NASCAR great Ernie Irvan sat quietly autographing hero cards as Andrew Hayn announced the top 10 of all racing divisions for Plymouth Speedwayâ€™s 2011 season. While Hayn called each name, Irvan put down his Sharpie and clapped along with the crowd before returning to his stack. Behind Irvan, Plymouth Speedway owner Ed Kennedy enjoyed the evening with promoter Eric Saunders and his friends and family.
Â Irvan, the guest speaker at the banquet Saturday night at the LaPaz Community Building, told the sold-out crowd, â€śYouâ€™ve got to realize, most race tracks are struggling trying to find ways they can make more money while giving the competitors less money. Right now, at the Plymouth Speedway, thatâ€™s the opposite.â€ť Irvan said the Plymouth Speedway is trying to find ways to bring more people in to watch a good show, â€śand theyâ€™re getting it to where the race cars can put on a good show. Without the race fans, or the race track, you donâ€™t have anything.â€ť
Irvan, who said he has been involved in racing since he was 3 or 4 watching his father from a car seat, said the promoter (Eric Saunders) and the group helping the Plymouth Speedway should be commended for doing what theyâ€™ve done to the track, â€śbetter than anyone else has ever done here,â€ť he said. â€śAll the race fans have to realize, you have to have fun. No matter what, you have to make sure you donâ€™t go in debt to race. You do everything you can to race and have a good time. Thereâ€™s a great atmosphere her and itâ€™s a track thatâ€™s just getting better and better.â€ť
Regarding the changes being made to the track this year â€“ the addition of dirt inside the oval â€“ Irvan said: â€śItâ€™s very rare to see a dirt track and an asphalt track in the same venue. Watching that is going to be a lot of fun this year,â€ť adding that he is making plans to come back at least once this season to race at the local track.
Longtime friend of the Saunders family, NASCAR 2011 champ Tony Stewart also addressed the crowd â€“ via video.
Stewart said, â€śCongratulations to all the champions there at Plymouth Speedway this year. You did a great job.â€ť
Stewart, who will be running in the dirt on June 16, said he too is looking forward to racing in the bull ring at Plymouth Speedway.
Driver awards were then presented following Irvanâ€™s speech. Special recognition went to several people who help the Speedway in many ways, from towing to cleaning the track; from printing flyers and tickets to being track sponsors.
Driver awards included: LATE MODEL: 1 â€“ John Marshall; 2 â€“ Nick Pressler; 3 â€“ Tom Hellinga; 4 â€“ Cory Lindsey; 5 â€“ John Barlow; 6 â€“ Mitch DeWitt; 7 â€“ Roger Northrop; 8 â€“ Floyd Wood; 9 â€“ Ron Maynard; 10 â€“ Bill Lovely
OUTLAW LATE MODEL: 1 â€“ Steve Stacy; 2 â€“ Bobby Stremme; 3 â€“ Rich Boal; 4 â€“ Mike Shewchuk; 5 â€“ Adam Terry; 6 â€“ Brian Ross; 7 â€“ Grant Galloway; 8 â€“ Brian Muick; 9 â€“ Zeke Lewis; 10 â€“ Cory Pressler
STREET STOCK: 1 â€“ Kevin Gunkel; 2 â€“ Jeff Stetler; 3 â€“ D.J. Frost; 4 â€“ PeeWee Warren; 5 â€“ Chris Highbaugh; 6 â€“ David Long; 7 â€“ Jim Gilbert; 8 â€“ Shawn Amor; 9 â€“ Robert Reed; 10 â€“ Wade Berger
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE: 1 â€“ Tom Hellinga; 2 â€“ Daniel Collins; 3 â€“ Bill Miller; 4 â€“ Tom Taylor; 5 â€“ Chase Miller; 6 â€“ Fred Miller; 7 â€“ Ryan Birk; 8 â€“ Ryan Hoffman; 9 â€“ Eric Frazier; 10 â€“ Spencer Wortinger.
Photos: Retired NASCAR driver Ernie Irvan autographs a die-cast car while Garrett Saunders holds another for signing. Andrew Hayn is in back, announcing driver awards for the Plymouth Speedway.
Retired NASCAR driver Ernie Irvan addresses a sold-out crowd for the Plymouth Speedway driver awards banquet Saturday night.
Top 4: From left: Steve Stacy, John Marshall, Kevin Gunkel and Tom Hellinga sport their hardware and extra gifts: Hoosier Tire jackets, at the Plymouth Speedway driver awards banquet Saturday at the LaPaz Community Building. Stacy won the Outlaw Late Model; Marshall won the Late Model; Gunkel won the Street Stock and Hellinga won the Front Wheel Drive division.
Provided by Plymouth Speedway