The entry at the Bonus Race was unusually light this year, but for the most
part those who went to Memphis made a difference in their Mid-Am
Championships. And in many cases, those who did not go should have.
The most unusual development was that two different drivers have will have to find places to hang two championship clocks, claiming 2003 titles in two different classes -- an achievement just to get to enough races never mind winning a dozen each. Mike McGinley (KC) did it in CSR and ITE, while Patrick Donnelly (Kan) did the same in CF and FC.
Donnelly had won eight straight Club Ford races early in the season to lock up that title. So he bought a Swift to race Formula Continental. He was third in a tight race going to Memphis, with defending champ Shane Bennoch (OzMt) at 69, Willard King (KC) at 63 and Donnelly at 52. But Bennoch didn’t go. King did, but had to toss a 9-point score. Donnelly, with just five finishes would keep every point he earned. He won the race, with King second, and the final tally would be 76-72-69, Donnelly-King-Bennoch. It was the biggest turnabout at the Bonus Race.
McGinley had CSR pretty well sewed up with six wins, and the only driver who could even have tied him did not go to Memphis. But in ITE McGinley was five points behind Jeff Demetri (Neb) so he took his Mustang Cobra to the Bluff City. Demetri didn’t go. McGinley won the race and his second clock.
Even closer was the score in ITC, with all three of the top contenders present. Jeffrey Jenkins (KC) led a 72-69-66 showdown over Larry Orr (MidS) and Nick Chinopulos (MidS), facing them on their home track. Jenkins won race and championship, but the showdown really was between the Memphis boys. Orr had won four previous matchups, but Chinopulos came home second with Orr third and took over second place 75-74.
Here’s a rundown of each Region’s award winners:
Kansas City Region again topped the tally of champions with six
this year, led by Mike McGinley's pair and Jeffrey Jenkins'
ITC title. Bob Gill in ITS and Ron Lentz in SRF both
also scored 84 with Bonus Race victories. For Lentz it was his fifth
straight championship. Al Essig won his third S2000 championship
with four wins. Taking second-place awards were Willard King
in FC; O.L. Kinney in SRF, who entered at Memphis with a
chance to catch Lentz but never reached the green flag; Monica
Rollins in ITS with a four-win season; and Tim Koch in
Formula Ford. Cliff Koehler took third place in E Production.
Kansas Region not only had Patrick Donnelly's double championship,
but also a 1-2 finish in E Production. Ronald Davis ran his
total up to 84 points for his second championship, while Dale
Smith settled for runner-up honors in the class. In SRF, Ken
Tripkos took the third-place award.
St. Louis Region also has three champions. Ward Herst
in GT2 was the one who went to Memphis in second place and came
home the champion when the class leader did not come to meet the
challenge. Four-win seasons and 48-point scores were enough to win
clocks for Bob Eichelberger in F Prod and Tim McGinley
in HP. Timothy Finley in ITA and Mary Daly in GT1
both were entered, but racing luck was against them. Finley was
DNS and slipped to second place. Daly was DNF and missed her bid
to overtake the class leader. Gary Payne took third in FF,
one point out of second.
Ozark Mountain Region has two champion drivers this year. Dick
Faxon finally won the Spec Miata title that had eluded him the
past two years, and surprisingly was virtually unchallenged at Memphis
in what has been Mid-Am’s most popular class in 2003. Chris
Brannon did not begin racing until the end of July, but ran
every one of the final 10 races to win the T2 crown. Rick Carr
is the runner-up in GT2, and Shane Bennoch is third in FC.
NeOkla Region's Dan Guterman had a conflict that kept
him from Memphis and figured GT1 would slip from his grasp, but
his challenger’s misfortunes at Memphis left him in first
place by three points. Neil Cox scored top points five times
to win Formula Vee.
Wichita Region also won twice, both drivers enjoying enough of
a lead neither needed to make the Memphis trip. Newcomer Paul
Sherman won the SSC title winning five times on the season.
Longtime American Sedan racer David Guinn finally ascended
the top step of the virtual podium after three wins in seven starts.
Southern Illinois Region has a familiar story to tell with a
1-2 placing in ITB. Chris Albin is champion for the 11th
straight year and his 20 victories make him Driver of the Year for
the sixth consecutive time and the eighth overall. Bill Briggen
was third at the Bonus Race but the finish was enough to take him
to second in points.
Des Moines Valley's Duane Rost had won nine times to claim
the G Production title. Tom Kraft is the runner-up in Spec
Oklahoma Region has the series' youngest champion in 17-year-old
Slade Miller. With just seven races left in the season, the
youngster began his campaign in August at Hallett, ran every remaining
race winning all but for one DNF, and scooted past 10 other drivers
for the title. Third-place awards will be going to Lynn Lamb
in ITA and Russ Neely in ITB.
Arkansas Region claimed a championship in ITA. Mark Jeffery
was six points behind going to Memphis, but scored the victory to
take the title.
Nebraska Region has the runner-up in ITE with six-time winner
Jeff Demetri, and will receive third-place awards in three
classes. John Waldbaum won twice in ITE, Bill Pemberton
scored three wins in Spec Miata, and Emery Emond also won
three in GT1.
Mid-South Region's drivers did not make much of home track advantage
at the Bonus Race. The strongest seasons were those of ITC Fiat
124 drivers Nick Chinopulos and Larry Orr, who chased
each other all over the Division, racing at four of the five tracks
to finish one point apart from each other, after they finished 2-3
at the Bonus to be 2-3 in the championship.
Mississippi Region's Skip Brunson put up three victories
through the first part of the year which was enough to keep third
place by just two points. —Rocky Entriken