By Ralph Smith
MIDDLETOWN November 16, 2004 The 2004 racing season at Kauneonga Speedway, which was the seventh consecutive year under the leadership of David and Joanne Rocket, ended with the annual Awards Banquet, which was held on Saturday night at the Brookside Manor in Middletown.
Kauneonga Speedway announcer Fred Mulharin served as the master of ceremonies for the evening. He announced the top 10 drivers in each division as a crowd of over 250 people, including race drivers and their families, crew members, fans and sponsors celebrated the occasion with a buffet-style dinner, music, door prizes, and a formal awards ceremony.
After all of the traditional awards were presented, David Rocket stood in front of the crowd and made an announcement that stunned those gathered for the occasion.
Over the last seven years, we have met a lot of great people, David Rocket said. We have an incredibly dedicated staff that worked as a team to put each show on week in and week out. Weve met a lot of great drivers, their pit crews, families, and fans.
All in all, the track has treated us quite well and has enabled Joanne and I to make some other real estate investments along the way, Rocket continued. Over the last several months the opportunity came before us to move on. The property has been sold and we have decided to pursue the other real estate projects weve been working on. The property has been sold to an out-of-the-area real estate developer and to our knowledge the status of the 2005 season is unknown.
Trying to control his emotions, Rocket ended by saying, I would like to take a moment to thank all of our staff, our sponsors and drivers for their continued support over the past seven years and wish everyone the best.
With that said, a standing ovation echoed throughout the banquet room. As many fought back tears and wondered about what will happen next year at the Sullivan County oval, the Rocket family David, Joanne, and Ryan were thanked by drivers and fans for giving them a place to race and to wish them well in their future endeavors.
The announcement at the end may have overshadowed the formal awards presentation, but the Rockets were upbeat as ever in handing out the 2004 awards.
The ceremony began with a computer slide presentation of the 2004 racing season by Lisa Andresen and Michele Gannon.
A moment of silence was observed in memory of Shawn Tyler, a winning race driver, crew member, and mechanic, who passed away earlier in the week at the young age of 23.
Jeff Richardson of Goshen was presented the 2004 Champions trophy in the IMCA Modified division. Richardson won the IMCA Championship back in 1992 and a Pro Stock Championship in 1991. He has raced in many different divisions and speedways since his return to full time racing at Kauneonga last year. Richardson scored 12 wins this season, including the Kauneonga Fire Kracker Klassic title in July and the Kauneonga Klassic championship last month.
Wayne Kirkpatrick of Washingtonville finished second in the IMCA Modified point standings. Kirkpatrick scored two wins in 2004, including his first career IMCA Modified win back in July.
Bradley DuBois took home the third place IMCA Modified trophy. The Cochecton resident scored his first career win in IMCA Modified competition in June and backed that win up for a total of four in 2004.
Rounding out the top 10 in IMCA Modified points were Jerry Curry, (four wins), John Bailey (one win), Bob Van Wagenen, John Hager, John Cote (two wins), Glenn Smith and Neil Van Buren (one win).
The 2004 Pro Stock Championship trophy was presented to Tom DeMarmels of Grahamsville. He visited victory lane 10 times on his way to the title. In May, DeMarmels won the Kauneonga Memorial Day Madness weekend of racing.
Mike Dutka of Gardiner was second in the championship chase with five Pro Stock victories along with the Kauneonga Fire Kracker Klassic title in July.
Gary Borrell posted three wins on his way to third place in the final Pro Stock standings.
The remainder of the top 10 included Mike Southerton (five wins), John DeMarmels (one win), Jeff Hager (two wins), Bobby Policastro, Pete Pollender, Joe Barnes (Kauneonga Klassic winner), and Jim Helt.
Gary Van Orden of Hawley, Pa. won his second consecutive Street Stock championship. Van Orden scored 10 victories in 2004. One of the most dramatic twists during Van Ordens season happened when he destroyed his car in a heat race and the VanWel Racing Team let him use their car for the feature. Van Orden then finished in second place behind Todd Gadoury.
Gadoury, a Liberty resident, chased Van Orden for the title and ended the season with the second place Street Stock trophy despite recording 12 victories during the year. Gadoury swept the weekend special events by winning the Memorial Day Madness, Fire Kracker Klassic and Kauneonga Klassic titles.
The third place Street Stock trophy went to Glenn Aumick of Sparrowbush. Aumicks consistent finishes throughout the season were key to his strong top three finish in the points.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Street Stock division were Joe Graf, Kenny Atkins, Mike Skelly Jr., Kevin Olver (one win), Beryle Herman (three wins), Eddie Lindstadt and Bob Van Blarcom.
The Four Cylinder Senior division was dominated by Mike Houghtaling of White Sulphur Springs. Houghtaling captured a record 17 wins during the season, including last months Kauneonga Klassic title.
Ray Houghtaling was second with three wins, and Bert Long finished third with one win and the Fire Kracker Klassic title. The rest of the top 10 included John Clarke (one win and the Memorial Day Madness title), Jim Hughson, Ray Van Der Molen, Woody McGibbon, John Hager, Eric Andresen and Diane Hughson.
The Four Cylinder Junior division came down to the last night of racing with Dan Curry of Harris squeaking out the season championship over Chris Hardenbergh. Curry won five feature races during the season.
Hardenbergh visited victory lane seven times to finish second in the Four Cylinder Junior point standings with Jason Chevalier (nine wins, Fire Kracker Klassic and Kauneonga Klassic titles), Mike Herman (one win), Billy Curry (two wins), Paul Curry, Martin Chevalier (one win and the Memorial Day Madness title), Nick Hendrickson (one win), Dan Houghtaling and Jamie Hughson rounding out the top 10.
Paul Dodorico of Miller Place took home the 2004 Legends championship trophy. Dodorico had four wins during the season to top the division in victories.
Joining Dodorico for a photo opportunity featuring the divisions top 10 drivers were Mike Malone (third place), Todd McCollum (fourth place and one win), Mike Van Elswyk Jr. (eighth place) and Willie Walker (10th place).
Mike Houghtaling presented a special award to his father Ray Houghtaling. Mike stated that for him, Papa Ray, as the elder Houghtaling is known around the track, is not only Dad, but also his best friend, sponsor, and supporter who has been behind him during good and bad times.
The Fans Choice Most Popular Driver Award was won by Mike Dutka of Gardiner.
Rookie of the Year honors were presented to John Bailey (IMCA Modified) and Mike Skelly Jr. (Street Stock).
Best appearing car trophies were awarded to Patty Falkena (Four Cylinder Senior), Jason Chevalier (Four Cylinder Junior), Kevin Olver (Street Stock), Gary Borrell (Pro Stock) and Jeff Richardson (IMCA Modified).
The Sportsman of the Year Award was bestowed upon IMCA Modified driver Wayne Kirkpatrick.
David, Joanne, and Ryan Rocket proudly awarded custom designed leather jackets to the 2004 Kauneonga Speedway Champions. The championship jackets are a tradition and given each year to the speedways regular division winners to proudly wear as a symbol of Kauneonga Speedways best.
Special plaques and awards were presented to the following:
Amber McGibbon Little Miss Kauneonga Speedway trophy princess
Tonya Van Orden Tonyas Videos
Lisa Andresen Photos by Lisa
Michele Gannon MAG Motorsports
Special recognition to Popps Trophies for sponsoring the Four Cylinder division trophies in 2004
Track Officials and Staff Bryan Patterson, Phil Geib, Bob Brink, George Van Arsdall, Fred Mulharin, Ralph Smith, Ryan Rocket
Concession Staff Mary Chevalier, Trisha Schmitz
Perfect Attendance Awards Jeff Richardson, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Bradley DuBois, Mike Dutka, Mike Southerton, Gary Van Orden, Glenn Aumick, Mike Houghtaling, John Clarke, Woody McGibbon, Chris Hardenbergh, Mike Herman, Jason Chevalier, Paul Curry
Lias Tire Jackets Bradley DuBois, Glenn Aumick, Gary Borrell, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Todd Gadoury, Mike Dutka
Lias Tire Certificates for two racing tires Jeff Richardson, Tom DeMarmels, Gary Van Orden
JAZ Gas Cans from Track Reporter Ralph Smith (Fifth Place in Points) John Bailey, John DeMarmels, Kenny Atkins, Jim Hughson, Billy Curry
$100 from Les Quick Sr. Pete Pollender
$100 from Michele Gannon Todd Gadoury
Drum of Racing Fuel Lisa Andresen
Race Car Paint Job and Lettering by David Rocket Tom DeMarmels.