by Barry Angstadt
Landisville, PA - The 60th Anniversary Season at Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway officially came to a close on Saturday, November 18, when the 2017 Champions were crowned, the top 15 in each division's point standings were saluted, and many Special Awards were handed out in front of 230 banquet attendees. The annual awards gala was held at the Four Seasons Golf Course Banquet Room in Landisville, PA.
Heading the list of cash and hardware recipients were this year's point titlists: Heath Hehnly (600cc); Mike Rutherford (270cc); Cameron Bellinger (Sportsman); Mike Coen (250cc Four-Stroke); and William Manotti (125cc).
The Hyper Racing 600cc Championship is the sixth for Hehnly, who resides in Manheim, Pa. It is also his second consecutive title while driving for car owner Chris Snyder. Hehnly, who made it known during the off-season that this would be his last year of racing on a weekly basis and chasing points, garnered a pair of point-paying victories while utilizing some amazing consistency to earn another 600cc title. At the banquet, he told the audience that he will race for Snyder again next season, but not every Saturday night. His son's busy athletic schedule is the main reason for the cutback; Hehnly understandably refuses to miss games just because there's a race, so Snyder will put someone else in his car when Heath is attending his son's football, baseball, or soccer games.
Hehnly out-pointed Kyle Spence, a six-time feature winner, by 77 markers to win the championship. And Hehnly also picked up a non-point wingless triumph in the Labor Day Shootout at Clyde Martin.
Even though he had to sit out the final race on September 16 (due to badly bruised ribs suffered the night prior at another track), Mike Rutherford had just enough of a cushion to hang on and win his seventh point crown in the Viper Chassis 270cc Class. It is also Rutherford's sixth straight 270cc title, and he rang up nine feature wins en route to this year's championship. In his banquet speech, the Lititz, Pa. racer talked about his long term relationship with car owners Ken and Tony Kaylor, for whom he's driven since 2002. He thanked the Kaylors for the great equipment they've provided him over the years and was glad they could celebrate another championship together. When Ken Kaylor came to the podium to accept his championship car owner's award, he quipped, "there's only one driver better than Mike Rutherford, and that's me...but I'm 72-years-old now, so it's a non-issue."
Rutherford's ailing ribs kept him out of the seat in the season finale, and Nick Skias almost took the title from him. Skias needed to advance one more position in the final feature, but he got into turn one a little too hot as he tried to duck under the car in front of him. Skias' resulting spin sent him to the rear and gave Rutherford his seventh title in the 270cc division.
Middletown, DE's Cameron Bellinger authored a tremendous season in the Clyde's Sportsman Class as he captured his first point championship under the Lanco banner. In addition to becoming a father (for the first time) during the season, Bellinger rattled off a total of eight victories, including four in a row to end the season! He also had a three-race win streak in the middle of the campaign, and he strolled to the title by a very healthy margin over Nick Skias.
"Over the winter, Angelo (his father-in-law, Angelo Mercado) said if I'd run his car this year we would win the championship," said Bellinger in his banquet speech. "I didn't know if we could do that well, but I knew we would win some races. Son of a gun, if we didn't go out and win the championship just like he said we would. He and (mother-in-law) Dawn are awesome car owners and in-laws, and I'm so proud to win a title at Lanco because it's just the best and most competitive track there is, anywhere."
Hammer Down Engines 250cc Four-Stroke Champion Mike Coen, from Shamokin, Pa., had to battle tooth-and-nail with young charger Cliff Brian Jr. to win his first point crown. Brian won two features in the second-to-last event of the season, then finished runner-up in the final race. Coen racked up three wins during the year, and picked off car after car in the finale` to finish fifth, enabling him to win the title by a mere four points over Brian. Coen acknowledged Brian and all the other Four-Stroke competitors in his championship speech at the banquet. His car owner and girlfriend, Helen Chaundy, claimed the Four-Stroke Owner's Championship hardware.
How do you define dominance? Refer to William Manotti's 2017 campaign in the 125cc division if you need to explain the term. Manotti, from Lancaster, Pa., reeled off a dozen victories...and an astounding 11 of them were consecutive! He did not lose a 125cc feature from April 29 through August 26, allowing him to put a strangle-hold on the point title well before the final race. He's taken 25 checkered flags over the past three seasons, and this is his second straight 125cc point championship. His banquet speech included a few terrific commercials for his sponsors, Kelly Cadillac and Randazzo's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria. Manotti's father and car owner, William Manotti IV, proudly accepted the Four-Stroke Owner's Championship.
This year's President's Award, presented by Lanco President Jim Harrington, went to Race Chaser's Group organizer Mike Knappenberger. The well deserved honor was bestowed upon the super fan and photographer who coordinated fund raising over the past few seasons so that the racers would receive some extra cash at the end of the night - as long as their car was wearing a Race Chaser decal on each side's body panels. This year alone, Knappenberger and his Race Chasing Group raised and awarded over $8,000 in bonus money at Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway and several other area race tracks. Knappenberger, who has made the Clyde his Saturday night home, promised the racers in attendance that there will be more to come in 2018.
Rookie of the Year: Clinton Hauser (Sportsman); Holden Eckman (125cc); Tommy Phipps Jr. (Four-Strokes).
Hard Luck Award: David Schroeder (Sportsman); Shane Davis (125cc); Riley Simmons (Four-Strokes); Dan Lane Jr. (270cc); Rebecca LaMothe (600cc).
Most Improved Driver: Kane Rogers (Sportsman); Richard Stuck (125cc); Aidan Jones/ Cliff Brian Jr. (Four-Strokes); Andrew Dietrich (270cc); Nash Ely (600cc).
Shred Photos Best Appearing Car Award: Michael Kreiser (Sportsman); Jimmy Wampole (125cc); Tommy Phipps Jr. (Four-Strokes); Andrew Dietrich (270cc); Mike Rutherford (600cc).
Mark Geib Sportsman of the Year: Alan Durham (Sportsman); Holden Eckman (125cc); Mike Coen (Four-Strokes); Nick Skias (270cc); Zach Light (600cc).
While the 2018 racing schedule is not yet set in stone, it was announced that the season will begin with practice and a possible non-points event on April 7, while the "regular season" and points racing will kick off on April 14. A few other dates and events are still being worked out, and the final, concrete version of the schedule should be released by the time the calendar turns to 2018.
Stay abreast of all the news and off-season information at www.clydemartinspeedway.com; on the Facebook page at Facebook.com/Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway; or on Twitter (@Lanco_CMMS).