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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The UNOH Battle At The Beach is just over two months away, and on Friday morning at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Grand Champions Awards, a piece of throwback hardware was introduced.
Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood III unveiled the inaugural Battle At The Beach trophy during the awards ceremony. The trophy is a replica of the trophy presented to Fonty Flock for winning on the beach circuit at Daytona in 1954.
Lee Pulliam, the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion, was among those who were impressed.
“I always like old trophies, the history of NASCAR and where it comes from and what it began as,” Pulliam said. “I think that's an important part of this sport. To see that trophy being a replica of one of the first ones given out, that's really neat. It's pretty special deal. It would be pretty sweet to take that thing home.”
Pulliam will have to wait until February to have his shot at winning the trophy for himself. The inaugural Battle At The Beach is slated for February 18-19, 2013, during Speedweeks in Daytona. It will be contested on a .4-mile oval on the track's backstretch.
With the addition of the Battle – featuring K&N Pro Series, Modified and Late Model races – Daytona International Speedway is the first track to feature every level of NASCAR-sanctioned racing at its facility, as the short-track teams join the three national NASCAR Series and the Grand-Am Series at the famed speedway.
“It's our first foray into short-track racing,” Chitwood said. “Now we've got this new two-day event on Monday and Tuesday of race week, and we're really excited.”
Incorporating the track's storied history within NASCAR was an important component in designing a trophy for the Battle At The Beach.
“When you think about a trophy for an event, you want to do something special. So for us, we went back in our archives and looked at the the actual trophies that were given out at the beaches,” Chitwood said. “The trophy that you saw today was actually modeled off our 1954 trophy. So, that's pretty cool for us that we can look to the future by adding a new event but we pulled from our past something special to make it unique.”
Pulliam, one of 10 drivers locked into the starting field for the Late Model race at the Battle by virtue of finishing in the Top-10 in the final NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Div. I national standings, is excited for his opportunity to race at Daytona.
He said without the Battle At The Beach, he might never have had such an opportunity in his career.
“The opportunity to go to Daytona, me as a driver, I don't have a lot of finances to move up in this sport. That's kind of what it takes in this day and time,” Pulliam said. “To me, this is probably going to be my only opportunity to run at Daytona, so it's going to be a big deal for a lot of us.”
TWICE AS NICE: Joe Aramendia was one of 23 state and provincial champions honored Friday during the Grand Champions Awards, but he was one of only two drivers to have won multiple track champions in the process.
Aramendia, who won 18 races in 27 starts, won track titles in the Modified divisions at both Houston Motorsports Park and Thunderhill Raceway. California state champion Scott Winters grabbed Super Late Model championships at both All-American Speedway and Stockton 99 Speedway.
“The difficulty is running an extra track, running each week for basically 27 weeks,” Aramendia said. “I think we had two weekends off this year. It makes it hard on the family life, but if you love something, you just go after it.”
Aramendia has won three of the last four Texas state championships with four state championships overall in his career.
He was thrown a curveball in the 2011 offseason, when a switch from Late Models to Modifieds left him without a full-time ride for that year. He competed part-time at both Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., and Mobile (Ala.) Speedway before returning to full-time competition back in Texas in 2012.
Aramendia responded by winning the Texas state championship by 216 points – the largest margin of victory in any state or province.
“I start out the year planning on making that my goal,” said Aramendia, whose 8-year-old son and 27-year-old nephew have also started blossoming in their own racing careers. “I don't have any intentions of going anywhere. I've got some real good sponsors at home, and they enjoy going to the short tracks and I enjoy racing the short tracks.”
But the veteran from the Lone Star State also said that he's not sure how much long he'll be doing the racing himself, particularly as his son starts to get older. It's possible, he said, that 2013 could be his last season behind the wheel.
“I don't see my driving career lasting too much longer, to be honest,” Aramendia said. “I think I'm going to go after it again next year, though. One more.”
DIVISION FINALISTS: NASCAR recognized the finalists in several of its divisions during the Grand Champions Awards on Friday morning.
Recognized were: Division V Asphalt finalist Jack Purcell of Elko Speedway and Raceway Park; Division V Dirt finalists Matt McAtee and Jeremy Purdy of Adams County Speedway; Division IV Asphalt finalists Ken Cassidy Jr. of Waterford Speedbowl, Bobby Frisch of Rockford Speedway and Matt Wiegand of Lake County Speedway; Division IV Dirt finalists Jeffrey Jones and Brian Kosiski of Adams County Speedway, I-80 Speedway and Junction Motor Speedway; Division III Asphalt finalists Scott Sundeen and Jesse Gleason of Thompson International Speedway and Charlie Smith of Barrie Speedway; Division III Dirt finalists Brad Brightbill, Craig Whitmoyer and Jared Umbenhauer of Grandview Speedway; Division II Asphalt finalists Woody Pitkat of Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway and Jeff Garrison of Bowman Gray Stadium and Hickory Motor Speedway; Division II Dirt finalists Chuck Schutz Jr. or Grandview Speedway and Shawn Valenti of Limaland Motorsports Park.
ROOKIES: NASCAR also recognized its state and provincial Rookies of the Year.
The following drivers accepted their Rookie of the Year awards: Shania LaForce of Alberta, Jason Bamberg of California, Eric Meisner of Colorado, Ed Puleo of Connecticut, Casey Pherson of Idaho, Matthew Clossey of Illinois, Daulton Maassen of Iowa, Brandon Kelley of Louisiana, Corey Bubar of Maine, Jamison Russell of Michigan, Derek Lemke of Minnesota, Corey Dumpert of Nebraska, Cole Custer of Nevada, Scott MacMichael of New Hampshire, Tommy Catalano of New York, Ricky Jones of North Carolina, Shawn Murray of Ontario, Teddy Gibala of Pennsylvania, Austin Peters of Tennessee, Bayley Currey of Texas, Vince Quenneville of Vermont, Tyler Hughes of Virginia, Molly Helmuth of Washington and John Olson of Wisconsin.
TRACK CHAMPIONS: The following drivers were honored as NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions: J.C. Wyman, Adams County Speedway; Scott Winters, All-American Speedway and Stockton 99 Speedway; Dwayne Baker, Barrie Speedway; Bradley Babb, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway; Mack Little III, Caraway Speedway; T.J. Zacharias, Chemung Speedrome; Bruce Yackey, Colorado National Speedway; Chad Pendleton, Columbus Motor Speedway; Kenny Brooks, Concord Speedway; Ron Proctor, Devil's Bowl Speedway; Erica Thiering, Edmonton International Speedway; Toby Porter, Greenville Pickens Speedway; Austin McDaniel, Hickory Motor Speedway; Andy Jankowiak, Holland Motorsports Complex; Joe Aramendia, Houston Motorsports Park and Thunderhill Raceway; Jase Kaser, Junction Motor Speedway; Brian Bergakker, Kalamazoo Speedway; Dick Dunlevy Jr., Kil-Kare Speedway; Nate Monteith, Kingsport Speedway; Todd Korish, Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway; Buzz Bates, Lake County Speedway; George Skora III, Lake Erie Speedway; Greg Edwards, Langley Speedway; Scott Gafforini, The Bullring At Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Thomas Tombarello Jr., Lee USA Speedway; Todd Sherman, Limaland Motorsports Park; Kristopher McKean, Magic Valley Speedway; Josh Berry, Motor Mile Speedway; Neil Brown, Motordrome Speedway; Anthony Anders, Myrtle Beach Speedway; Doug Liberman, Old Dominion Speedway; Chad Walen, Raceway Park; Brandon Kelley, Revolution Park Racing And Entertainment Complex; Shawn Solomito, Riverhead Raceway; Jerry Gille, Rockford Speedway; Brian Parker, Salina Highbanks Speedway; Matt Bowling, South Boston Speedway; Rusty Smith, Spencer Speedway; Ryan Preece, Thompson International Speedway; Tyler Chadwick, Waterford Speedbowl.
STATE CHAMPIONS: The following drivers were recognized as NASCAR Whelen All-American Series state and provincial champions: Erica Thiering, Alberta; Scott Winters, California; Bruce Yackey, Colorado; Keith Rocco, Connecticut; Kristopher McKean, Idaho; Jerry Gile, Illinois; J.C. Wyman, Iowa; Brandon Kelley, Louisiana; Bradley Babb, Maine; Brian Bergakker, Michigan; Adam Royle, Minnesota; Jase Kaser, Nebraska; Scott Gafforini, Nevada; Shawn Solomito, New York; Chad Pendleton, Ohio; Brian Parker, Oklahoma; Dwayne Baker, Ontario; Anthony Anders, South Carolina; Nate Monteith, Tennessee; Joe Aramendia, Texas; Ronald Proctor, Vermont; Lee Pulliam, Virginia; Todd Korish, Wisconsin.
U.S. state and Canadian provincial champions received custom driver suits for their championship efforts. Scott Hunter/NASCAR