Story By: ROB HAYES / KING OF DIRT – FONDA, NY – When the King Of Dirt Racing Fall Madness Most Popular Driver Tournament for Sportsman Modifieds began the only thing certain was there would be a new wheel-man claiming the award in 2018. When the proverbial dust settled it was 2-time series champion Connor Cleveland who stood head and shoulders above his peers as Most Popular Driver.
More often than not these days fan support comes from all over. Whether it’s a die-hard crew-member at the track, youngster in the stands who likes a lettering job, or family members who live out of state; fan support for a driver can come from many walks of life.
Connor Cleveland nearly won the award in years past, as the former Airborne Speedway champion and 2-time KOD Series king has a rather large following in and around the Capital District. Though nothing is ever given, he was a favorite to claim the only award determined by fan participation through King Of Dirt Racing social media platforms. It wasn’t easy, but Cleveland did what it took to come out victorious by the smallest of margins in the finals.
Cleveland began the tournament with a bye round, which lands him directly in the Divisional round and a match up against another popular pilot from the Capital District, Scott Duell. A tough choice for fans and supporters alike, as both drivers are worthy of well wishes, but at the end of the day there has to be a winner to move on. Cleveland claimed victory over Duell with 53% of the total votes cast moving him into the Final Four.
In the Final Four ‘Kid Rocket’ found himself facing off with Newcomer Of The Year Ricky Quick for a spot in the Finals. Quick comes from a different section of the Capital District called Fonda, which is nestled along the Mohawk river and while he brought his fan base with him, Cleveland was riding momentum of support that led to his victory and spot in the Finals.
Connor Cleveland’s opponent in the Finals was none other than his closest competitor on the track as well during the 2018 racing season; ‘lunchbox’ Chad Edwards. The pair would face off for an epic Finals that would ultimately be determined by less than 40 votes.
Edwards and Cleveland would swap the lead back and forth through the early stages of the voting process with each driver having surges of support coming in. As the contest approached the final stages Cleveland had one last swing of votes go his way, which Edwards closed the gap on, but fell short by a narrow margin. Cleveland would claim the Most Popular Driver Award with 50.3% of the total votes cast to Edwards 49.7%.
“Thank you to all who voted, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Those who shared, other teams who voted for us, friends, and family; thank you all. We went against some teams with large fan bases and I love watching ours grow as the years go by. Huge props to Chad Edwards supporters; ya’ll never gave up and kept it a good race until the end just like we do on the track,” said KOD Champion and Most Popular Driver Connor Cleveland.
“I new it would be a good final when we saw the match up. Both teams have a good fan base and it was anyone’s award to earn. I’m proud of both drivers and also proud of the fan participation in this tournament thing we do each year. It’s really a unique way to engage fans in helping us determine the award. Some might think a popular driver award is ‘high school’, but those guys aren’t winning on track or off. So their envy is understandable. Happy for everyone involved,” said KOD promoter Rob Hazer.