(PEDAL DOWN PROMOTIONS) November 11, 2023 – The 25th anniversary Akright Auto Midwest Sprint Car Association 2023 season officially drew to a close, as drivers, crew members, team owners, series officials, partners, supporters, workers and fans congregated at Amore Banquet Hall in Plymouth, Wis. for the annual MSA Awards Banquet on Saturday, Nov. 11.
A total of 145 MSA supporters gathered to honor five-time MSA champion Brandon McMullen of Oshkosh, Wis., along with 15 other point fund-eligible drivers, who competed in at least 85 percent of the 24 official points race programs completed during the 2023 campaign.
MSA President and Treasurer Sheila Leamer opened the evening’s festivities by providing her reflections on the 2023 MSA season.
“We had 26 scheduled nights of competition in 2023 with only two nights lost to mother nature,” Leamer said. “A total of 16 drivers competed in 85 percent of the races to earn eligibility for the point fund, which is over half of the total MSA member drivers we had in 2023. We also had 10 drivers compete in 100 percent of our 2023 races. We averaged 23 cars per night with a high of 33 cars on the final night of the 2023 season on September 30th at Plymouth. We had car counts of 25 cars or more on 10 nights and a total of eight different drivers earned A-main victories in 2023.
“MSA made its first appearance at Eagle River Speedway in 2023, which proved to be an amazing show,” she said. “The crowd and everyone at Eagle River Speedway was very impressed with the racing the MSA put on. It was definitely a night to be proud to be involved with MSA. I was just talking to the Eagle River promoter today about possible dates for 2024. I would like to thank all of the drivers, car owners and crews for their support this year, as well as the fans, who are the reason we are where we are today. Through all of this support, we are one of the strongest Sprint Car groups in the nation.”
Leamer, who also served as the master of ceremonies during the program, acknowledged the support of 2023 MSA series title sponsor Akright Auto (Spyder and Jackie Akright), race day sponsors Competition Specialists (fast qualifier award sponsor), Behling Racing Equipment (heat race one and heat race two winner), Waldo Oil (heat race three winner), Butch and Janet Hafemann (heat race fourth winner), Mayer Automotive (B main winner), Professional Plating (hard charger award winner) and event sponsors Adonnis Waterproofing-Anthony and Rachel Knierim (Wilmot Raceway) and RC Custom Design-Rob Eisentraut (Eagle River Speedway), along with Brian Julien of The Julien Shade Shop, which sponsored the MSA Safety Team in 2023.
“We greatly appreciate the support of Akright Auto as our 2023 series title sponsor,” Leamer said. “Just before I came up here, Spyder [Akright] told me Akright Auto is in for another year as series title sponsor in 2024.
“We were happy to add several race day sponsors in 2023 for nightly qualifying, which was a new addition to our racing programs, along with hard charger, heat race and B main winners,” she said. “We are hoping to continue and expand on our race day sponsors in 2024.”
Leamer also thanked Cupcake Wonders for providing the flour for the start line, Rob Eisentraut of RC Custom Design for photography, graphic design and website and social media support, the MSA Safety Team, Paul Pokorski and Scott Bader for organizing contributions to the 2023 MSA contingency packages totaling $11,000 in products and certificates, along with Lynn Pokorski and Abbie Pokorski for race winner photo assistance, her husband, Randy Leamer, and scorers Angela Dulmes and Dakoda Tennyson.
Leamer also recognized additional 2023 MSA supporting companies R&H Racing Equipment, Behling Racing Equipment and Hepfner Racing Products.
Leamer acknowledged the 2023 MSA Board of Directors, including Dan Mayer (vice president), Dan Teunissen (secretary), Scott Bader, Alex Pokorski and Tony Wondra before announcing the re-election of Dan Teunissen, Dan Mayer and Tony Wondra to terms on the MSA Board starting in 2024.
“I want to thank each board member for their support and dedication in 2023,” Leamer said. “I look forward to leading the MSA again in 2024.”
The 10 drivers and teams competing in all 24 official MSA events in 20223 were recognized with 100 Percent Attendance Awards, including Brandon McMullen (first place), Ben Schmidt of Plymouth (second place), Kevin Karnitz of West Bend-Mayer Automotive Racing (third place), Alex Pokorski of West Bend-Akright Auto Racing Team (fourth place), Lance Fassbender of Burnett (fifth place), rookie Logan Julien of Oconomowoc (sixth place), rookie T.J. Smith of Greenville (seventh), Tony Wondra of Campbellsport (eighth place), Bill Taylor of Boltonville (10th place) and Chris Larson of Franksville (11th place).
An additional six MSA drivers and teams were honored for achieving 85 percent participation during the 2023 campaign, including Brandon Berth (ninth, 21 races), Katelyn Krebsbach of Cascade (12th, 22 races), rookie T.J. Haddy of Waupun (13th, 23 races), Spyder Akright of Sheboygan Falls and Paul Pokorski of West Bend-Akright Auto Racing Team (14th, 21 races), rookie Tristan Koenings of Van Dyne (15th, 21 races) and J.J. Pagel of Mount Calvary (17th, 20 races).
MSA Competition Director Scott Bader acknowledge the efforts of 2023 series staff, including officials Fred DeBlaey, John Metzger, Lee Glomski and the late Jerry Priesgen; scorers Sheila Leamer and Angela Dulmes, flag men Steve Crass and Alex Gilhart, announcer George Baumann, photographer, videographer and graphic designer Rob Eisentraut of RC Custom Design, MSA website administrators Dan and Michaela Teunissen, race report writer Jeff Pederson of Pedal Down Promotions, 50/50 ticket takers Donna Bader and Janell Ludwigson and the members of the MSA Safety Team.
“I want to give special recognition to Sheila Leamer, who really does everything for the MSA,” Bader said. “In addition to the MSA staff members that I noted, I would also like to recognize and thank the push truck and wrecker drivers for all that they do to support our racing program. The MSA staff helps out in many different ways all year long and all of their efforts are greatly appreciated.”
Bader also thanked each of the five tracks on the 2023 MSA schedule, including The Plymouth Dirt Track in Plymouth, Wis. (Dave Mohs), Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis. (Gregg and Angie McKarns), the Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam, Wis. (Steve Sinclair), Eagle River Speedway in Eagle River, Wis. (Pat Zdroik) and Wilmot Raceway in Wilmot, Wis. (Chris Klemko).
The first of eight special awards went to Logan Julien, who claimed the 2023 MSA Rookie of the Year Award on the strength of a sixth-place finish in the point standings, including seven top-five and 16 top-10 A-main finishes to go along with one heat race victory.
“I would like to thank all of the MSA sponsors and all of the sponsors on our car,” Julien said. “A special ‘thank you’ goes to my dad for everything that he does. Wayne Modjeski and Kurt Davis also helped us out quite a bit and I also need to acknowledge the Haddy Family. We wouldn’t have been able to get through everything this season without them. I also want to thank the members of the MSA Board and MSA Safety Team for all of their efforts this season. I’m looking forward to racing with the IRA next year.”
Alex Pokorski claimed the 2023 MSA Most Improved Driver Award, after improving 11 spots from a 15th place finish in the 2022 MSA point standings to post a fourth place showing in the 2023 MSA point standings.
During his breakout 2023 campaign, Pokorski earned his first career MSA A-main victory at the Dodge County Fairgrounds Speedway in Beaver Dam, Wis., with 12 top-five and 21 top-10 A-main finishes, to go along with four heat race victories.
“I want to thank Spyder [Akright] and Akright Auto for the opportunity to race, as well as all of our sponsors and crew members,” Pokorski said. “It was a lot of fun to race with everybody this year. I’m looking forward to next year.”
Brandon Berth picked up the 2023 MSA Best Appearing Car/Crew Award.
“This is definitely a surprise and an award that means a lot to me,” Berth said. “I designed this year’s car and Rob [Eisentraut] made it happen. I take a lot of pride in how my car looks, so I really appreciate this award.”
Brandon McMullen earned the 2023 MSA Hard Charger Award for passing a series-high 93 cars during the season.
The 2023 MSA Hard Luck Award went to rookie Tristan Koenings.
The 2023 Jim Wipperfurth Family MSA Person of the Year Award was presented to MSA President, Treasurer and Lead Scorer Sheila Leamer.
“I have a passion for racing and always give 110 percent to help MSA to the best of my ability,” Leamer said. “I am very honored to receive this award. I’m speechless.”
Beth Winkel of BMG Designs presented the 2023 Harry Neitzel MSA Mechanic of the Year Award to McMullen Racing Enterprise crew chief Joe McMullen of Plymouth, who has helped Brandon McMullen earn nine championships (five MSA, three Plymouth Dirt Track Racing, one Manitowoc Expo Speedway) over the span of the past 14 years.
The final award recipient to take to the podium was 2023 MSA champion Brandon McMullen, who tied Kurt Davis of South Milwaukee at the top of the all-time MSA championship heap by claiming his fifth series title, which were tallied in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2023.
McMullen turned in an outstanding 2023 campaign, which featured seven A-main victories, 23 top-five and 23 top-10 A-main showings to go along with nine heat race wins in 24 official MSA points events en route to claiming his fifth MSA series title by a 107-point margin over 2011 MSA champion Ben Schmidt.
After earning seven MSA A-main victories during the 2023 campaign, McMullen solidified himself in third place on the all-time MSA A-main victory list with 45 main event triumphs to stand seven behind runner-up Danny Schlafer of Sussex, who has tallied 52 MSA A-main victories, and 19 in back of all-time MSA main event victories leader Kurt Davis, who stands at the top of the victories A-main victory list with 64.
“Joe [McMullen] and my dad [Tim McMullen] deserve so much credit for what this team has been able to achieve,” McMullen said. “Joe and my dad believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. They probably spent more time in the shop than anyone else. In looking back over the past 14 years, I feel it is not as much about the actual racing on the track, but the people we’ve raced with and raced against over the years. The thing I like the most about MSA is that we all help each other and we all get along. That’s not something you see with every racing series.
“I want to thank everyone that makes up the MSA and all of the MSA crew,” he said. “It has been an honor to race against you all. Racing kept our family close all these years. To the younger drivers, I encourage you all to stick with it. During our first year with MSA in 2010, we were flat out terrible. We wrecked several times and only made one feature all season.”
MSA 2023 Banquet trophy and award sponsors included Professional Plating, In Memory of Hagar Nelson, Tn’T Motorsports, Akright Auto, Gary and Susie Francour, Roger & Dan’s Auto Service, Fred DeBlaey, Pedal Down Promotions, Con Forms, Mark’s Tree Service, Hafemann Vintage Racing-Butch and Janet Hafemann, Randy Post, Krebsbach Construction, Kris and Jen Hansen, RC Custom Design, Don and Lynn Kiel and Richard’s of Dunbar.
MSA 2023 contingency product sponsors were R& H Racing Equipment, HRP, Behling, Waldo Oil, American Racer Tires, Boubin Tire, Buege High Performance, Super Shox, Vortex Racing Products, PDTR, Torsion Bear Rating, Afco Shocks, M&W Radius Rods, KSE, Karavan Trailers, Maxim Chassis, Winter Products, FK Rod Ends, Bell, Wilwood, XXX Chassis, Schroeder/PAC, Competition Specialists, J&J Auto Racing, Saldana, Pyrotech, DMI, Schoenfeld, Hilborn, Lane Automotive, Velocity Wings, MRI, Racing Optics, Allstar Performance, Corey Oil, Ultrashield, MPD, Race Bumpers, Mayer Automotive (American Racer) and Bumper to Bumper IRA.
For more information on the Midwest Sprint Car Association, visit the MSA website at www.msasprints.com or visit the MSA Facebook page at www.facebook.com/msasprints.
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