Nearly 270 people braved a wintery forecast and attended the awards gala hosted by Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway on Saturday night, January 12. The annual banquet was held at a new location, the Crowne Plaza Reading located on Papermill Road in Wyomissing, PA.
Heading the list of honorees were the 2018 point champions at the Clyde. Heath Hehnly registered his third consecutive and seventh overall track championship in the Hyper Racing 600 Sprints. Hehnly went into the season finale trailing Mike Rutherford by just one point, and the two veterans waged war with one another in the last feature of the season. When the checkered flag waved it was Hehnly finishing second in the race with Rutherford right behind him in third. One position equals five points, so Hehnly captured another 600cc crown by a slim margin of four points over Rutherford. Hehnly praised his car owner, Chris Snyder, for providing him with a great car each week. And Snyder added, "we have fun...so much fun, every week...even on the bad nights."
In the Viper Chassis 270 Sprint class, Rutherford notched his eighth point championship. The title is also his seventh straight in the 270's, but it almost didn't happen. TJ Greve won the final race of the year in September, and Rutherford had to hustle to the very end of the 25-lapper to come away with a fourth place finish. That gave the Lititz, PA driver a one-point cushion over Greve as Rutherford added another 270 point crown to his total. His car owners, Ken and Tony Kaylor, received their championship hardware as well before Ken took the stage and told the crowd, "we hired Mike in 2002, and it turned out pretty good."
Reinholds' Toby Blumenshine was feted for winning the Sportsman championship, his second title in the division. Blumenshine did not win any races during the campaign, but he was consistent. In 13 point races, he recorded ten top-fives and only finished outside the top-ten on one occasion. Blumenshine was among the top six in 12 of those 13 point-paying events.
Cliff Brian Jr. comes from a hard core racing family, starting with his grandfather, Bill Brian, who owned the powerful No. 16 dirt Modifieds drven by Garry Gollub. Cliff Jr.'s dad, Cliff Sr., and his uncle Billy all drove for several seasons, competing in central PA's ultra-competitive 410 Sprint Cars. Cliff Jr. can now be added to the list as he picked up the 250cc Four-Stroke point title, his first under the Lanco banner. He won a total of five times, including the first of its kind 125cc vs. Four-Strokes Non-Wing Challenge held on Labor Day weekend. Brian, from Ephrata, kept his remarks short but to the point at the banquet, thanking all those who helped him.
Kyler Heiney, from Strasburg, PA, rounded out the champions who were officially crowned on Saturday night. Heiney raced to his first 125cc title with relative ease. He also won eight times, with seven of those being point races. He also was victorious in the Clyde Martin Memorial Race, which is always worth double-points. Heiney also never finished below fourth and placed second on four times. His car owner, Jim Harrington, proudly accepted the championship car owners hardware and admitted that his driver, "just has that 'it' factor, and he's going to go a long way in this sport."
Special Award winners included: Rookie of the Year - Jeremy Eisenhour (Sportsman); Chase Layser (125cc); Marty Brian (250cc Four-Strokes); Matthew Kreider (270cc). There was no rookie of the year in the 600cc division.
Hard Luck Award: Alan Durham (Sportsman); Mike Glass (125cc); Dylan Yeingst (Four-Strokes); Jarrett Imler (270cc); and Will Urkuski (600cc).
Most Improved Driver: Clinton Hauser (Sportsman); Kyler Heiney (125cc); Tommy Phipps Jr. (Four-Strokes); TJ Greve & Corey Schmuck Jr. (tie in 270cc); and Holden Eckman (600cc).
Best Appearing Car Awards: Kory Merkey (Sportsman); Kyler Heiney (125cc); Jessica Moore & Riley Simmons (tie in 250cc Four-Stroke class); Andrew Dietrich (270cc), and Holden Eckman (600cc).
Mark Geib Sportsman of the Year: Nick Skias (Sportsman); Mike Glass (125cc); Ron Wechter (Four-Strokes); Dan Lane Jr. (270cc); and Shaun Brandel (600cc).
Lanco President Jim Harrington gave his annual President's Award to a very deserving family. Lee, Pam, and (daughter) Samantha Miller were shocked but very grateful to be the recipients of the award. The Miller family has been devoted club members for decades, with Lee racing at Lanco before he and his wife, Pam, began helping daughter Samantha with club membership duties.
Dave Ely presented Kyle Spence with the check for winning the very first Champion Oil U6SA 600 Micro Sprint championship. The series encompassed eight different tracks and every race run on those speedways during the 2018 campaign (the series ended on October 31). A driver could use his/her best 20 finishes in an effort to win the title.
A few hot topics being discussed at the banquet included the elimination of entry fees for regular point shows in 2019. Handicapping procedures will also be different; drivers will draw for starting spots in heat races, then re-draw for top starting spots in their respective feature. The elimination of handicapping by points is gone, creating a more even playing field for invaders and non-members who may only want to visit and race at the Clyde on a "once in a while" basis. Gates are also being installed at the entrance and exit areas of the race track. The new gates will eliminate the "open" areas of the entrance and exit and prevent a car from slamming into the posts that currently start the guardrail that lines the outside of the speedway.
Opening night of 2019 will take place on Saturday, April 6, with the running of the No Wing Spring Fling. Wingless 600's and wingless 270's will be joined by a division yet to be named. Prior to the opener on April 6, there will be practice sessions (from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) for the Clyde's five weekly winged classes. On March 30th and 31st, inspection days will be held at the track from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Lanco member's cars do not have to be inspected to run the April 6 No Wing Spring Fling, but must pass the March inspection to be eligible to compete in the first point show on April 13, which is also First Responders Night.
News and information regarding Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway can be found on the track's website, www.clydemartinspeedway.com and at Facebook.com/Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway.