Williams CA, February 1, 2020 - The sixth annual awards banquet honoring the top ten drivers in the 2019 North State Modified Series (NSMS), presented by Protect the Harvest was held Saturday night at Granzella's Banquet Facility in Williams, CA. Business Manager Nadine Strauss acted as master of ceremonies. Speakers were Rick Avila representing the “2018-19 Driving Out Cancer” tour, Shasta Speedway promoter Dave Twyman, and NASCAR official Butch Schafer. Series promoters Jeff Stephens and Bob Strauss talked about the future of modified racing, the 2020 rules, and racing schedule.
The Ferrari-Kramer racing team was crowned NSMS champion. The championship team consisted of two different drivers, Robbie Knittel of Lodi for the first half of the 12-race season, and veteran driver Scott Winters of Tracy piloting the car for the second half.
Knittel was on fire at the start of the season. Third time out in the new car he placed third at Redwood Acres Raceway in Eureka. At the next race he was the winner at Stockton 99 Speedway. He came back to Madera Speedway the next race, set fast time and won the feature event there. But then problems with his wife’s pregnancy forced him to hand the driving duties over to Winters.
For many years Winters was a top-runner with the southern-based Lucas Oil Modified Series. During his run with NSMS he set new track records at Madera Speedway, Redwood Acres, and Shasta Speedway. He also won the race at Madera and had six other top 5 finishes in only six races. The team took home $1200 in cash plus a $1000 Lucas Oil products certificate. Plus all team members received Championship Hoosier Tires racing jackets.
Second place honors went to Cameron Austin of Santa Rosa. Austin was the points leader until a mechanical break of the car’s third link gave him a bad finish with only two races left in the season. Nevertheless in 2019 he set fast time four times, and set a new track record at Redwood Acres Raceway. He had back-to-back wins at All American Speedway in Roseville and Redwood Acres in July. He placed second four times and third four times. Austin only had one finish out of the top five.
Finishing third this year was three-time NSMS champion Darrin Knight of Kelseyville. Knight was the only three-time winner in 2019 – claiming wins at Stockton 99 Speedway, Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon, and at Redwood Acres Raceway. He captured nine top five finishes which included the three wins and three seconds.
Fourth place overall went to another two-man racing team, Ian Elliott of Lakeport and Terry Deal from Roseville. Elliott drove most of the time, but Deal filled in for a couple of events. Elliot was the 2018 NSMS Rookie of the Year and finished ninth. This season he won two Lucas Oil Dashes for Cash. In main event action he finished fourth once, fifth once, sixth twice, seventh twice, an eighth and a ninth. Elliott also set fast time at Stockton 99 at the April race.
Deal finished a solid fourth in Eureka and had two top ten finishes. Deal recently moved to Tennessee and sold the car to Elliott. Elliott will be piloting the car full time in 2020.
Ending up in fifth in 2019 was Darrin Sullivan of Kelseyville. Sullivan was the 2016 Rookie of the Year. He was the fastest car at Stockton 99 in June, finished fourth three times, fifth once, and had five other top 10 finishes. He is one of the four drivers who’s name is inscribed on the perpetual “Lloyd Burton Challenge” trophy.
Finishing in sixth place was Keith Bloom of Redding. This young man was chosen by Bob Lehman, one of the “industries greats”, to drive his modified. He had previous dirt-track experience before he moved on to the asphalt NSMS modifieds. He won the Lucas Oil Dash for Cash five times. His best 2019 finish was a fifth place. Out of the 12 races, he finished in the top 10 – 10 times.
Seventh place went to Rick Avila of Pleasanton. Avila drove the zebra-striped car and was the NSMS “Driving Out Cancer” spokesperson. Avila placed 10th in points last year and was proud of it. He bettered that record in 2019 and placed in the top 10 three times. He also earned the “Hard Charger Award at the All American Speedway in Roseville.
Jason Philpot of Sacramento finished eighth. In 2016 Philpot won more races than any other driver. In 2019 he was the big winner at the Shasta Speedway Fair race. He never finished lower than eighth, and had seven top five finishes this season.
Ninth place overall went to Sal Lopez of Sacramento. Although he’s raced with North State since 2014, this is the first time Sal finished in the top ten. Our oldest driver at the age of 75, but he still managed to have six top 10 finishes in 2019. Lopez earned the Most Improved Driver award, an embroidered jacket from Sonoco Racing Fuels.
Rich Cobb of Klamath Falls, Oregon rounded out the 2019 top 10 NSMS drivers. Cobb earned the “Hard Charger” award at the June race at Stockton 99 Speedway. He was the winner of the Lucas Oil Dash for Cash at the Shasta Speedway Fair race. During the season he had two top five finishes and four other top 10 finishes.
The top six drivers present at the awards ceremony collected Lucas Oil Product certificates. Lopez took home a new Five Star Modified body. Other North State Modified drivers in attendance were Oregon’s Randy Houston and Kelseyville’s Jeremy Nowlin. They received products courtesy of Five Star and Scribner Plastics.
Recognition also went to all the NSMS officials as well as the series sponsors Protect the Harvest, Lucas Oil, Hoosier Tire West, Mort Houston, Naake Suspension, Sunoco Race Fuels, Five Star Bodies, Racer Bling, Keyser Racing Products, Scribner Plastics, and Frank's Radios.