(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)
The culmination and coronation of a season-long – and career-defining – road to NASCAR glory came Saturday night for seven drivers.
Abraham Calderón summed it up the best on stage at the NASCAR Touring Series Night of Champions.
“This championship was a dream a few years ago,” said the 26-year-old Monterrey, Mexico driver as he accepted the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series title. “It was really hard. But now that it’s real, it’s way better than I could ever imagine.”
The evening concluded with all seven drivers on stage together: Calderón, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Anthony Kumpen, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 champion LP Dumoulin, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Andy Seuss, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Greg Pursley, and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Ben Rhodes.
The individual high-point of the evening for each of the drivers came on the stage at the Crown Ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, when NASCAR President Mike Helton handed out the prestigious championship rings and awarded the series championship trophies.
“Tonight, the past, the present and future all converge,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president of regional touring and weekly racing. “The past, celebrated through the storied history of many of these series. The present, represented by a mixture of seasoned veterans winning another NASCAR championship and young guns winning their first. And most importantly, the future, drivers recognized on this stage in the past few years are already having a huge impact in NASCAR’s three national series. And given the talent tonight, that trend will definitely continue.”
Coby and Pursley each won their second touring series titles, while the other five are all first-time winners.
For Pursley, the championship was the crowning achievement on a long and storied career that also included a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title and 20 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West wins in 99 starts.
Rhodes joined current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Joey Logano, Ryan Truex and Kyle Larson in winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship and Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the same season. Kumpen, who has an impressive sports car resume, won the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series title in his first season driving stock cars.
“For a European race driver, a NASCAR championship seemed like an impossible goal,” said Anthony Kumpen.
Kumpen won his championship by one point over two-time titlist Ander Vilarino, while Rhodes clinched his with a race remaining in the season. Seuss, Coby and Pursley all staked themselves to early season leads and held off their challengers. Dumoulin used a stretch of five consecutive podium finishes in the summer months to lock up the top spot, while Calderón emerged victorious in the series’ five-race Desafio.
The seven champions combined for 14 wins, 67 top fives and 86 top 10s in 95 races.
“Everybody knows that most championship stories have a bump along the way,” said Coby, who became just the fifth different driver in 30 years of the Whelen Modified Tour to earn multiple championships. “We just did our thing and took care of business at each race.
“My team was resilient and they absolutely refused to flinch under pressure, and that is what defined our season and that is what makes them champions.”
Said Seuss: “One fact I’ll always point to about this championship is we completed every lap but one. That’s a testament to the team we have working on this car in the shop and at the track. This is a team sport and I couldn’t do it without all of you.”
The championship car owners and crew chiefs were also recognized Saturday night.
The champions weren’t the only ones to pick up hardware.
In addition to the championship awards, each series rookie of the year was honored. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award winners were Rhodes, James Bickford in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Timmy Solomito in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Spencer Davis in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Top rookie performers in the three international series were Matthew Scannell in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Mario Dominguez in Mexico’s NASCAR Toyota Series and Eddie Cheever III in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
The Most Popular Driver Awards for each series were also presented during the ceremony. The seven drivers honored with the award, which was voted on by the fans through NASCAR.com, were Ben Rhodes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Brandon McReynolds of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, JR Fitzpatrick in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Rodrigo Marban of the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, Freddy Nordström from the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, Melissa Fifield from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Andy Seuss from the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
The top-10 drivers and car owners from each of NASCAR’s touring series also were recognized during the gala.