Fremont Speedway Holds Year End Banquet
By Brian Liskai
FREMONT, Ohio (Nov. 10, 2001) - Fremont Speedway has a rich and exciting racing history. Some of the greatest drivers in the history of racing have competed at the clay oval...names like Beale, Opperman, Allen, Paxton, Williamson, Ferkel, Kinser, Wolfgang, Swindell, Linder, McCune, Harrison, Gordon. However, two years ago, the sounds of racing ceased at "The Track That Action Built." It seemed racing might be gone forever from the Sandusky County Fairgrounds.
Long-time businessman, racer, sprint car owner and fan Jim Ford just couldn't bare to let that happen. In the fall of 1999, Ford signed a lease agreement to promote races at Fremont Speedway, putting the "action" back into the speedplant. Ford quickly made many improvements, including a new lighting system, a new sound system, new seating, new clay and much more.
The fans, drivers, car owners and area business company responded. Racing never went away from Fremont, it just needed a little boost, which Ford provided. Now, "The Track That Action Built" is back with more exciting racing and a promising future.
In 2001, Fremont Speedway celebrated its 50th anniversary, and what a season it was! The year began April 28 with the first of five visits from the always popular All Star Circuit of Champions Sprints in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Fremont son Chad Kemmenah picked up the All Star win on opening night, and the anniversary season was off to a flying start.
With weekly shows featuring $2,500 to win for the 410 sprints; an exciting 305 sprint division; and a new dirt truck class, Fremont Speedway's pits were jammed with nearly 100 race cars every week.
With five appearances in 2001 at Fremont, the All Stars have now run 66 shows at The Track That Action Built, dating back to June 21, 1980, with 30 different winners. In 2001, there were five All Star feature winners at Fremont: Chad Kemmenah, Rodney Duncan, Mark Keegan, Mike Wagner and Butch Schroeder.
The 2001 season also marked the return of the non-wing sprints to Fremont Speedway, the first time since Oct. 3, 1981 when USAC competed there and Eddie Leavitt picked up the win. The fans were treated to a great mid-week show, The Jack Hewitt Non-Wing Challenge, and oohed and ahhed as the talented drivers were throwing their mud-slinging sprinters sideways halfway down the straight-aways. Troy Rutherford had the crowd excited when he shattered the non-wing sprint track record with a clocking of 14.64...over two seconds faster than the 1981 track record. In the feature, Tony Elliott stole the $4,000 paycheck and left fans begging for future non-wing shows. They will get their wish in 2002, as the SCRA sprint body from out west will come calling at Fremont on Aug. 8.
The American Late Model Series paid two visits to Fremont in 2001 with Curtis Roberts and Justin Paxton taking home the victories.
Another highlight was the Baumann Auto Group 305 Sprint Invitational, paying the richest purse for 305 sprints in the nation. Bobby Foster started the night off by setting a new track record for the division at 13.94. However, Bryan Scott pocketed the $3,200 paycheck in the end.
The 2001 season also so the return of seven-time track champion, 58-year-old Jim Linder. Linder piloted one of his son, Mike's backup cars during a night of racing that also saw a match race between father and son. Linder, who is third on the all-time career feature win list at Fremont with 58 victories, plans to return to racing in 2002 after over a decade off.
Another highlight of the 2001 season was a feature win by Kenny Jacobs. While "The Mouse" has scored more All Star feature wins than anyone else. However, in his 29 years of racing, he had never won a feature at Fremont. Jacobs recorded the feat in 2001, though it was not an All Star race.
Butch Schroeder had been without a ride for most of 2001. However, toward the end of the year, he teamed up with owner Stan Courtad, and promptly took home two big paychecks from Fremont in the 9x sprinter - the $5,000 top prize at the Stylecrest 50, and $6,000 at the season ending Chuck Kear Memorial All Star race.
Eight-time track champion Mark Keegan scored three wins in 2001 at Fremont to move him to a tie for fourth place on the all-time career feature win list with 54.
Bobby Foster scored five feature wins in 2001 in the 305 sprint division and led the point standings until the last night when a blown motor handed it over to Bryan Scott.
2000 Dirt Truck Track Champion Danny Roepke scored five feature wins in 2001, but fell out of the point contention when he refused an engine claim under the track's rules.
John Ivy picked up two feature wins in 2001 at Fremont aboard Sid Eickelberry's #20 sprinter. Ivy was the only driver to make all 17 A-mains in 2001, including the non-wing feature, on his way to picking up the 2001 track championship.
The 2001 championship race for the 410 sprints seesawed back and forth all season. Only 14 points separated the top four in the standings at season's end.
Bryan Scott had an incredible season in the 305 sprint division. Scott scored 9 feature wins at Fremont and racked up 20 total in 2001, to be one of the winningest sprint car drivers in the country. Scott competed in all 18 features in 2001 at Fremont, with an unbelievable average feature finishing position of fourth to claim his second straight track championship.
The Dirt Truck class featured exciting racing all season, as between 30 and 40 race trucks filled the pits every week. Steve Sabo opened the season with three straight feature wins. Though he would not score another checkered the rest of the season, his average A-main finish of fourth, was good enough to pick up the track championship. Sabo was one of only two truck drivers to compete in all 18 A-mains in 2001.
Troy Vaccaro, who finished 10th in the point standings, was named the 2001 410 sprint rookie of the year. Bob Lime, who finished 7th in the point standings, was the 410 sprint most improved driver in 2001.
In the 305 sprints, a pair of high school students, A.J. Sleek and Craig Mintz, along with second generation driver Jamie Miller, were named the rookies of the year in 2001. Ryan Lowe was named the most improved driver in the division.
John Rhoads scored two feature wins in his rookie season in the dirt truck division to earn the rookie of the year honor in 2001. Brian Sebetto, who picked up his first career feature win in the division, was named the most improved driver.
The 2001 season ended on a tragic note when 305 sprint driver Jim Deel died from injuries he sustained in a crash. Deel, 53, was competing in only his second sprint car race at the time of the incident. His death was the third driver fatality at Fremont Speedway in its 50 year history.
With several of the 305 sprint drivers planning to move up to 410 sprints in 2002, and more young talent planning to compete in the dirt trucks and 305 sprints, the coming season promises to be filled with fun and excitement.
2001 POINT STANDINGS FOR FREMONT SPEEDWAY
1. John Ivy, Fremont, Ohio, 1,201 pts.
2. Alvin Roepke, Elmore, Ohio, 1,198 pts.
3. John Wisbon, Fremont, Ohio, 1,192 pts.
4. David Harrison, Bettsville, Ohio, 1,187 pts.
5. Todd Heller, Whitehouse, Ohio, 1,117 pts.
6. Mark Keegan, Fremont, Ohio, 1,108 pts.
7. Bob Lime, North Olmsted, Ohio, 1,067 pts.
8. Jody Keegan, Fremont, Ohio, 989 pts.
8. Bruce Robenalt, Tiffin, Ohio, 989 pts.
10. Troy Vaccaro, Castalia, Ohio, 948 pts.
1. Bryan Scott, Castalia, Ohio, 1,631 pts.
2. Bobby Foster, Fremont, Ohio, 1,625 pts.
3. Brock Mayes, Bucyrus, Ohio, 1, 494 pts.
4. Bill Kraylek, Fostoria, Ohio, 1, 492 pts.
5. Dustin Keegan, Fremont, Ohio, 1,462 pts.
6. Roger Shammo, Gibsonburg, Ohio, 1, 442 pts.
7. Craig Mintz, Gibsonburg, Ohio, 1, 419 pts.
8. Jamie Miller, Fostoria, Ohio, 1, 309 pts.
9. Ryan Lowe, Fremont, Ohio, 1,292 pts.
10. Scott Kraylek, Fostoria, Ohio, 1, 277 pts.
1. Steve Sabo, Fremont, Ohio, 1,665 pts.
2. Bobby Davis, Fremont, Ohio, 1,586 pts.
3. John Rhoads, Fremont, Ohio, 1,576 pts.
4. Jeff Dougherty, Fremont, Ohio, 1,569 pts.
5. Brian Sebetto, Fremont, Ohio, 1,466 pts.
6. Jeff Hites, Tiffin, Ohio, 1, 448 pts.
7. Rich Farmer, Fremont, Ohio, 1,436 pts.
8. Jay Boyd, Findlay, Ohio, 1,371 pts.
9. Bruce Beard, Fremont, Ohio, 1,346 pts.
10. L.J. Connors, Clyde, Ohio, 1, 277 pts.