North Carolina Region’s Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner for 2016 was held on January 14th 2017 at the Vailtree Event and Conference Center in Graham, North Carolina. The food was superb! Steak, seasoned chicken, and salmon were featured at the buffet, along with some yummy side items and glorious dessert items, including a cake made for the occasion.
Before dinner, attendees were invited to stroll through the adjoining room and view the owner’s collection of exotic and luxury vehicles. A Ferrari, a Bentley GTC and a BMW B7 Alpina, were among the high-dollar European marques, along with an Alfa Romeo 4C and a Fiat 500 Abarth. American muscle was represented too, with a late model Corvette Z06, a Dodge Challenger SRT (800 hp!), and a Viper ACR. There was even a 1974 Lincoln Mark IV personal luxury coupe, the ride of choice for 70’s era TV private eye Frank Cannon. What a hoot! And what an awesome collection! Art Sinnott of F&S Enterprises, NCR’s official photographers at VIR, and Vailtree’s Stacey Polythress Rainey were on hand to take photos of it all.
After dinner, we held our annual meeting. RE Sam Fouse opened with a recap of the year and emphasize the dramatic turn-around in our financial position which was achieved by “right pricing” our entry fees, high enough to cover our costs but still small enough to make our events a bargain, considering the “bucket list” track we use to hold our events. Sam also mentioned the challenges we faced, with the loss of James Buckberry, our Chief Starter, and departure of our Chief Registrar and Office Manager, Ginny Condrey, due to family illness. Ginny’s departure left a huge hole, one that we are still trying to fill, though Bruce Dover has done an admirable job stepping in for her. And Pete Romanowski is to be commended for stepping in as Chief Starter, a job he never wanted, when James passed away.
James Shanks then gave a short presentation on our membership, which stands at just over 760. The good news is that one in four members is a licensed competition driver, and one in three a licensed volunteer, so we have the means to put on great events. The bad news is that our membership has declined since 2008. And unfortunately, dues are going up; though you can offset that by volunteering or signing up a new member. The important thing to remember, James said, is to be friendly; since at any given moment, twenty percent of our members are new, and they will only stay if they make new friends.
Morgan Mehler, Member-at-Large and Solo Chair, gave a humorous but informative report on the Solo program, which is in fine shape. He also introduced Matt Decker, the new Cape Fear Chapter Coordinator, and told us that they had an active new season planned, with 4 events in Wilmington at Cape Fear Community College North Campus and 6 at Cherry Point Marine base. In addition, they will be hosting the North Carolina Autocross Championship in October.
There were no questions from the floor, so Sam closed the meeting and turned the mike over to emcee Tim Lyons for the awards presentation. Eric Danielsen put together a wonderful slide show presentation, featuring shots of the winners from our events, that played on a side screen as the awards were presented.
We recognized drivers:
Driver of the Year – Majors and SECS – Al Wheatley
Driver of the Year – Majors and SARRC – Alastair McEwan
Driver of the Year – SARRC – Michael Sperber
Driver of the Year – SARRC – Ron Earp
“2016 James “Jim” Feinberg National Solo Driver of the Year”
and 2016 SCCA Solo National Champion
Regional Driver of the Year – Solo – Vernon Geddings
Rookie Driver of the Year – Solo – Christian Williams
Spirit of Mazda award – Alex Phelps
And we recognized volunteers:
F&C Worker of the Year – Jan Michel
T&S Worker of the Year – Megan Smith
T&S Rookie of the Year – Richard Mosley
Start Rookies of the Year – Rick Edwards and Chuck Stanley
Pit Road Rookie of the Year – Scott Keadle
Pace Car Outstanding Service – Joedy Pennington
Outstanding Service in Tech –
Dwight Cooke, Rusty Matthews, Barbara Mayes,
Jerry Pell, and Chris Schimmel
Plus a few more volunteers who require special mention:
Solo Worker of the Year – Stephen Miller
For single-handedly starting the Solo Junior Karting program and now brining a second kart to allow other kids to try it out.
NCR Extra Mile Award – Brian Huff
For making replacement electronic light controllers for the corner station traffic lights without being asked.
Outstanding Service to the NCR Racing Program
Mark Biamonte, Eric Danielsen and David Turner
For ten years of service as flag chiefs and countless innovations.
On a humorous note, the incoming flag chiefs, Heather Clark, Brian Eldredge, and Ben Tyler, made their own presentation to their predecessors. Since the boys aren’t going away, just returning to duty on some flag station in the future, their successors gave them each a kit of corner worker necessities, new orange gloves, a break-away lanyard, and a bottle opener to name a few, and a cinch bag to carry it all in. Glad to have you back on the front lines, fellas, and thanks for your service!
Finally, it was Sam Fouse’s turn to present the major NCR Region awards. First up was a surprise presentation to Eric Danielsen.
Eric had already been awarded for his service as Flag Chief. He’s also a race chair and chair of the newly-formed Marketing Committee. He was instrumental in setting up our e-mail tool so that we could reach all the SCCA drivers east of the Mississippi, and he updates it regularly. This puts us far ahead of most other Regions. But this year, Eric really put us on the map with the famous “Opie Goes Racing” video that he conceived and produced at this year’s Spring Sprints Majors.
Sam next presented
Our EV guys Tim, Dave, and James, have been awarded before. This last season they have been doing even more, such as giving up part of their lunch hour to help with the lunch-time drive arounds we do for charity at VIR. And when VIR maintenance couldn’t do it, they jumped in at the last minute to deliver all the deep-cycle batteries to the corner stations for the 13-hour race.
Finally, Sam was pleased to award Lifetime Achievement awards to two of his old friends:
Lifetime Achievement – Don Knowles
Don, Sam said, is a racer’s racer. He’s won six National Championship in just 18 trips to the Runoffs, one out of every three, and he has done it over a forty-year period. He also competed regularly in endurance racing, running in everything from the 24 hours of Nelson Ledges to Daytona, and in every series that IMSA had to offer for small sedans, Renault Cup, Firehawk, Camel GT, and the Bilstein Rabbit Cup. Don has won a world record of fourteen 24-hour races, and he won three 24-hour race in both 1987 and ’88. He is also the all-time SCCA Escort series winner with 19 wins. And true to form, he could not be with us for the presentation because he was racing at Sebring. Sam had the pleasure of announcing that Don had won today’s Majors T4 race in an RX-8 along with the pleasure of announcing his Lifetime Achievement award.
Lifetime Achievement – Bill King
Sam opened his remarks on Bill by relating that it was Bill who had convinced him to join at an autocross back in 1976. Bill had already been a member since 1964, and has the distinction of being the only active member who attended both the first race at VIR in 1957 and the last before it closed in 1974. In between he was a winning rallyist, a corner worker, a driver, and a writer. He was Bulletin Editor in 1976 and its most frequent contributor, exhibiting a talent for writing that later served him well as PR Manager for the Goodyear racing program in the Nineties. He was SSB champion in 1976, showing he knows how to drive as well as write. He was RE in 1981, and launched the first National at Roebling Road that Year. He was also the guy who convinced Rockingham to build the infield course, and helped design it with Steve Coleman. That course opened in 1978 and was our mainstay for years. Eventually Bill moved on to the SCCA National Office, where he launched the Sports Renault Program (now SRF) and the Playboy Endurance Series (now the Pirelli World Challenge). His accomplishments and his influence are too numerous to mention all at once, so it was with pride Sam awarded him his Lifetime Achievement award.
As our Guest of Honor, Bill then gave a short talk in which he entertained us with humorous stories and anecdotes from his time among the big names of sports car racing. It was a hoot! See the 7 min video with Bill telling his “how I got hooked on cars” story. Watch the 5 min video with Bill telling how he met Boris Said and two other anecdotes. Bill explains his book in 5.5 min about the History of VIR.