2016 marked the 51st season at Colorado National Speedway and if there was one overriding theme throughout the year it was the fresh faces in winner’s circle and on top of the season standings. It’s clear that a new generation of talented drivers has emerged at CNS and promises to make the coming years that much more exciting.
No less than 5 of the regular divisions at CNS were won by drivers who captured their first championship in the class in 2016. But even more exciting is the fact that so many divisions were in contention until the very end of the racing season. The future is bright at CNS.
Gillet Vet Super Late Models Dominic Ursetta won his second championship in the Gillet Vet Super Late Models in a very different way than how he took the crown in 2014. Ursetta only found victory lane 3 times in 2016 but his incredible consistency catapulted him to the top of the season standings by 26 points over Darren Robertson. Amazingly Ursetta only finished outside of the the top 3 just three times all season long demonstrating Dominic’s patience, preparation, and showing his progression and maturity as a driver. Ursetta isn’t the only young driver to shine in 2016. Darren Robertson, Jace Hansen, Kyle Ray and Justin Simonson all found victory lane in 2016 and other emerging talents such as Brett Yackey and Matt Zwingleberg have CNS fans very excited about what the next few seasons action will look like in the Super Late Model Division. The top 10 in points finished with Ursetta on top, Robertson and Hansen in 2nd and 3rd. Zwingleberg, and Simonson finished 4th and 5th while veteran Roger the “ice man” Avants took 6th. Kyle Ray was 7th and Bruce Yackey, Brett Yackey, and Chris Atkinson rounded out the top 10 in points.
#58 Kyle Ray and #6 Dominic Ursetta battle for the lead (Starr photo)
CHAMP: Dominic Ursetta ROTY: Justin Simonson
Snap-On Tools Pro Truc Speaking of young talent no other division was it on display more than in the Snap-On Tools Pro Trucks. Youngster AJ Warren snagged his first ever Pro Truck season championship by 20 points over the even younger Kody Vanderwal. Warren jumped on the points race early in the season grabbing two main event wins before June was even halfway over. The young Vanderwal also grabbed two main event wins and several second place finishes but a mid-season tech disqualification prevented him from knocking Warren off the top spot. Vanderwal also scored a non-points win on the final race of the season during Challenge Cup 42. In 3rd and 4th in the final standings were two more rookies: former Late Model champion Jeff Walbaum and Curtis Heldenbrand. Troy Witthar was the last truck in the top 5. last year’s champion Rudy Vanderwal focused his efforts in the Super Late Models but still snagged a 6th place finish in the points and while Adam Deines missed several races after a crash early in the season he came back to win the last 3 points races of the year.
AJ Warren celebrates in winner’ circle at CNS (Starr photo)
CHAMP: AJ Warren ROTY: Kody Vanderwal
Palomino Industries Late Models One of the most dominating performances in any division was turned in by Brett Yackey in the Palomino Industries Late Models. The young Yackey won 9 feature events amassing a huge lead in the points and his first ever championship in the division. Yackey coming off his 2015 Super Stock championship sent notice that he is one of the young driver’s to keep your eye on in the coming seasons at CNS regardless of what division he happens to be racing in. Wade Grove also had an impressive season winning his first main event and scoring an impressive 2nd place finish in the season standings. Rookie driver Michael Valentine from Gering Nebraska threw his name in the hat as a real contender by consistently giving Brett Yackey a run for his money in almost every main event of the season. If not for a rough final night Valentine could have easily been the points runner-up. Both Ethan Penrod and Kyle Patee looked strong early in the year but suffered season-ending damage in a crash in late July. Robert Davey, Dennis Pobanz, Wendi Lewis, Ryan McFadden, Rayshawn Carter and rookie Jason Sharp all worked their way into the top 10 in points by the end of the season.
Brett Yackey celebrates in winners circle after winning his second straight Late Model feature (Starr photo)
CHAMP: Brett Yackey ROTY: Michael Valentine
SUNOCO RACE FUELS GRAND AMERICAN MODIFIEDS Justin Case and Ron O’Neil battled for the championship all season long in the SUNOCO Race Fuels Grand American Modifieds. But when all the dust settled it was Justin Case winning his 2nd GAM championship in the past 3 years. Case only found victory lane once but his consistent top 3 finishes propelled him to the crown. Other drivers that found victory circle in 2016 were: Jeff Walbaum, Kyle Ray, Brady Balderston and Eddie Vecchiarelli. While Case, O’Neil, and Walbaum grabbed the top 3 spots in the standings John Seely’s return to action garnered him an impressive 4th place in points with Darin Clark right behind in 5th spot. Kyle Ray had a roller-coaster season and ended up in 6th place and rookie of the year Gary Land drove home 7th. Balderston, Joe Mares Jr. and Vecchiarielli rounded out the top 10.
#44 Justin Case on his way to winning his 2nd GAM championship in 3 years. (Starr photo)
CHAMP: Justin Case ROTY: Gary Land
Galitz Trucking Mod Coupes The Galitz Trucking Mod Coupes were dominated by Randy Whitman in 2016. Whitman won 4 of the 6 feature events and finished 2nd in the other two. With a season like that you might think Whitman would have had a massive point lead by year’s end but Ron O’Neil stayed close finishing just 10 points behind. Frank Denning the 3rd returned to action in 2016 and finished 3rd points with Rick Duckworth right behind in 4th. The final car in the top 5 was Jason Bunt.
#34 Randy Whitman takes the checkered flag (Starr photo)
CHAMP: Randy Whitman ROTY: Matt Venable
Great Scott’s Eatery Super Stocks. One of the most hotly contested divisions this season at CNS was the Great Scott’s Eatery Super Stocks. Coming into the season Curtis Heldenbrand had never won a feature event but was able to take home two impressive wins as well as his first track championship. This was by no means an easy task as Heldenbrand had youngster and rookie driver Brian Yackey, hot on his tail for the entire season. Heldenbrand seemed to get stronger and stronger as the season progressed and Yackey couldn’t overcome an early season disqualification. Yackey still finished just 7 points back of Heldenbrand in the season standings which proved to be one of the most entertaining divisions in 2016. Veteran and former champ Michael Cox was 3rd in points just ahead of young Kody Vanderwal in 4th. Chris Cox took home 5th in points and also had a feature win. Darrell Smith, Jax Hughes, Levi Greenly, Glen Poston, and Robert Davey rounded out the top 10.
#9 Curtis Heldenbrand battles #3 Michael Cox in the Super Stock feature event (Starr photo)
CHAMP: Curtis Heldenbrand ROTY: Brian Yackey
Lincoln College Pure StockThe Lincoln College Pure Stock division is designed for drivers who want to get started in the racing hobby but that doesn’t mean the action isn’t some of the best that the fans will witness. Tyler Davis put on a show race after race battling with the likes of David Robinson, Jamie Ward, Michael Matthiesen, and many others. Davis won an impressive 4 feature events (along with a non-points Challenge Cup win). These feature wins combined with consistent top 5 finishes propelled Davis to his first division championship. With the championship it will force Davis to move up to a different division in 2017 and it seems as if the Snap-On Tools Pro Trucks will be his next destination.
#33 Tyler Davis on route to his first Pure Stock victory. (Starr photo)
CHAMP: Tyler Davis
Chick-fil-A Figure 8s What happens when your worst finish of the year is 2nd place? Well that’s what Jereme Wall accomplished in the Chick-fil-A Figure 8 division in 2016. In fact at one point his 11 race winning streak spanned over a full year dating back to August 2015. The only race Wall didn’t win was the last points race of the season when his brother Jared edged him out to take the checkered. Wall’s dominance secured his 2nd straight championship in the division and gave him a whopping 76 point victory over Justin McKeachie who had an impressive season himself. Brent Cave took the 3rd spot in points and Jared “Wally” Wall was 4th with Harry Livermore Jr. close behind in 5th.
Jereme Wall in winner’s circle at CNS (Starr photo)
CHAMP: Jereme Wall ROTY: Sean Smith
Legend Cars Danny Medina won his 2nd straight Legends track championship by narrowly finishing ahead of Chris Eggleston by just 16 points. Eggleston’s 2nd place finish is even more impressive considering his missed a race while on tour with the NACAR K&N Pro Series West. Directly behind Eggleston was Kyle Clegg but the real winners were the fans as the top 3 drivers thrilled week in and week out with some of the best Legend car racing you will see in the country. Jason Irwin from Albuquerque showed up a few times to join the fun and won 3 feature events in 2016 adding to the excitement. With the championship Medina has now won an amazing 4 CNS track championships in one of the most competitive divisions in the nation. Scotty Scott’s impressive season garnered him national attention in his classification and also placed him 4th in the season standings. Zach Witherwax finished a solid 5th in points just ahead of Adam Pechman. Jereme Wall, Larry Pachello, Ryan Jones and Kynzer Riddell round out the top 10 in points.
#15 Danny Medina and #66 Kyle Clegg put on a great show for the CNS fans (Starr photo)
CHAMP: Danny Medina ROTY: Cody Dempster
Whittar Racing Trains The Last Call Train driven by Jared “Wally” Wall with brakeman Kelly Villers won their 2nd straight championship by winning 4 feature events and finishing second in the other two. The Crazy Train finished just 14 points back in 2nd place and the Cole Train another 2 points back in 3rd.
Trains CHAMP: Last Call
Not only did 2016 feature some of the best short track racing you will see anywhere in the country including the NAPA/Toyota 150 won by local driver Chris Eggleston CNS also added several other extremely successful events. 4 sold-out nights of Lantern-Fest filled the sky with a mesmerizing display of glowing, floating lanterns and family fun. The Father’s Day Monster Truck show proved once again that the best monster truck action happens in June at CNS and Hawgfest’s return to the track has bikers coming from all over the globe to party at the track and see some world-class rock and roll. All of this has CNS fans, employee’s and staff chomping at the bit to get the 52nd season started in April 2017.
Local driver Chris Eggleston celebrates his NAPA/Toyota 150 win at CNS (Starr photo)