ANTIOCH -- The standing ovation veteran driver Larry Damitz of Vallejo received from more than 200 people was the highlight of the night at the 15th Annual Antioch Speedway Awards Banquet on Jan. 5.
Damitz's second consecutive two-championship season at Oval Motorsports' two racetracks -- Antioch and Merced Speedway -- was one for the record books. Track announcer John Myers, the master of ceremonies for the event, said he had never before seen such an ovation for a driver.
Topping the field of Super Stock drivers, Damitz, who will be 84 this year, said he would be back to race at Antioch again this season. He has raced and won since 1952, racing before most of the drivers at the track were born. Humbled by the ovation, Damitz was speechless as he smiled and waved to the crowd.
Promoter John Soares gave an uplifting speech about the new season, citing Antioch's growing fields of cars and the track's reputation as one of the best run race tracks in the country. He explained that sanctioning by the International Motorsports Competition Association (IMCA) would open new opportunities for drivers in the modified and sportmod stock car divisions.
The track will also feature Delta Series events, with open rules for the modifieds, and an extra-distance major event for Hobby Stock drivers in August. He announced a wide variety of sprint car competition for the season featuring two visits by the World of Outlaws, bringing winged and wingless sprint cars to the 3/8-mile clay oval throughout the season.
Champions and top drivers in all divisions were honored, with more than 75 awards being presented.
Modified champion Troy Foulger of Martinez thanked the Bowers family of Oakley for their dedication in providing him the ride that took him to his third straight championship. Foulger won eight times and had 14 top five wins against tough competition in 2012.
Wingless sprint car champion D.J. Johnson of Stockton talked about his trek to Antioch Speedway, where he won a single race the previous season and rose to the top of the ranks with help from newfound friends at his new home track. Johnson had five wins and 10 top five finishes in route to the championship
Retired Brentwood sheriff Gene Haney took some ribbing for fulfilling his desire to pursue drivers as he captured the Super Hobby Stock Championship. Dwarf car driver Nick Davis had a long list in his heartfelt appreciation for his championship season.
Sarah Leslie of San Jose brought the largest entourage of the night, including her mentor in the "4-banger" division -- Adrian DeSousa. She also thanked her husband and fellow racer Mike Shapiro and described her positive experience racing at Antioch Speedway.
Greg Williams walked away with the championship trophy in the "Mini-Trux" division. Phil Indihar of Milpitas was crowned champ in the SportMod division.
Second place Hobby Stock Division driver Brad Myers of Brentwood had to stand on the side of the podium as the division champion told him she loved him. Newlyweds Melissa Myers-Hansen and Brad Myers kissed as a sea of flashes lit the hall.