INDIANAPOLIS - The celebration of ARCA's 60th Anniversary Season created a clear theme for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Championship Awards Banquet at the Indiana Convention Center. The end of the night, though, centered on the accomplishments of Chris Buescher and Roulo Brothers Racing, both champions for the first time.
Buescher and his No. 17 Ford team were officially crowned ARCA champions at the series' annual celebration, taking place in downtown Indianapolis for the first time after a long stretch in Covington, Ky. The 20-year-old from Prosper, Texas was among 18 drivers from the top 20 in the final point standings to be honored on stage. He and his team left with a significant amount of point fund and special award earnings, as awarded by a parade of series partners at the ceremony.
To honor Buescher as the 30th ARCA Racing Series champion in 60 seasons, ARCA president Ron Drager presented the team its series championship rings. Jim Johnson of Menards was the last guest on stage, congratulating Buescher on behalf of the series' presenting sponsor.
"It's pretty awesome," Buescher said of his title coronation. "We've been looking forward to it for a while now. I'm not a big dress-up-and-get-fancy guy but for an occasion like this I'll certainly do it. I'm happy to have my parents here and have everyone up on stage."
Delivering a championship for the Roulos was important to the young driver.
"I know that was important to them," said the driver, who finished the year with four wins, 12 top-fives, and 16 top-10 finishes. "They've been around this a long time and had never had the right opportunity to run a full season. Getting to do the full ARCA schedule the last two years has been nice. Being Rookie of the Year and second in points last year, we knew what we had to do better. We finished every lap and had more wins than any other season. I know they're excited and I'm happy for them."
A video tribute featuring photographs from Buescher's youth, the Roulo Brothers' history, and their collective rise to the 2012 championship was the feature presentation at the night's end.
Key images included a picture of a young Buescher at his first test with Gary and Russell Roulo over four years ago. Several photos of much younger Roulos helped to highlight their long ARCA history dating back to the mid-1980s, a period in which the team has won 31 races and finished second (2011) and first in its only two full seasons.
Among the top awards Buescher and his team received were: $6,000 from Sunoco Race Fuel; $5,000 from Hoosier for most wins by a car owner; $5,000 from Ford Racing Technology; the $3,000 Bill France Four Crown Award for performance on a diverse slate of race tracks; the $3,000 Cometic Crew Chief of the Year Award, for Gary Roulo; and the $2,500 Klotz Engine Mechanic of the Year Award, for Russell Roulo.
Buescher also accepted the $2,500 R.E. Lightning Challenge Award, as well as prizes from VR-12, CGS Imaging, Accel, Holley Carb, JRI Shocks, Herr Foods, Summit Racing Equipment, Hawk Brakes, Intercomp, Fast Track High Performance Driving School, G-Force Racing Gear, CV Products, and Roush Yates Racing.
Buescher was not the only champion honored at the banquet. ARCA Truck Series champion Levi Mansfield, ARCA CRA Super Series champion Johnny VanDoorn, and ARCA Midwest Tour champion Jonathan Eilen all received recognition.
SPEED television analyst Phil Parsons hosted the banquet for the fourth consecutive year. Driver and car owner champions from ARCA's past served as Guests of Honor. Appearing were Mike Allgaier, Bill Baird and Ken Schrader, Bob and Shelly Brevak, Jim Coyle, Andy Hillenburg, Frank Kimmel and Larry Clement, Scott Stovall, and Bill and Cathy Venturini.
To complete the celebration of ARCA's 60th Anniversary Season, historical vignettes that earlier in the year played on SPEED's ARCA race broadcasts were shown to the audience, adding to the night some important classic imagery and past perspective.
Kimmel also accepted recognition for finishing second in the final 2012 point standings; he walked on stage with ThorSport Racing's David Pepper. Kimmel broke a winless streak of nearly four years this summer with his 75th victory at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. He later sealed his 76th win and stands just three victories short of Iggy Katona's all-time record.
Brennan Poole accepted the $10,000 Hoosier Tire Superspeedway Challenge Award on behalf of Venturini Motorsports. Poole also received a $2,500 bonus from the University of Northwestern Ohio and the trophy for third place. Joining Poole were team owner Cathy Venturini and general manager Billy Venturini.
Team Messina Rookie Challenge Award winner Alex Bowman accepted that $10,000 award from Messina Wildlife Management's James Messina. Later, he appeared on stage to accept his fourth-place recognition and also received the $10,000 Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell and the $2,500 Aaron's Lap Leader Award. Steve York of Ansell presented the pole prize to Bowman, who led the ARCA Racing Series with six poles in 19 races. Kerry Scherer, Cunningham Motorsports co-owner, appeared with Bowman.
Fifth-place driver Chad Hackenbracht and team owner Greg Hackenbracht received an on-stage recognition, the second of the night for the driver's father. Greg Hackenbracht received ARCA's H.G. Adcox Sportsman of the Year Award.
Matt Lofton and team owner Joe Coulter (sixth) were honored, as were fellow pairs from the top 10 in the final point standings: Spencer Gallagher and Ron Booth of the team's ownership group (seventh); Nelson Canache and team owner Bill Venturini (eighth); Josh Williams and team co-owner Kevin Williams (ninth); and Tom Hessert and team owner Ken Schrader (10th). Nate Thiesse, the 10th-place team owner, also spoke.
Bill Kimmel received the ARCA Spirit Award, given to a person for dedication and support of ARCA, uplifting spirit by way of example, perseverance, and positive attitude.
Drager presented the prestigious Marcum Award to Darrell Basham. The award is annually presented to an individual or entity whose positive efforts have elevated ARCA's motorsports stature to the benefit of all associated. Basham continued to race even after a tornado tore through his hometown of Henryville, Ind. in March. Though his racing shop was demolished, he pressed on, displayed a true racer's spirit throughout 2012. In the end, the ARCA veteran finished 11th in the year's final point standings.
Along with Basham, the following drivers from the top 20 in points were introduced: Will Kimmel (12th), James Hylton (13th), Tommy O'Leary IV (15th), Jared Marks (16th), Milka Duno (19th); and Brandon Davis (20th).
Jeff Kettman accepted the Manufacturer Championship on behalf of Chevrolet.
Andy O'Neal, dean of the College of Technology of the University of Northwestern Ohio - ARCA's Official High Performance Education University - awarded a group of ARCA scholarships on behalf of the university.
Likewise, Parsons announced the winners of the Bob Loga Memorial ARCA Scholarships. David Roulo, son of championship car owner Gary Roulo, won the $1,500 first prize. Roulo, of Blue Island, Ill., recently received an acceptance letter from Purdue University. Phillip Bell of Charlotte, N.C., a graduate of Central Piedmont Community College, earned $500. He will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Memorial tributes paid respect to ARCA co-founder Mildred Marcum, Hoosier Racing Tire co-founder Bob Newton, and Pocono Raceway co-founder Dr. Joseph Mattioli.
The 2013 ARCA Racing Series schedule is currently available at ARCARacing.com. Testing for ARCA's 61st season will begin Friday, December 14 at Daytona International Speedway. The season's first race is scheduled for Saturday, February 16 at Daytona.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned 30 ARCA national champions in 60 seasons since 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 26 states since its inception. The series has tested the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, visiting tracks ranging from 0.375 mile to 2.66 miles in length on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course in its most recent season.
Founded by John and Mildred Marcum in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is recognized among the leading sanctioning bodies in the country. Having completed its sixth decade after hundreds of thousands of miles of racing, ARCA administers over 100 race events each season in four professional touring series - the ARCA Racing Series, the ARCA CRA Super Series, the ARCA Truck Series, and new in 2013, the ARCA Midwest Tour - in addition to local weekly events at Ohio's Toledo Speedway and Michigan's Flat Rock Speedway.