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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR history was recognized and its future celebrated Saturday evening as seven champions in NASCAR’s touring series were honored at the Night of Champions Touring Awards at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The ceremony featured the champions and top drivers from the regional touring series in North America and Europe, who gathered for the special year-end event. It’s the first season a driver from Europe has been honored at the event.
The 2012 champions included Kyle Larson (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Dylan Kwasniewski (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West), D.J. Kennington (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1), Jorge Goeters (NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series), Ander Vilarino (Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series), Doug Coby (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) and George Brunnhoelzl III (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour).
• Larson, of Elk Grove, Calif., the 20-year-old open-wheel star burst onto the stock-car scene this season by winning the championship and rookie of the year honors.
• Kwasniewski, of Las Vegas, Nev., at 17 years of age became the youngest champion in the nearly 60-year history of the season.
• Kennington, of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, earned his second title in three years by winning a series-record seven races.
• Goeters, of Mexico City, claimed his second championship, but first since the series came under the NASCAR umbrella in 2007.
• Vilarino, of Donostia, Spain, won six races en route to the inaugural Euro-Racecar championship.
• Coby, of Milford, Conn., earned his first championship on the power of five wins, the most by a tour driver since 2007.
• Brunnhoelzl, of West Babylon, N.Y., won his third Southern Modified Tour title in the last four seasons.
“The 2012 racing season for our U.S. and international touring series was absolutely remarkable,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. “All seven championships came down to the last race; most down to the last lap.
“Tonight reaffirms that NASCAR stock-car racing transcends languages. It transcends origins and ethnicities. It transcends borders and time zones, and appeals to race fans everywhere. Tonight also illustrates that the future of our sport is bright.”
In addition to the championship awards, each series rookie of the year was honored. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award winners were Larson from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Austin Dyne from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Keith Rocco from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Danny Bohn from the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Martin Roy of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Rubén Garcia Jr. and Javier Villa of the Euro Racecar Series were recognized as the top rookies in their series.
The Most Popular Driver Awards for each series were also presented during the ceremony. The seven drivers honored with the prestigious award were Chase Elliott in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Cassie Gannis of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Ray Courtemanche Jr. in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1, Pepe Montaño of the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, Freddy Nordstrom from the Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series, Ryan Preece from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Bohn from the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Elliott was the only repeat winner in the category.
The top 10 drivers and car owners from each of NASCAR’s touring series also were recognized during the gala event – which featured Mike Joy and Dr. Dick Berggren of NASCAR on FOX along with Monica Palumbo of SPEED as co-hosts. Simplified provided the musical entertainment. The awards ceremony was streamed live online at www.nascarhometracks.com – the official online home of NASCAR’s touring series – in English, French and Spanish.
The awards celebration capped a week of festivities in the Charlotte area aimed at providing the top drivers and track operators in NASCAR’s weekly and touring series an up close and personal look at the hub of stock-car racing. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet on Friday honored champions from across North America in the series that is NASCAR’s grassroots foundation.
The championship rings presented at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards on Saturday night at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR