Ask any drag racer and they will tell you the six month off-season is the single most grueling, painstaking wait of their lives.  The memory of their last pass down the dragstrip serves as motivation to weather out the snow storms and early night falls.  But just before cabin fever kicks in, Route 66 Raceway holds our annual awards banquet.  Yes, the awards are the centerpiece of the night but the camaraderie of a close knit group of drag racers gathered under one roof is the real celebration. 

Route 66 Raceway Vice President of Operations, Ken Kohrs began the evening with an address to the capacity crowd of nearly 400.  Kohrs welcomed the racers, enthusiasts and sponsors before delivering a “state of the dragstrip” like speech, exciting the room of Route 66 Raceway’s bright future.  Among the most exciting additions to Route 66 Raceway in 2011 are the new racing surface, the new O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Route 66 Nationals date and track personnel changes, most notably our newly appointed Track President, Scott Paddock.  Paddock’s experience, enthusiasm and leadership will take Route 66 Raceway to the next level in the world class motorsports experience.

2011 Awards BanquetFollowing invocation and a delicious meal, Route 66 Raceway starter, Brad Bueschel took to the microphone as the night’s master of ceremonies.  What lied ahead was an evening of laughter, celebration and fun.

The first task was to acknowledge and welcome our VIPs for the night, including Nitro Funny Car driver, Bob Bode who was celebrating his son Bobby’s Junior Dragster Championship, Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, Craig Treble, who was supporting his brother and Pro Bike Track Champion, Donnie Banaski.  The crew of the Justin Schriefer driven and Dale Creasy, Sr owned Nitro Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Modified legend, “Animal” Jim Feurer, and founder of the Race & Performance Expo, Jim Bingham.

Junior Dragster starter Steve Flounders then welcomed the crowd pleasing speeches from our youngest champions, in 2011 Awards Banquetthe Junior Dragster Sportsman and Modified categories.  Junior Sportsman Champion, Bobby Bode was not shy to take the microphone, offering many thanks to his family and crew for their support.  Following Bobby’s well executed speech, the rest of the Junior Sportsman drivers thought, “Hey! I can do that!” and also went on to thank their families and supporters in brief, improvised speeches that truly warmed the crowd.

The slightly older Junior Modified crowd was less than anxious to speak, leaving 2010 track champion Nate Kelley to be the sole speaker on stage, delivering a heartfelt thank you to his grandfather who gave him the opportunity to not only race but be a champion.

2011 Awards BanquetFollowing in his father’s footsteps, High School track champion Scott Flounders then took the stage, thanking him for getting him started and helping him to reach championship status.

Tony Grzelinski solidified his dominance as he became a three-time Top2011 Awards Banquet Sportsman track champion with his third straight championship in 2010. 

Standing on stage is becoming a habit for Paul O’Keefe, who captured his second consecutive Sportsman title in 2010.

2011 Awards BanquetPro Bike track champion, Donnie Banaski, was then joined on stage by brother and Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, Craig Treble. Banaski is no stranger to success, being Route 66 Raceway’s 2009 King of the Track and the 2010 Race of Champions winner.  Treble then felt compelled to let the audience know just how professional, fun and well organized the night’s events were, comparing Route 66 Raceway’s banquet to that of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series level.  Most responsible for the night’s success was Route 66 Raceway staff, Charlie Lindsey, Shawn Giffin, Brandon Rowatt and Deb Lindemulder. 2011 Awards Banquet

Pro ET track champion, Ron Headrick, narrowly fended off Herman Zehnder by a mere nine points at the season ending race.  Headrick spoke highly of his fellow competitors and was honored to be their champion.  Taking a brief moment at the close of his speech, Headrick called his daughter, who just one week earlier injured her arm and was recovering from surgery.  Orchestrating the crowd like a conductor, Headrick and his nearly 400 closest friends wished her best with a roaring “get well soon!”

2011 Awards BanquetThe last to speak on stage and carry home his hardware was Super Pro track champion and 2010 Route 66 Raceway Driver of the Year, Dave Ancel.  Ancel, who doubled up at the two-day Monster Money bracket race, was the unanimous decision for driver of the year.

Fellow special award winners included John and Mary Schmitz, following John’s now infamous interview during Route 66 Raceway’s PINKS All Out event.  If you don’t know the story, it relates to John’s wife, who has been by his side at countless racers over the years and a beer cooler.  Ask John yourself and he can elaborate.

Dave Meccia was named Rookie of the Year, for his fifth place finish in Pro ET points.  Meccia was truly surprised by the honor.

Al Wagner, Sr. who headed up Route 66 Raceway’s team spirit winning efforts at the Summit Racing ET Finals in Indianapolis, was fittingly awarded with the Route 66 Raceway Spirit Award.  2011 Awards Banquet

The last special award went to the Trench family, who are picture perfect proof that drag racing is a family sport.  Todd Trench, Sr spoke for his whole family who joined him on stage.  Trench was the 2010 runner-up in Super Pro points and daughter Tori Trench was a top five finisher in Junior Sportsman points.

John Lynch was recognized for being crowned Route 66 Raceway's 2011 King of the Track, for scoring his August 1, 2010 race win that awarded him a coveted Wally.

Super Pro racer John Savarino was the grand prize raffle winner, taking home a Route 66 Raceway letterman’s jacket.

The night was capped off by music and dancing long into the night.  The ballroom slowly transformed into a virtual indoor pit area, as friends grouped around their tables like they normally do their trailers.  Catching up with friends, bench racing and looking ahead to 2011 offered this group of die-hard racers the jolt of drag racing they needed to last the next two months of off-season.

2011 Awards Banquet

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500 Speedway Blvd
Joliet, IL 60433
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