Story By: ROB HAYES / KING OF DIRT – FONDA, NY – King Of Dirt Racing held a smaller and Crate Modified focused banquet Saturday night to honor special award winners and attending champions Connor Cleveland and Bobby Varin, as well as Pro Stock Champion Jason Casey. The big winner on the night was the drivers of the KOD series who will vie for a $3,000 to win Contenders Crown in 2019.
The Winner’s Circle in Fonda, New York once again was the setting for King Of Dirt Racing Champions Dinner Banquet and Special Awards Ceremonies. After some comfort foods and some world famous Harry Shaffer’s Chicken Wing Soup, KOD promoter Rob Hazer began with addressing the crowd about plans for the 2019 season.
Unfortunate health issues has slowed the 41 year old promoter and forced him to scale back his touring efforts, which resorted in ‘going back to basics’ and focusing on Crate Modified racing.
“With my health the way it’s been I have to scale back a bit, but I didn’t want to just bail out on the 358 Modified and Pro Stock divisions. So while we won’t have a tour per say for them, we have scheduled races for each division at Albany Saratoga Speedway to serve as a one race shootout for the KOD title where we’ll offer a unique Contender spin and crown a champion in each of those divisions,” Rob Hazer began.
He continued to say, “Each winner of those special events will be invited to next years Champions Banquet Dinner and Special Awards Ceremony and honored as KOD champion. More info will come out on the events as we approach the season.”
It as also announced that with the help of two very successful speed shops in the Capital District, King Of Dirt remains among the best paying series through the field along with bonuses from Andy’s Speed Shop to each race winner.
“We are fortunate enough to work with two very successful speed shops. Andy’s Speed Shop will once again offer a bonus $250 certificate for each race making the minimum $1,250 to win. Along with that we have Mike Bruno who stepped up and offered $1,750 to win the season opener for KOD and with the bonus from Mike Romano it’s a $2,000 payday for one lucky driver,” Rob Hazer stated.
The other big news that broke was thanks to continued support by Elmo’s Speed Supply the King Of Dirt Racing Crate Modified series title will be worth $3,000 to the champion.
“Elmo and Chris have supported us from the beginning and they once again stepped up. We typically offer $1,500 minimum to win a six-race championship, which is unmatched by any other series going for Crate racing. With their support we are able to catapult that into another stratosphere. We’ll offer $3,000 to the champion and increase the level of competition to earn it,” Hazer said with enthusiasm.
As the crowd clapped with approval, it was then noted a relaxed driver eligibility rule would also be implemented, as KOD is no long a quote-unquote “sportsman” series per say, but rather a Crate Modified series.
“With that being said I think anyone in this room right here, right now, can race with the best drivers out there. We are going to ease into transitioning from a Sportsman series to a Crate Modified series by relaxing the driver eligibility rule a little to allow for some really good competition. Any driver that does not have a Big Block Modified win in the current season and that did not finish top five in Big Block point standings in the previous season will be allowed to compete. This will eventually lead to allowing any driver to run the Crate Modified tour in 2020,” said KOD promoter Rob Hazer.
With the traditional news out of the way it was time to hand out awards, which began with honoring the 2018 King Of Dirt Racing 358 Modified Champion Bobby Varin, who also took home the highest KOD honor of the night when he accepted the Award Of Excellence on behalf of the entire Palmer’s Service Center racing team.
“That wasn’t just my idea honestly to donate to Allison Ricci’s Miles Of Hope Breast Cancer cause. That guy right over there (car owner Alton Palmer) brought the idea to my attention and I said let’s do it. It’s a total team effort and everyone knows I’ve driven for a number of different owners, but Alton and Carole Palmer have a special place in my heart. We’re family,” said a thankful Bobby Varin.
Next up the 4th through 10th place drivers in attendance for Crate Modifieds were called front and center for their photo opportunity and plaque ceremony just prior to the town hall style chat session with the podium point finishers starting with 3rd place in points Rob Maxon.
“This was a great year for us. It felt so good to win Mr. Crate Track USA. Going into that race we kind of felt Hazer left us out as a contender to win. We have had success at Lebanon and won some races so it was a big confidence builder to get that win. I would’ve liked to race Connor for it, but I’ll take it,” said a very happy Rob Maxon.
Second place in points Chad Edwards was next in the ‘hot seat’ and shared his thoughts on the season saying, “We struggled to start the year with the new car, but we got things turned around mid season and were able to fight back into things and win a track championship. I wish we didn’t have a power cable break at our home track while running second or maybe we could have challenged Connor for the title a little closer. But we had a great season and I can’t thank Tom and Sharon Spencer enough. Without them I wouldn’t be racing.”
Finally it was time to bring up one of the hottest Crate Modified drivers in the Capital District and two-time King Of Dirt champion, Connor Cleveland. King Connor was a multiple award winner picking up the Most Popular Driver award and Driver Of The Year honors.
“We like to challenge ourselves and winning this series twice is huge. I can’t thank my team enough. My mom, my dad, my girlfriend, Dean, our sponsors, just everyone puts in an incredible effort to make this all happen,” said Crate Modified Champion Connor Cleveland.
He continued by saying, “When that fire started at Lebanon in the cockpit it was scary. I mean I’m all strapped in and it was race time. All I could think about was getting out there and at least doing one lap to get points. At the Nationals our car wasn’t good on the bottom so I spent 90% of the race on the top until Brian and Robert passed me. It’s tiring running 100 laps, but you just have to buckle down and win this title is what I thought to myself and I’m happy we did.”
Joining Bobby Varin and Connor Cleveland in being awarded one of the big three distinctions by King Of Dirt Racing was Fastline Performance shock master Mike Walton. Walton was honored for his continued support of KOD and long time encouragement of its growth.
“This is great to be honored like this and I can’t thank Hazer and the KOD staff enough. I feel with KOD I get the most exposure for my efforts. I mean my name is everywhere on their stuff and that means a lot,” said Fastline Performance owner Mike Walton.
He went on to say, “I sold the speed shop portion of my business to spend more time with my step son. It allows me to take him racing and watch him grow up. I enjoy spending more time with my family, but we still have a lot of customers who do the hard work and make me look good. Being honored for supporting KOD is something that’s really cool.”
This years Hall Of Honors inductee’s include Bobby Varin and Mike Walton who earned qualifying distinctions through their efforts both on the track and off.
With that the banquet concluded the 2018-racing season for King Of Dirt Racing. More info will be coming as the 2019 season approaches. The season opener is Sunday May 26th at Devil’s Bowl Speedway for the Crate Modifieds with a $2,000 winners share.
Other special awards given on the night went to Michael Sabia (Divisional Appreciation Award), Chad Edwards (Sportsmanship Award), Ricky Quick (Fastline Performance Newcomer Of The Year), Rob Maxon (Bicknell Racing Top Warrior), Brian Calabrese (Memorable Moment Award), and Marty Kelly III (Beyea Exhaust Ultimate Underdog).
Since 2014 King Of Dirt Racing has worked with partner tracks to provide some of the best Crate Modified races in the Northeast. Based in the Capital Region the Northeast Crate Nationals and Mr. Crate Track USA events have grown to be two coveted titles to earn among the many other races drivers aim to win on their racing schedule. Under the promotional guidance of Mayhem Motorsports the KOD Series has operated a limited schedule through the summer months at historic tracks making it easy for drivers to follow. From April to September the series strives to provide leading innovation in sports entertainment for fans, while providing a challenging competition for drivers. KOD can be found online via website, social media, and video. There can be only one king.