Hickory, NC ~ The UARA-STARS officially closed the 2008 season of racing on Saturday night, January 3rd and on that night Jake “The Snake” Crum was crowned champion, the youngest to ever reach that feat.
Crum took center stage at the banquet with the other top ten drivers and Melling Select Rookie of the Year, Darrell Wallace, Jr. also getting their time to shine in front of many of the series supporters, employees and media. Crum collected the biggest portion of nearly $60,000.00 in prizes for winning the championship of a series that has seen this young driver grow up over the last several seasons.
Crum is the staple of what the UARA-STARS is all about, he started racing with the series a few years ago even before he was old enough to obtain a drivers license and this season along with the help of his young crew chief, Nick Hutchins, this young driver was able to climb all the way to the top of the ladder. Crum’s ladder over the last couple of seasons has include a few broken steps most often in the form of Crum crashing out of races while racing up front and the future superstar took his bumps, bruises and lumps and chalked them up to experience, all the while building himself a future in the only thing he knows … racing.
Crum’s championship wasn’t enough to overshadow a fierce Melling Select Rookie of the Year battle this season between winner, Wallace and Brandon McReynolds, the son of legendary NASCAR crew chief, Larry McReynolds. Wallace at only 15 years of age celebrated his rookie title at the banquet while he and McReynolds both reflected on great battles between the two of them on the track all year long. Both of these young drivers were excited about last season while looking forward to being championship competitors in the upcoming season.
The whole night didn’t belong to Crum and Wallace however as Alex Yontz capped off his second place points finish for the second time in three seasons. Jamey Caudill was unable to make it to the banquet on Saturday night due to a drag race in Kinston, NC, but in his place he sent his wife, Sandi and she did a great job delivering what was probably the speech of the year.
Now in no means did she live up to Matt DiBenedetto’s riveting speech from last seasons banquet, but Caudill delivered a great speech and no Jamey before you ask your wife did not announce your retirement as you were afraid she would. Of the top ten drivers only Caudill, Jamie Yelton and Roger Lee Newton was not on hand to accept their awards, but even without these great drivers the banquet went off without a hitch as the remainder of the top ten drivers collected their awards for the 2008 season.
The highlight of this years banquet had to be a moving presentation to Harold and Pat Crook, who has spent the last six years alongside Kerry and Wink Bodenhamer helping to
build this series into what it is today. Crook’s last event full-time with the series was the banquet on Saturday night and certainly he and his wife will be very missed from the UARA-STARS staff.
We learned a little about the 2009 season at the banquet with many speculating who would be returning this season and who wouldn’t and ONLY RACE22.com will bring you the latest over the next few weeks in anticipation of the 2009 season getting back underway. The series hopes to have the final TBA spot on the schedule announced shortly and speculation among the racers was running rampant that the series would be in Bristol during the month of March, but the UARA officials were very tight lipped concerning the 16th race. Other speculation has the dates at Southern National Raceway Park being moved to another facility, but as of now the series hasn’t announced a move, but hopes to have the 2009 schedule finalized in the next few weeks.