Story By: KENNY SHUPP / OUTLAW SPEEDWAY – WATKINS GLEN, NY – The Harbor Hotel in downtown Watkins Glen, NY was the setting for the February 3 Outlaw Speedway 2023 Awards Banquet.
For eighth year owner/promoter, Tyler Siri of the famed Yates County oval in Dundee, NY, it put an exclamation point on yet another successful race season.
“Every year but one since I have owned the track and that was during COVID we have held the banquet at the Harbor Hotel. It is a five-star, upscale establishment and I want the drivers and teams that support this track to have nothing but the best for their awards banquet.” That according to Siri.
Modified standout competitor, Cory Costa took home the lion’s share of the point fund money that Siri dished out at the festivities as he capped off a banner season by not only winning the $10,000 Track Championship, but he also won the Short Track Super Series Event at Outlaw in June for his first ever win on the high profile circuit.
“I could not have asked for a better season, stated Costa. We won the STSS race, won the track title and the only downfall was not winning the season ending Dutch Hoag Memorial which I was leading when a bolt in the rear end broke. Given the circumstances it was a great season!”
In a relatively short driving career, Costa was a former standout in Street Stock, Sportsman and now Modified competition, but his first ever Modified Track Championship did not come easy by any means as he had to go toe to toe with one of the winningest drivers in the history or Northeast Modified competition, The Doctor, Danny Johnson.
“It certainly was not easy in beating a guy like Danny Johnson. We had to be at our best every week because he is a tough competitor, but at the end of the day we had more feature wins and better overall finishes and that was the difference. Beating Doc makes this championship even more sweet.”
Only nine points separated Costa and Johnson in the decisive point tally with Costa picking up six features including the June 6 STSS Event while The Doctor of Modified Racing chipped in with two trips to victory lane.
Finishing third in the Friendly Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Modified final point tally was the winningest Modified driver at Outlaw Speedway over the past two decades as the Hurricane Steve Paine once again flexed his muscle all season but came up short in his quest of winning another Outlaw Speedway title.
Paine did it the ole fashioned way with nothing but solid feature finishes, but no check marks in the win column.
Fourth place went to one of the young guns in Modified racing as Jeffery Daugherty finished with two wins including the season ending double point show in backing up his 2022 runner-up points finishing spot while Dundee, NY native Brady Fultz once again provided season long consistency including one lone win to round the top five finishers.
Spots six through ten went to Will Shields, Bossman Tyler Siri, Tommy Collins Jr., Jim LaRock, and Tommy Paine who bested his older brother Billy in completing the top ten. However, it was a great season for Paine Motorsports with father, Steve and sons Tommy and Billy all finishing in the top eleven point paying positions.
Collins Jr. was also presented with the 2023 Friendly Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Modified Rookie of the Year Award and Rodney Cole of Friendly Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram was present to help hand out the Modified Awards.
The 2023 campaign at Outlaw Speedway began with two separate 602 Crate Sportsman Divisions, but as the season moved into the midway portion, the two classes combined for one feature with points kept separate for those on American Racer and Hoosier Tires with two track champions crowned in each along with other top point getters.
The Sunrise Insulation American Racer Tire Sportsman saw Branchport, NY driver, Chris Fisher successfully defend his 2022 Outlaw Speedway Track Championship albeit the fact it did not come easy for the veteran driver as a late season crash nearly ended any chance of him winning the title.
“We got bent up badly late in the season in a multi car wreck that took out a lot of us that were in the point chase. My dad and crew worked really hard for this one and that is why it is so special.”
On the final double point show of the season which would determine all class champions it came down to a three car shoot-out between Fisher, former Outlaw Speedway Sportsman Track Champion, Brian Fish and many time Black Rock Speedway and Outlaw Speedway Track Title holder, Dale Welty with Welty winning the event , but it was a solid top five finish that won Fisher the title over Fish who was just twelve points back with Welty finishing third in the final point tally.
The stats will show that Fisher and Fish each won three feature events during the 2023 season all the while Welty visited victory lane on two occasions.
Youngster, Justice Mayo continues to turn heads in the tough American Racer Tire Sportsman Division by posting a solid fourth finish and like Mayo, Ben Feldman rode a wave of consistency which included one feature win enroute to a fifth place point paying finish.
Six through ten went to Brandon Grover who had a pair of feature event wins, veteran competitor, Tim Guild was next in seventh with Justin Schenck following in eighth. Mike Austin and Kreg Crooker with one feature win rounded the top ten in Sunrise Insulation American Racer Tire 602 Crate Sportsman points.
Tim Gibson, Sunrise Insulation owner was on hand to present trophies to the top American Racer Point finishers.
In the companion, Knapp and Schlappi Lumber Hoosier Tire Sportsman Division, AJ Lloyd as able to successfully back up his 2022 Outlaw Speedway Track Championship, but he had to do it the hard way by holding off no less than a half dozen hungry drivers including Stacy Jackson who came up just sixteen points shy of winning the title.
Lloyd won a pair of features including the season ending double point finale which was the difference beating Jackson and third place finisher, Brett Buono who trailed Jackson by just two points.
Brent Ayers put one win into the record books finishing fourth, but it was young Blake Parsons who visited victory lane the most times with four feature wins that received much of attention. However, a late season wreck which demolished his potent machine eliminated any chance Parsons had of nailing the title.
Ditto for Loren Lincoln who was within striking distance of winning the 2023 Hoosier Tire Track Title, but like Parsons he too had his hopes dashed in the same late season train wreck that took out Fisher, Fish, and several others.
On paper, Timmy Borden Jr. was another driver who was methodically in the chase heading into the season finale winding up seventh in the order just sixty-two markers behind Lloyd with Tim Guild completing the top eight in Knapp and Schlappi Hoosier Tire Point action.
There was no eligible rookie of the year contenders in either 602 Crate Sportsman Division.
The upstart Swarthout Recycling Rookie Sportsman Division would find a young lady picking up her first Outlaw Speedway Track Championship as Dr. Hannah Guererri was crowned the 2023 Track Champ.
Guererri went to victory lane on two occasions to point runner-up Andrew Clark’s three which included the double point season finale, however it was Guererri’s consistency throughout the entire ten race season that earned her the title over Clark as the top two were the only drivers that competed in half or more of the races that were staged. Congratulations to both drivers!
The Brock’s Bowl and Pizzeria Street Stock Division found a new champion for the 2023 season as Shane Wolf rode the wave of six feature wins including the double point finale to dethrone 2022 class champ, CJ Guererri who kept Wolf honest throughout the entire season with more consistent finishes, but only one victory and that was the difference as only fourteen points separated the pair.
Veteran driver, Gene Shaprsteen who has more years of competition that Wolf and Guererri put together proved that there is still plenty of fight in the dog as he kept the top two within shouting distance but came up a bit shy in claiming third.
Chris Woodard, journeyman racer, Dave Yehl, Zach Teed, Bob Buono and Nick Dandino all put up very consistent numbers throughout but, none were able to find victory lane during the 2023 campaign as they finished in positions four through eight in the final tally.
Running a limited schedule, Dylan Cecce made the long haul on numerous occasions from Williamsport, Pa. worthwhile as he chipped in for five victories in claiming ninth as ageless veteran, Carl Sparky Hills completed the top ten in Brocks Bowl Street Stock decisive point action.
Dave Yehl, who has competed in about every class imaginable found a home in the Street Stock Division in 2023 and with his fifth-place finish was awarded with the Rookie of the Year honors.
Mr. Smooth, Marc Minutolo was once again the class of the NAPA Hobby Stock Division as his three feature wins coupled with countless other top five finishes put the finishing touches on his fifth title at Outlaw Speedway since the division’s inception at the track.
The participating NAPA Auto Parts Stores in Addison, Corning, Hornell, and Wellsville have joined forces in recent years to sponsor the class which continues to provide quality competition, but it was Minutolo that once again took home the six-foot trophy in claiming the title.
Although Ed Stevens did not find victory lane in 2023, his picture of consistency kept him within striking distance of Mr. Smooth, but at the end of the day Stevens came up forty points shy of knocking off the defending champion. But his effort did not go unnoticed as he claimed the coveted Rookie of the Year Award.
With a couple of feature wins, Brian Lloyd claimed third in the ultimate point standings followed by Doug Batterson in fourth.
Phil Yaw began the season late putting him behind the eight ball, but with a win total of five including the season double point finale he was able to rally and finish fifth in Hobby Stock points while Nate Peckham who is as versatile on asphalt as he is on dirt completed the top six point paying spots.
In typical Marc Minutolo form, he stepped to the podium accepting his check and hardware and in his acceptance speech brought the house down with his quick whit and humor.
The Winner’s Circle Deli 4 Cylinder Mini Stock Division finds a mix of both front and rear wheel driven creations each race night and it winds up being one of the most competitive and popular classes that races at the track with no less than fifty-five different drivers seeing action during the 2023-point season.
Street Stock driver, Chris Woodard has years of experience in Mini Stock competition and fielded a car for veteran Mini Stock driver, Brian Grant in 2023. The combination has decades of experience and it all paid off with Grant winning his first ever Outlaw Speedway Track Championship in a career that has spanned some fifty years.
Better known as “Corky,” Brian Grant may not have won the battle of feature wins between his pair of victories compared to point runner-up Ray Hyer’s five trips to victory lane, but it was Grant’s overall consistency coupled with a few poor finishes and a night off by Hyer that made the difference. However, Grant earned this one and and now well into his sixties and if front of a capacity crowd at the Annual Outlaw Speedway Awards Banquet he graciously thanked everyone for all their support over the years in a career that began at the Woodhull Raceway when he was just a kid working in the concession stand.
Hyer was able to hold on for second in the final point tally with Lee Fritz having perhaps one of his best seasons yet completing the top three-point finishers.
Even with some off nights, Jason Smart was able to rally to nail fourth place while Toni Mahrt completed the top five and with that effort, she was awarded the class Rookie of the Year Award. You Go Girl!
Six through ten went to former track champion The Nature Boy, Mike Stone. James Warner was next in line, finishing seventh. Chris Davis, Brady Richardson, and John Cogswell completed the top point recipients.
In addition to their six foot plus trophies and point fund money, Costa, Fisher, and Wolf also received American Racer Tire Jackets for their 2023 accomplishments.
After opening remarks by Outlaw Speedway Public Relations specialist, Kenny Shupp Jr. along with event emcee and track announcer Craig Spazman Simmons, the Fritz Masonry Youth Bandits received their accolades to open the program as a trio of young men were awarded trophies for their effort during the 2023 campaign.
By virtue of six feature wins and five runner-up finishes, Gavin Hall claimed his first ever Outlaw Speedway Fritz Masonry Track Championship and he follows in an extensive line of champions to come out of the Bandit Division and go onto greatness.
Second generation driver from Elmira, Zach Daugherty finished second with equally impressive stats including four wins, four runner-up finishes and a pair of thirds as only twenty points separated Hall and Daugherty at the end of the season. With his incredible season, Daugherty was honored with the Bandit Rookie of the Year Award.
Erick Connor capped off the top three eligible point finishers and did it on consistent top three finishes the entire year as Hall and Daugherty controlled all the victory lane ceremonies the entire year.
After the eight weekly classes had received their awards, Outlaw Speedway Owner/Promoter, Tyler Siri stepped to the podium and addressed the hundreds in attendance reviewing the 2023 season and laid out plans for 2024 which includes the first ever appearance of the High Limit 410 Sprint Series in addition to numerous other special events including a return of the popular Short Track Super Series, ULMS Super Late Models, RUSH Crate Late Models, East Coast USAC Midgets, Front Wheel Drive Mini Stocks and much more like CRSA 305 and ESS 360 Sprint touring groups.
Then in traditional Tyler Siri form, he presented a slew of plaques and other special awards to an outstanding group of drivers, car owners and track employees all of which deserved recognition.
Ageless veteran competitor, Carl “Sparky” Hills was presented with the Sportsmanship Award.
Cory Costa capped off an incredible 2024 season by receiving the Car owner of the Year Award.
Longtime Outlaw Speedway Handicap and Scoring Specialist, Sheila Darcy was awarded the prestigious Dedication to Motorsports Award for her many years of loyalty and hard work at the track.
Tyler Siri presented Media Awards to a quartet of recipients including track announcer and track Facebook guru, Craig “Spazman” Simmons, photographer, Dan Tome, Outlaw Speedway Webmaster, Mark Sincock along with public relations specialist, Kenny Shupp Jr.
In addition to all class sponsors receiving appreciation plaques, Fisher Tree Service and Lane’s Yamaha bot accepted awards for their many years of contributions to the track.
Listed are the top point finishers in each division that was eligible for awards and point fund money were applicable.
FRIENDLY CHRYSLER, DODGE, JEEP, RAM MODIFIEDS.
CORY COSTA, 2) Danny Johnson, 3) Steve Paine, 4) Jeff Daugherty, 5) Brady Fultz, 6) Will Shields, 7) Tyler Siri, 8) Tommy Collins Jr., 9) Jim LaRock, 10) Tommy Paine. Class Rookie, Tommy Collins Jr.
SUNRISE INSULATION AMERICAN RACER TIRE 602 CRATE SPORTSMAN.
CHRIS FISHER, 2) Brian Fish, 3) Dale Welty, 4) Justice Mayo, 5) Ben Feldman, 6) Brandon Grover, 7) Tim Guild, 8) Justin Schenck, 9) Mike Austin, 10) Kreg Crooker.
KNAPP AND SCHLAPPI LUMBER HOOSIER TIRE 602 CRATE SPORTSMAN.
AJ LLOYD, 2) Stacy Jackson, 3) Brett Buono, 4) Brent Ayers, 5) Blake Parsons, 6) Loren Lincoln, 7) Timmy Borden Jr., 8) Tim Guild.
SWARTHOUT RECYCLING ROOKIE SPORTSMAN.
DR. HANNAH GUERERRI, 2) Andrew Clark.
BROCKS BOWL AND PIZZERIA STREET STOCKS.
SHANE WOLFE, 2) CJ Guererri, 3) Gene Sharpsteen, 4) Chris Woodard, 5) Dave Yehl, 6) Zach Teed, 7) Bob Buono, 8) Nick Dandino, 9) Dylan Cecce, 10) Carl Sparky Hills. Class Rookie, Dave Yehl.
ADDISON, CORNING, HORNELL, AND WELLSVILLE NAPA STORES HOBBY STOCKS.
MARC MINUTOLO, 2) Ed Stevens, 3) Brian Lloyd, 4) Doug Batterson, 5) Phil Yaw, 6) Nate Peckham. Class Rookie, Ed Stevens.
WINNERS CIRCLE DELI MINI STOCKS.
BRIAN GRANT, 2) Ray Hyer, 3) Lee Fritz, 4) Jason Smart, 5) Toni Mahrt, 6) Mike Stone, 7) James Warner, 8) Chris Davis, 9) Brady Richardson, 10) John Cogswell. Class Rookie, Toni Mahrt.
FRITZ MASONRY YOUTH BANDIT’S.
GAVIN HALL, 2) Zach Daugherty, 3) Connor Erick. Class Rookie of the Year, Zach Daugherty.