By Brett Deyo
MIDDLETOWN November 21, 2000 Kauneonga Speedway brought its 2000 racing season to a close on November 13 with an impressive Awards Banquet. The event, held at the Brookside Manor in Middletown, was a fine way to finish what was a very successful season at the quarter-mile speedway.
Dave and JoAnne Rocket, completing their third season as promoters of the track, definitely went all out to make sure this was the finest of all their season ending galas, with some unique honors going out that took many by surprise.
The emcee was track announcer Fred Mulharin, who saluted the champions, along with those who finished the season amongst the top ten in the point standings.
Taking home the I.M.C.A. modified top honors in 2000 was Olive Bridge, NY driver Jim Fugel. Five feature wins allowed the 32-year racing veteran to collect his first-ever point title by a mere 15 points.
This was definitely a really good year for me, said the 50-year-old driver, who campaigns an immaculately prepared red, white and blue No. 2 both a Kauneonga on Saturdays and Accord Speedway on Friday nights. Ive been close in the last two point battles (second in 1998, third in 1999) so, it was nice to come out on top.
Along with his trophy and monetary awards, Fugel was presented with an embroidered leather jacket for his championship, another step taken by the Rocket family to have Kauneonga stand out from the crowd. Each of the four champions received one.
Finishing the season in second spot was Jerry Curry of Neversink, who visited victory lane four times this season, but came up short on the final point night to Fugel in his All Gas No. 10. Tom Pickerell, a two time winner, finished third and was a Rookie of the Year in this division. John Cote suffered through a lot of bad luck in 2000, but managed to pull off a fourth place finish, and defending champion Charlie Howe completed the top five. Mike Brown, Steve Conklin, Ron Pickerell, Bob Van Wagenen, and Jim Donelli were sixth through tenth.
The Best Appearing Car award went to Brown, who kept his teal and white No. 76 in mint condition.
The street stock division, too, had a first time champion in Mike Dean. Hailing from Carmel, NY, Dean took the checkered flag first five times and his wild finish on the final point night gave him an eight-point advantage, enough to secure the top honors. His MDM lettering Monte Carlo was also the Best Appearing Car.
It was definitely nerve racking this year, said Dean. Every time I would get comfortable in the points, something would happen and he (Norm Barnes) would be right there all over again.
Norman Barnes, also a five-time victor, was an agonizingly close second, after putting up a fierce battle. He did, however, collect the Rookie of the Year title, as it was his first full season in street stock. Tom Katz improved greatly on his rookie season, and managed to finish in the final podium position with his TK Construction No. 84. Finishing a career high fourth was John Hager, who collected his first victory late in the season. Ray Crespo, despite a lot of engine trouble, was fifth in his No. 11.
Completing the top ten were Eugene Palmer, John Lombardo, Pete Pollender, Al DeMarmels, and Willy Auchmoody. After switching from Orange County Fair Speedway, Auchmoody won his first feature in the latter part of the season and looks to be a top contender in 2001.
The eight cylinder hobby stock division was possibly the most competitive division this year, with high car counts weekly, and many different winners. The champion, however, remained the same as in 1999, with John DeMarmels of Parksville collecting the top honors in his Parksville Homes No. 27. While he only had two feature wins, DeMarmels had consistency in his corner this season, as he failed to finish only one race all season long, allowing him to clinch the championship by 11 markers.
Jeff Hager was the runner up for the second consecutive season in his 1965 Oldsmobile. He had a division best six feature wins. In third position was Kraig Welsh of Honesdale, PA, off the strength of one feature win. Gary Van Orden, one of the true nice guys in racing, finished fourth in the Shanty Hill Racing No. 54, and five time winner Eddie Nietzel filled out the top five. Skip Lapolt, Jim Anzalone, Steve Irizarry, Les Quick Jr., and Ken Engle rounded out the top ten.
The Rookie of the Year title in this division was a very difficult one to decide on, so, in a thoughtful gesture, it was decided to declare co-rookies of the Year. Kraig Welsh finished third in the standings with a feature win, earning him the honor. He also won the Best Appearing Car Award for his ReMax of Wayne County No. 2 Camaro. The other co-rookie was Highland, NY driver Jim Anzalone, who switched from Orange County Fair Speedway to the asphalt of Kauneonga this season, and finished a strong seventh in the standings.
In Fridays paper: The street stock and six cylinder divisions, along with other special awards.