Story By: CAROL HOUSSOCK / CHEMUNG SPEEDROME – CHEMUNG, NY – Chemung Speedrome’s 2019 banquet will be remembered for moments of humor and pride, along with the emotional comments of a champion whose brother’s death hit everyone hard during the season. A near capacity crowd celebrated many special moments at the Best Western Grand Victoria Inn in Sayre, PA.
Zack Curren from Horseheads, NY celebrated his first championship in the track’s headline Sunoco Modified division. Curren had a string of five consecutive feature wins and locked up the title on the final week by a single point over Zack Knowlden, also from Horseheads.
In his speech Curren thanked his father, grandfather, and other family members and friends for their ongoing support. But his thanks to his mother were moving. “I have to thank her for teaching me how to deal with adversity and stress, and to always take the high road in racing and in life,” he said. Curren also thanked his many longtime sponsors for keeping him competitive.
Other award winners in the Sunoco Modified division included Pat Judson, Rookie of the Year; and Zack Knowlden, Hard Charger. Car owner Mike McDonald won the track’s coveted Sportsmanship Award, which honors one person for how he represents both his team and the track.
Nick Robinson celebrated his third Super Stock title. Robinson and his team put together a solid season that showed strength from week one on. Robinson has a dedicated team of crew members and loyal sponsors dating back several years. “Their ongoing support of the 15 team is incredible, and I can’t thank them enough for all they do,” Robinson stated.
Other Super Stock award winners included Jesse Hurley, Rookie of the Year; Brian Demark, Best Appearing Car; and Garrett Zacharias, Determination Award.
Greg Moldt nearly had the 2018 4 Cylinder title, but things soured with two races to go. His focus in 2019 made up for some of that disappointment and he earned the division championship in lickety-split fashion. Moldt, from Elmira, NY, also had six wins at Wyoming County Int’l Speedway, where he finished second in points. “It was a great year for this 51 team, I’m very happy with those who help me out every week,” Moldt said.
Joey Bevacqua was named the 4 Cylinder Rookie of the Year, while DJ Shaw picked up the Hard Luck Award. After picking up three feature wins, and while leading the points, Shaw had to forego the remainder of the season to focus on his other sport, high school football. Dave Harbst, who wrenched a 4 Cylinder for one son and a Super Stock for another, was named Mechanic of the Year.
The most emotional speech came from the INEX Legends champion, Gary Ham. The room was silent as he recalled his family’s lowest moment back in July when his brother was killed in a Las Vegas traffic accident. The next night Ham and his parents were at the track. “Kenny would have wanted me to race,” he said. Ham went on to explain racing with a heavy heart and how something special he witnessed that night helps him to this day. “When I got out of the car in victory lane and saw everyone standing, it hit me how special the racing family is and how that moment still gets me through tough days.” Ham also lost his father a month ago, adding to the emotional highs and lows the family experienced. Ham, the former head flagger at the track, also received a Determination Award for sweeping the action on a night many would have stayed home, but he was determined to race for a different reason.
Josh Duke now holds the record for wins in a season, 11, in the INEX Bandolero division. Duke, who never finished further back than second, easily claimed the overall title in the Outlaw division. Chase Sinsabaugh won the 2019 Bandit division championship in dramatic fashion. It was Duke’s father, Jason, who loaned the Sinsabaugh team their spare motor after practice late in the season so that Chase could keep his title hopes alive.
Track promoter, Ray Hodge, welcomed everyone in attendance and paid tribute to the late Kenny Ham. Hodge then gave special thanks to the track’s sponsors and employees, many of whom received plaques for their service. He also mentioned that he and his wife, Ellen, secured a three-year lease of the Speedrome, are revamping of the track’s website, and will be holding a competition meeting. “We just can’t thank everyone enough and we want you race teams to remember, as we do, that you are the show.” Hodge also had the crowd engaged when he honored the late Kenny Ham. showed a series of photos with clever captions.
Race Director, Jerry Sinsabaugh, also remembered Ham with some very emotional words. But his lighter side emerged with a roast of Damon Frutchey. His wild ride off the turn one exit road, without brakes, ended when he collided with Jeff Noe’s pickup truck. Track announcer and emcee, Carol Houssock, then presented a street sign she had made to commemorate that occasion. “Some assembly required, but that will forever be known as Frutchey Highway.” When Daniel Carter went down the road backwards a week later, she announced that he was headed down Frutchey Highway.
Houssock highlighted many of the special moments everyone experienced at the Speedrome in 2019, including the tribute to veterans and memorial races for the late Gary Marshall, Ed McGuire, Rod Spalding, Russ Tubbs and Ed Bidlack. She also pointed out that the identical Gardner twins ended the year with identical points, and they earned their season-best finishes on the same night. Houssock looks forward to May, when racing will resume at the Speedrome.