes. 

With the honors for 2009 awarded and a great time had by all, Michael Peters and Ocala Speedway's staff are already moving into 2010 with two Saturday practice sessions open to all divisions, and then the opening of the 2010 season on March 5th, featuring The United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series.  A full schedule of events through May is now posted at www.OcalaSpeedway.com.

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