- Published on Sunday, 27 January 2013 01:39
NORWALK, Ohio -- The 39th Annual Mr. Gasket Banquet of Champions clothed Summit Motorsports Park racers in lights, sound and style they deserved after a fantastic season.
Because of sponsors’ generosity, the season awarded racers nearly half a million dollars in cash and great prizes.
The leaders of the Summit Motorsports Park family -- Bobbie Bader, hospitality and sponsor services; Bill Bader Jr., president and majority owner; and Bill Bader Sr., minority owner and board of directors -- hosted the celebration January 26, 2013 at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.
From the introduction of champions, a prayer by Rev. Dale Schaefer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the singing of The National Anthem by the Edison Senior High Show Choir, excitement and energy buzzed through the largest number of guests since the 1990’s.
One of the highlights of the evening, the introduction of the Sportsman of the Year by Bill Bader Sr., created a stir of approval in the crowd with the announcement of Al Gottschling.
A racer at what is now Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio since 1967 and the Norwalk Dragway days, Al Gottschling first launched a 1957 Chevy and followed up with a 1969 GTO.
For the last four years, Al Gottschling nosed up to the tree in a 1972 Chevelle in the Mallory Super Pro Class.
People in the pits know Al Gottschling, 67, Wakeman, Ohio, for his warm, friendly smile and his love for the sport of drag racing.
The Sportsman of the Year award remains the most prestigious honor at Summit Motorsports Park.
Escorted into the auditorium by drummers from the Edison High School Marching Band and previous champions, the 2012 champions strode in with confidence amid congratulations, handshakes and applause.
Presented a trophy, a championship ring, and prize money by Craig Stark, vice president of sales for Mr. Gasket Co., the champions included:
* Mallory Super Pro Champion Kirby McLennan, Temperance, Mich.
* Mr. Gasket Pro Champion Brian Cireddu, Brunswick, Ohio.
* Wiseco Cycle Tech Super Bike Champion Rick Poole, Akron, Ohio.
* Accel Sportsman delivered on time by TFC Transportation Champion Joe Childs, Bellville, Ohio.
* Bear Motorsports Junior Dragsters presented by American Race Cars Advanced Champion Heather Saalman, Kansas, Ohio.
* Bear Motorsports Junior Dragsters presented by American Race Cars Intermediate Champion Jaeden Durst, Fostoria, Ohio.
* Bear Motorsports Junior Dragsters presented by American Race Cars Novice Champion Kaitlin Zietlow, Brook Park, Ohio.
Heather Saalman doubled up by winning a Rookie of the Year award, also, for her fifth place finish in Accel Sportsman delivered on time by TFC Transportation.
Dave Roemer, representing the family at R&R Auto Body, presented the Best Appearing Race Car awards:
* Mallory Super Pro -- Allen Moore;
* Mr. Gasket Pro -- Megan Kerns;
* Accel Sportsman delivered on time by TFC Transportation -- Kelsey Kiger;
* Wiseco Cycle Tech Super Bike -- Eric Harmon;
* Bear Motorsports Junior Dragster presented by American Race Cars: Novice, Trinity Marshall; Intermediate, Noah Rambow; Advanced, Alex Nardi.
On display all weekend at the Kalahari Resort, the 2010 Diamond dragster that R&R Auto Body painted for Garry Fleenor, winner of the R&R Auto Body Paint My Ride Program, received rave reviews.
Bill Bader Jr. called the dragster, “Drop-dead gorgeous.”
Velvet Ice Cream, Utica, Ohio, won Sponsor of the Year for fabulous customer service and delicious products which helped spread Summit Motorsports Park fame from coast to coast.
AkzoNobel, an international company who sponsors the Wanda Brand AkzoNobel Blue Suede Cruise in July, won Manufacturer of the Year for their support, involvement and creative ideas.
The Rossler Transmissions Wrench of the Year was awarded to Ron Kerns, Milan, Mich., who maintained a multi-car, multi-driver, all-girl race fleet for almost 15 years.
The Most Improved Driver of the Year, Ron Berkel II, Elyria, Ohio, moved up 53 places in standings between 2011 and 2012 in the Mallory Super Pro class, finishing 10th in 2012.
Media of the Year honors belong to Jon and Joanne Knapp, J2 Racing, for their dedication and affection for the sport of drag racing and their leadership as media representatives, most recently with the Summit Racing Team.
Unfortunately, Jon Knapp passed away in October, and Joanne was not able to attend the banquet. So their friend Jim Greenleaf, motorsports and events manager for Summit Racing, received the award on their behalf.
Sponsors of the 39th Annual Mr. Gasket $50,000 Super Series Banquet of Champions included:
* B’laster -- Need to loosen a rusty bolt or stuck nut? Lubricate your garage door? Restore engine performance on your car or lawn mower? Improve engine performance? Nothing moves faster than B’laster.
* Pepsi -- Passion for Performance.
* Norwalk Lions Club -- Has been around since 1946 with a mission to end preventable blindness. Lions Club participates in projects important to the community and schools.
* Trick Flow Heads -- Your ultimate bolt-on performance.
* Ink, Inc. -- From design to distribution, if it’s commercial printing, we’ve got you covered.
* Mr. Gasket.