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Banquet Week: NASCAR Whelen All-American Celebration In Vegas

By Official Release
November 4, 2008 - 5:26pm

North America’s leading short-track drivers, teams and track operators will celebrate achievements of the 2008 season Friday night, at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet.

The 2008 national champion, Philip Morris of Ruckersville, Va., is the top honoree for the event. He will receive the series Tiffany crystal national championship trophy in ceremonies at the Rio Hotel.

Morris won the 2008 Late Model division champion and the Virginia state championship racing at Motor Mile Speedway, a .416-mile paved oval in Radford, Va. He has won the national crown for the second time in three years. Only one other driver, the late Larry Phillips of Springfield, Mo., has ever repeated as national champion. Phillips, himself a pavement Late Model driver, won the title five times.

Morris won the 2008 crown with a record of 14 wins and 23 top fives in 26 starts. He won the national title by a tiny two-point margin over dirt Late Model driver Brian Harris, of Davenport, Iowa.

Harris competes on a weekly basis at a trio of long-time NASCAR-sanctioned Iowa dirt tracks: the half-miles of Farley Speedway and West Liberty Raceway where he won 2008 track titles, as well as Dubuque Speedway, a .375-mile oval where he finished second in points to 2007 Iowa state champion Andy Eckrich. Harris’ final record was 20 wins and 35 top fives in 36 starts.

Marty Ward, of Marietta, S.C., finished third in the final 2008 national ranking while winning his fifth NASCAR Late Model track championship at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway. Ward won 13 races and had 22 top-fives in 22 starts.

Ward’s four previous track titles came in 1990, 1991, 2002 and 2003. In a previous format of the series, Ward finished in the top-10 of a regional point race three out of four of those years, with a high of second-place in 2002.

Finishing fourth in the final national ranking is Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn., who competes in the SK Modified Division at Connecticut paved tracks including Waterford Speedbowl, Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway. He is also the 2008 Connecticut state champion.

Dirt Modified driver Jeff Strunk of Bechtelsville, Pa. placed fifth in the final national ranking and won the Pennsylvania state championship racing at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelville. He also won his seventh career dirt Modified championship at the third-mile clay oval.

In all, 25 U.S. state and Canadian province champions will be recognized in Friday evening’s banquet ceremonies, with the NASCAR On FOX broadcast team of Mike Joy and Dick Berggren serving as emcees.

NASCAR Whelen All- American Series Banquet News And Notes …

• Philip Morris has developed into one of America’s best short-track competitors over the past 11 years. From 1997 through 2008, Morris has won six NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model division track championships at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., (1997, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008) and one at South Boston (Va.) Speedway (2003). In several formats of the series, he has won one regional championship (2001), one divisional championship (2006), and two Virginia state championships (2007-2008). He also posted regional finishes of second (2003) and fifth (2004). His feature event win total from those years is 76. In 2008, he posted his largest number of single season feature wins with 14. He had 13 win seasons in 2001 and 2006.

• Outside the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series point races, Morris won the Taco Bell 300 post-season NASCAR Late Model classic at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in 2000.

• Morris has also dabbled in two of NASCAR’s national series. In 12 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts between 1998 and 2001, he has one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His best performance came in his first series start in 1998 at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, N.C., where he qualified 12th, led seven laps, and finished fifth. He also entered one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event in 1997 at Martinsville where he qualified 24th but lost an engine after only 34 laps and finished 36th.

• Andy Eckrich of Iowa City, Iowa finished second to Brian Harris for the 2008 Iowa state championship after topping the state standings in 2007. Eckrich’s car owners Larry and Penny Eckrich also sponsor their son though their Precision Performance auto parts distributorship. Larry Eckrich was the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion car owner, sponsor and crew chief for driver Roger Dolan of Lisbon, Iowa in 1987.

• Past track and regional champions remain the standard bearers at Colorado National Speedway north of Denver. Bruce Yackey (1997) and Roger Avants (2002) finished one-two for the Colorado state champion ship in 2008.

• 2001 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn., finished ninth in the Connecticut state championship chase after finishing second to track and state champion Keith Rocco in the SK Modified division point race at Stafford Motor Speedway. Christopher was focused on winning his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2008, which he did.

• Longtime Rockford (Ill.) Speedway NASCAR Late Model veteran Jerry Gille broke through to win his first divisional championship at the Chicago-area track in 2008. Gille finished second to champion Ricky Bilderback in 2007. The track produced two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion crew chief Chad Knaus, who is teamed with driver Jimmy Johnson. Then 14, Knaus served as crew chief for his father John’s seventh Rockford Speedway Late Model division championship in 1994.

• Morris, Yackey, Bub Bilodeau (Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Maine), Andy Bozell (Kalamazoo Speedway in Michigan), and Tony Hanbury (Chemung Speedrome and Spencer Speedway in New York) are the only 2007 state champions to repeat in 2008.

• 2005 NASCAR Whelen All American Series Division IV champion Donnie Reuvers won the 2008 Minnesota state championship and Elko (Minn.) Speedway Late Model division championship.

• Andrew Kosiski, 17, of Omaha, Neb., finished sixth in the Nebraska state championship point race. Kosiski is the son of 1986 NASCAR Whelen All American Series champion Joe Kosiski and his wife Mona.

• Ohio Late Model veteran John Vallo retired from driving after winning the Ohio state championship racing at Kil-Kare Speedway in Xenia and Columbus Motor Speedway. Vallo surpassed the 300 career win mark during the 2008 season, and claimed the Kil-Kare Late Model division track championship.

NWAAS National Champions
1982 – Tom Hearst (Muscatine, Iowa)
1983 – Mike Alexander (Franklin, Tenn.)
1984 – David Into (Hardeeville, S.C.)
1985 – Doug McCoun (Prunedale, Calif.)
1986 – Joe Kosiski (Omaha, Neb.)
1987 – Roger Dolan (Lisbon, Iowa)
1988 – Robert Powell (Moncks Corner, S.C.)
1989 – Larry Phillips (Springfield, Mo)
1990 – Max Prestwood (Lenoir, N.C.)
1991 – Larry Phillips (Springfield, Mo.)
1992 – Larry Phillips (Springfield, Mo.)
1993 – Barry Beggarly (Pelham, N.C.)
1994 – David Rogers (Orlando, Fla.)
1995 – Larry Phillips (Springfield, Mo.)
1996 – Larry Phillips (Springfield, Mo.)
1997 – Dexter Canipe (Claremont, N.C.)
1998 – Ed Kosiski (Omaha, Neb.)
1999 – Jeff Leka (Buffalo, Illinois)
2000 – Gary Webb (Blue Grass, Iowa)
2001 – Ted Christopher (Plainville, Conn.)
2002 – Peter Daniels (Claremont, N.H.)
2003 – Mark McFarland (Winchester, Va.)
2004 – Greg Pursley (Canyon Country, Calif.)
2005 – Peyton Sellers (Danville, Va.)
2006 – Philip Morris (Ruckersville, Va.)
2007 – Steve Carlson (Black River Falls, Wisc.)
2008 – Philip Morris (Ruckersville, Va.)