By TOBY LAGRANGE
ALBANY, NY – The New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) presented their 48th Annual Awards Banquet Saturday evening at the Polish Community Center in Albany. The annual gathering of drivers, teams, fans and media converged on the capital city to honor the accomplishments of the 2006 season and induct the new class of Hall of Fame members.
Many members of the Albany-Saratoga Speedway family were honored Saturday evening with awards and enshrinement.
The 2016 NYSSCA Hall of Fame Class consisted of six individuals – Gary Balough, Bill Greco, Paul Jensen, Don and JoAnn Davies and Danny Ody. Greco won the first event at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway and was the first track champion. He would go on to win a large number of races throughout New England.
“It’s an honor to be in the NYSSCA Hall of Fame,” Greco said.
Don and JoAnn Davies have been mainstays in Motorsports Journalism for more than 40 years. The Area Auto Racing News Columnists are fixtures at the Great Race Place each and every week. The duo were enshrined by The Voice, Shane Andrews.
Numerous special awards were handed out during the banquet. The Media Award was awarded to Mark Brown of Kustom Keepsakes. Brown is the track photographer at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway and has been since the return to the dirt surface. He is also the long time track photographer at the Lebanon Valley Speedway.
The NYSSCA Car Owner of the Year Award was awarded to Jake Spraker. Spraker will be returning the Great Race Place in 2017 with his two drivers – Ronnie Johnson (DIRTcar Modified) and Rocky Warner (Sportsman).
A longtime fixture at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Andy Romano was awarded with the Lifetime Contribution to Racing in Memory of Kenny Shoemaker Award. Romano raced and won at the track when it was pavement in the 1960’s and also during the dirt surface years.
“Kenny (Shoemaker) was the best,” Romano said. “He was a tough guy, I learned a lot from him.”
Romano will be returning the track in 2017 with his new drive – Batman, Peter Britten.
The Dedication to NYSSCA in Memory of Arty McCarty Award was awarded to Bob James. James, of BOBCO Racing Videos has been a staple at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway and other area tracks for 25 years. James is the official videographer of the track and the sister track, the Lebanon Valley Speedway.
The Flach family has been staples at the Great Race Place for years. The 2016 NYSSCA Humanitarian Award in Memory of Chaplain Dave Miller was awarded to Keith Flach. Keith and family have raised money and awareness to help in many different ways.
“It truly is an honor to accept this award,” Flach said. “We have been blessed over the years so we decided to give back more.”
Keith will return to Albany-Saratoga in 2017 with the familiar number 43.
The NYSSCA Award of Excellence was awarded to Street Stock driver Josh Coonradt. The third generation driver picked up the Albany-Saratoga Speedway championship in 2016 with eight feature wins and 14 top five finishes. Coonradt will be moving up to the DIRTcar Pro Stock ranks in 2017.
Numerous track awards were handed out to Albany-Saratoga Speedway regulars in three categories. The NYSSCA Driver of the Year Awards were awarded to Marc Johnson (DIRTcar Modified), Jeremy Pitts (Sportsman), Robbie Speed (DIRTcar Pro Stock), Coonradt (Street Stock), Steve Ryan (Four Cylinder Dual Cam) and Mike Parodi (Four Cylinder Single Cam).
The NYSSCA Outstanding Performance Awards were awarded to Stewart Friesen (DIRTcar Modified), Connor Clevelend (Sportsman), Zach Daurio and Jack Lehner (Limited Sportsman), Walt Brownell (DIRTcar Pro Stocks), Jason Meltz (Street Stock), Jason Lang (Four Cylinder Dual Cam) and Robert Garney (Four Cylinder Single Cam).
The Rookie/Newcomer of the Year Awards were awarded to L.J. Lombardo (DIRTcar Modified), Chad Edwards (Sportsman), Derek Brown (Limited Sportsman), Nick Arnold (DIRTcar Pro Stock) and Jeff Meltz, Sr. (Street Stock).
The Albany-Saratoga Speedway will pull the curtain down on the 2016 racing season with the annual awards banquet on Saturday evening February 4th. The event will be held at the Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs. The Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs is located at 232 Broadway in Saratoga Springs, New York 12866. For more information on the Albany-Saratoga Speedway please log on to the track website at www.albany-saratogaspeedway.com.