Late Model Champion Ricky Bilderback joins John Knaus, Bobby Wilberg, Joe Shear among drivers with more than five titles
The Rockford Speedway held its 58th Annual Champions Banquet Saturday, Jan. 21. More than 300 members of the racing community came together to honor those drivers who earned season championships during the 2005 racing season. Through their hard work, determination, skill and possibly a little luck mixed in, eight drivers earned the title of 2005 Rockford Speedway Champion.
Claiming his fifth straight title in the NASCAR Late Model Division, Ricky Bilderback joined the ranks of Rockford Speedway legends John Knaus, Bobby Wilberg (both with seven titles) and Joe Shear (six titles). Bilderback had five wins in 22 starts this season. In addition to his five victories, he finished second 14 times, and never finished lower than fifth. His efforts also earned him a 15th place finish in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Division One standings. Jon Reynolds Jr. was this years runner up in the Late Model division. Finishing third was six-time champion Bobby Wilberg. Jerry Gille took home fourth place and Bob Kahler finished fifth in the headliner division at Rockford.
Making the jump from 2004 Rookie of the Year to 2005 champion was Fred Nason. Along with his Rockford Speedway Grand National championship this year, Fred finished 14th in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Division 3 standings. Rounding out the top five in the Grand Nationals were Brock Behnke, Matt Lundberg, Travis Eldrige and Doug Bennett.
Claiming his first championship in the NASCAR Budweiser American Short Tracker division was Boyce BJ Sparkman. He took home the honors ahead of fellow racers Jason Evans, Dave Wagner, Nick Cina Jr. and Don Russell. In what proved to be a career year for BJ, he had eight wins, five runner-ups, 16 top fives and 17 top 10s in his 21 feature starts. He also adds his name in the record books with his brother, George Sparkman. George won back-to-back championships in the American Short Tracker division in 2002 and 2003.
The 2005 season champion title in the Coca-Cola roadrunner division belongs to Dave Lignell. Dave finished in victory lane three-times during the season. He compiled 32 top 10 finishes in 36 starts this year. He is not the first member of the Lignell family to claim a championship in this division; his brother Dan was the 1997 champion. Second through fifth place went to Chad Smith, Pat Smith (no relation to Chad), Dan Carlson and Dan Sander.
In the Hornet division, Steve Talley edged out fellow competitor Mark Vicencio by one point to earn his first championship. Rounding out the top five in the Hornets were third-place finisher Ben Montemayor, fourth place Randy Reynolds and fifith place Nick Lasher.
Vachenzia Jester was able to elevate her status as last seasons Rookie of the Year in the B. Sanfield Winged Women on Wheels division to this seasons champion. She finished ahead of fellow competitors Amy Flippo, Latash Hillary, Jennifer Erickson and this years Rookie of the Year winner in the division, Linnea Weerda.
In the figure 8 division, Chris Gantz was another racer to claim his first championship. Gantz won seven out of the 16 feature races he started. Jack Mayberry took home second place honors, while Pat Smith, Jerry Mesch and Robert Stoltz finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Joining Weerda with Rookie of the Year honors were drivers Bill Hobson in the Late Model division, Dave Behnke in the Grand Nationals and David Eggert in the American Short Trackers.
The Big 8 Series also used Saturdays banquet to crown their champion. In its first full year of racing, the Big 8 series averaged 40 late models per event. This was one of the highest car counts in the nation. Finishing ahead of drivers from throughout northern Illinois and Wisconsin, second generation driver Reynolds Jr. was crowned champion. He beat out such notables as Mike Beyer, Ryan Carlson, Tony Bagstad, Bilderback and Wilberg.
Rockford Speedway will drop the green flag on its 59th season Saturday, April 1. Drivers from the Wisconsin Challenge Series will join the Mid-American Stock Cars and the Big 8 Series for the 29th annual Spring Classic Weekend. NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series action will resume Saturday, April 8.
Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Jan. 25-31, 2006, issue