CONCORD, North Carolina — A week of activities and celebration in the hub of NASCAR racing concluded Friday evening as Philip Morris was crowned national champion at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet in the Embassy Suites and Concord Convention Center.
Morris, from Ruckersville, Va., joined Larry Phillips as the only drivers in the history of the Whelen All-American Series program to earn three or more championships with yet another stellar performance in 2009. Morris finished first in the nation in 2006 and 2008, and a third national title this season was accented by his seventh track championship at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., and a third straight Virginia State Championship.
“What a great privilege it has been to drive the No. 26 Clarence’s Steakhouse car,” Morris said. “Since combining forces with Clarence and Allen Pickurel, it seems like a blur of one celebration after another.”
Morris recorded nine wins, 20 top fives and 23 top 10s in 28 starts this season and accumulated 841 points to clinch the title by 25 over Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn.
As driver and owner of the No. 26 Chevrolet Late Model, Morris also took home the Lincoln Electric Car Owner Award and his crew chief, Chad McCoy, was recognized with the Lunati Crew Chief Award.
“This team has incredible depth and expertise,” Morris said. “Every man contributed to this championship. As a car owner I marvel at their pursuit of excellence, self control, focus and selflessness.”
Rocco, who competed in the Modified division at three Connecticut ovals (Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson International Speedway, Waterford Speedbowl) during the season and won the track championship at Thompson, had the best season of his career. After finishing third in the nation in 2008, the two-time Connecticut State Champion tallied 13 wins, 31 top fives and 35 top 10s in 45 starts.
Nick Joanides from Woodland Hills, Calif., finished third in the national standings thanks to 13 wins with top-five efforts in each of his 21 starts. Joanides was the California State champion and the track champion at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
Headlining the evening’s special awards was the inaugural Whelen All-American Series National Rookie of the Year Award presented by Jostens. Jacob Gomez, a 16-year-old from Manteca, Calif., took home the award on the strength of three wins and 14 top 10s in 18 starts between three California short tracks.
Jason Romero, who captured the track title at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., was bestowed the prestigious Wendell Scott Trail Blazer Award. Tommy Lee, the crew chief for driver Eric Blackard at Colorado National Speedway">Colorado National Speedway, took home Craftsman Mechanic of the Year honors.
Also honored Friday were:
• NASCAR Whelen All-American U.S. State and Canadian Province champions: Erica Thiering (Alberta), Richie Davis (Arizona), Dave Haworth (British Columbia), Joanides (California), Bruce Yackey (Colorado), Rocco (Connecticut), Paul Antley (Georgia), Ricky Bilderback (Illinois), Andy Eckrich (Iowa), Mark Underwood (Louisiana), Mike Rowe (Maine), Terry Senneker (Michigan), Adam Royle (Minnesota), Bill Leighton Jr. (Nebraska), Jeff Connors (Nevada), Phillip Baril (New Hampshire), John Fortin (New York), Travis Swaim (North Carolina), Donnie Hill (Ohio), Steve Robblee (Ontario), Jeff Strunk (Pennsylvania), Marty Ward (South Carolina), Morris (Virginia), Naima Lang (Washington) and Kevin Nuttleman (Wisconsin).
• NASCAR Whelen All-American track champions: Chris Spieker (Adams County Speedway), Romero (All American Speedway), Joe LeMay (All-Star Speedway), Gord Shepherd (Barrie Speedway), Rowe (Beech Ridge Motor Speedway), Tim Brown (Bowman Gray Stadium), Swaim (Caraway Speedway), Yackey (Colorado National Speedway), Hill (Columbus Motor Speedway), Robblee (Delaware Speedway), Eckrich (Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway, West Liberty Speedway), Thiering (Edmonton International Raceway), Lang (Evergreen Speedway), Ron Klein (Farley Speedway), Strunk (Grandview Speedway), Roger Powell (Greenville Pickens Speedway), Andy Mercer (Hickory Motor Speedway), Justin Shepker (Holland Motorsports Complex), Leighton (I-80 Speedway, Junction Motor Speedway), Senneker (Kalamazoo Speedway), Justin Alsip (Kil-Kare Speedway), JT Herbst (LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway), CE Falk III (Langley Speedway), Antley (Lanier National Raceway), Kyle Gottula (Madera Speedway), Underwood (Monroe Motor Speedway), Morris (Motor Mile Speedway), Mark Cottone (Motordrome Speedway), Willard Lawrence II (Old Dominion Speedway), Royle (Raceway Park), Fortin (Riverhead Raceway), Jerry Gille (Rockford Speedway), Justin Johnson (South Boston Speedway), Amy Catalano (Spencer Speedway), Haworth (SunValley Speedway), Adam Hensel (Superior Speedway), Connors (Las Vegas Motor Speedway">The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway), Rocco (Thompson International Speedway), Davis (Thunder Raceway) and Joanides (Toyota Speedway at Irwindale).
• NASCAR Whelen All-American U.S. State and Canadian Province Rookies of the Year: Lloyd Spearchief (Alberta), Davis (Arizona), Gomez (California), Nick Burton (Colorado), Joey Allegro (Connecticut), Scott Riechers (Iowa), Underwood (Louisiana), Bradley Babb (Maine), Brian Bergakker (Michigan), Bob White (Minnesota), Timmy Solomito (New York), David Wilson (North Carolina), Sloan Henderson (Ohio), Addison Meitzler (Pennsylvania), Bouchard Paquin (Quebec), Justin Ashley (South Carolina), David Polenz (Virginia) and Natalie Sather (Washington).