2006 Sportsman season: a look back
By Matthew J. Sullivan
The 2006 season for the Sportsman division was one of the most competitive in recent memory with seven different winners in 13 races. Although the points margin wasn’t as tight as some of the other local divisions, the racing proved to be as exciting. Marty Walsh was able to keep his car clean from the start of the season to its finish winning four main events, the most in the sportsman class, and taking the 2006 championship. Every Saturday night, Walsh proved to be the driver that every other driver knew they absolutely had to beat.
In only his second full season of racing, Brandon Barnwell was able to finish second in points and won one main event. Barnwell was constantly at or near the front in every race, and it wasn’t surprising to see he and Walsh battling for a top three position on any given night. Rick Fox was able to finish third in the standings scoring one main event win. While Fox was one of the fast drivers, many times he was the victim of circumstance, getting involved in incidents that weren’t of his own doing.
Fourth place in the standings went to Acres veteran Angelo Marcelli. As has been the norm for many years, Marcelli was a consistent top five finisher, taking two main event wins in 2006. Perhaps the driver with the hardest luck at the Acres in 2006 was veteran Larry Pries. He won three main events and was consistently one of the fastest cars, yet too often he was the victim of misfortune. Another Acres veteran Al Acuna finished sixth in points. Although Acuna surprisingly wasn’t able to take a main event victory, he made it a habit to finish every race. At one point in the season, Rick Fox kindly loaned his backup race car to Acuna when his car wasn’t able to race.
The rookie of the year in the sportsman division was seventh place points finisher Lissa Uselton. Although 2006 was her first year behind the wheel of a sportsman car, Uselton used her past experience as a real stock driver to help guide her around the track, and she was able to notch some impressive finishes as the season progressed. One driver that should be a real threat in 2007 is Donnie Brown who took the eighth spot in the standings. At the end of the 2006 season, Brown looked to have a good handle on his car and nearly won several main events.
Although Aaron Byers missed several races in 2006 due to accidents, he was able to get back on the track and finished ninth place in points. Byers notched one main event victory, and hopes to have better luck in 2007. Rounding out the top ten points finishers was Jerry Peterson. Much of the early part of 2006 for Peterson involved getting everything squared away so he could be among the fast cars. In 2007 he should do that.
One driver who took home a victory was multi-time champion, Glen Shewry. Shewry didn’t make it out to the Acres until the late stages of the season, but proved that the time off hadn’t hindered his ability behind the wheel. Other drivers of note who competed in the sportsman division in 2006 were former mini stock champion Joe Bonomini, Ken Hallis, Mike Bourbon, rookie Keith Dias and J.D. Frey who raced on one occasion.
The car count for the 2007 season looks to be quiet promising. Along with most of the drivers previously mentioned will be the addition of now former real stock driver Jason Belt and now former limited street driver Kavin Conn. With Marty Walsh moving on from the division there will be a new champion crowned in 2007. Whether it will be a past champion like Pries or Marcelli, or an uncrowned driver such as Barnwell or Fox is hard to say. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens at the Acres this season.