Updated: Jan 17
(PEDAL DOWN PROMOTIONS) January 14, 2023 – On the cusp of embarking on its 25th silver anniversary season of competition when the green flag flies again in April, Akright Auto of Sheboygan Falls Midwest Sprint Car Association drivers, crew members, team owners, series officials, partners, supporters, workers and fans gathered to celebrate the many outstanding accomplishments and performances of the 2022 campaign, during the 24th annual MSA Awards Banquet held Saturday, Jan. 14 at The Village at 170 in Kohler, Wis.
A total of 135 MSA supporters gathered to honor two-time MSA champion Travis Arenz of Sheboygan Falls, along with 12 other point fund-eligible drivers, who competed in at least 85 percent of the 19 points races that comprised the 2022 schedule.
MSA President Sheila Leamer opened the evening’s festivities by providing her reflections on the 2022 MSA season.
“We had 25 scheduled nights of competition in 2022 with six nights lost to weather or fence repair,” Leamer said. “A total of 13 drivers competed in 85 percent of the races to earn eligibility for the point fund,” she said. “We also had six drivers compete in 100 percent of our 2022 races. We averaged 26 cars per night with a high of 33 cars on May 14th at Plymouth. We had car counts of 25 cars or more in on 13 nights and a total of seven different drivers earned A-main victories in 2022. I would like to thank all of the drivers, car owners and crews for their support this year. Through this support, we are one of the strongest Sprint Car groups in the nation.”
Leamer also thanked 2022 MSA series sponsor Akright Auto (Spyder and Jackie Akright) and 2022 MSA major night sponsor Adonnis Waterproofing (Anthony and Rachel Knierim), along with Brian Julien of The Julien Shade Shop, which will sponsor the MSA Safety Team in 2023.
Leamer acknowledged the 2022 MSA Board of Directors, which included Kurt Davis as vice president, along with board members Dan Mayer, Dan Teunissen, Todd Wondra, Tony Wondra and Scott Bader.
“I want to thank each board member for their support and dedication in 2022,” Leamer said. “I look forward to serving as MSA president over the next two years and I also want to thank Alex Pokorski for stepping forward to join the board in 2023.”
Longtime MSA competitor Paul Pokorski, who served as the master of ceremonies during the program, distributed Supporting Company Awards to 2022 MSA Series sponsor Akright Auto, along with R&H Racing Equipment, Mayer Automotive and Adonnis Waterproofing.
The six drivers and teams competing in all 19 official MSA events in 2022 were recognized with 100 Percent Attendance Awards, including Travis Arenz (first place), Ben Schmidt of Plymouth (second place), Lance Fassbender of Burnett (third place), Tim Haddy of Waupun (fourth place), Bill Taylor of Boltonville (fifth place) and Katelyn Krebsbach of Cascade (14th place).
An additional seven MSA drivers and teams were honored for achieving 85 percent participation during the 2022 campaign, including Justin Miller of Plymouth-Mayer Automotive Racing (seventh, 18 races), Blake Wondra of Fond du Lac (eighth, 18 races), Tony Wondra of Campbellsport (ninth, 17 races), Justin Erickson of Plymouth (10th, 17 races), Chris Clayton of Waldo (12th, 18 races), Alex Pokorski of West Bend (15th, 17 races) and J.J. Pagel of Mount Calvary (19th, 16 races).
MSA Competition Director Scott Bader acknowledge the efforts of 2022 series staff, including officials Fred DeBlaey, John Metzger, Sheila Leamer, Angela Dulmes, Donna Bader, flag men Steve Crass and Alex Gilhart, announcer George Baumann, photographer, videographer and graphic designer Rob Eisentraut of RC Custom Design, race report writer Jeff Pederson of Pedal Down Promotions and the members of the MSA Safety Team.
“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,” Bader said. “It is very important not to forget the people that work behind the scenes to make the MSA go. It takes all of these people for the MSA to put on a race.”
Bader also thanked each of the tracks on the 2022 MSA schedule, including The Plymouth Dirt Track in Plymouth, Wis. Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis, Beaver Dam Raceway in Beaver Dam, Wis., the Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam, Wis. and Wilmot Raceway in Wilmot, Wis.
The first of eight special awards went to J.J. Pagel, who claimed the 2022 MSA Rookie of the Year Award on the strength of a 19th-place finish in the point standings.
“This year brought a lot of struggle moving from a Grand National,” Pagel said. “After winning a championship in the Grand National, I wanted to try something different for 2022 and it was harder – a lot harder. I would like to thank everyone that helped out in 2022, both sponsors and crew. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and running with the MSA again in 2023.”
The Most Improved Driver Award went to Blake Wondra, who finished eighth in the MSA point standings, while earning three top-five and six top-10 A-main finishes to go along with one heat race victory in 18 MSA points events.
“I would like to thank my uncle Dave for getting me into racing and everyone that helped during the 2022 season,” Wondra said. “I won’t be racing in 2023 as I leave on Monday for Pennsylvania to start as a crew member for Bobby Allen and the Shark Racing World of Outlaws Sprint Car team.”
Justin Erickson claimed the Best Appearing Car and Crew Award.
The Hard Luck Award went to Justin Miller-Mayer Automotive Racing and the Hard Charger Award was claimed by Travis Arenz, who passed a series-high 90 cars during the 2022 MSA season.
Beth Winkel of BMG Designs presented the Harry Neitzel MSA Mechanic of the Year Award to Dave “Dusty” Goeden, crew chief for Ben Schmidt Team 35 Racing.
“I’ve been involved in racing for a lot of years,” Goeden said. “I learned from my parents the dedication that racing takes. Races aren’t won on the track. Races are won in the shop. While you are competing against the other drivers and teams at a race, mainly you are racing the track. A team’s success is often based on what the crew does to adjust to the track throughout the course of a racing program. That’s the approach I’ve always tried to take as a crew chief.”
The MSA Person of the Year Award went to the members of the 2022 MSA Safety Team, including Kevin Jensen, Hunter Goetsch, Cody Krahn and Mark Jensen.
Pokorski commended the MSA Safety Team on their efforts at MSA traveling races and the extra time put into training to support the safety of series drivers.
“I’m thankful that have a safety team that provides first-class service to our MSA drivers,” Pokorski said. “Having this safety team at our traveling events has helped to take the MSA to another level.”
The final award recipient to take to the podium was 2022 MSA champion Travis Arenz, who successfully defended his 2021 title to become a two-time MSA champion.
Arenz turned in a stellar 2022 campaign, which featured eight A-main victories, 17 top-five, 18 top-10 A-main showings and five heat race wins in 19 official MSA points events en route to his second consecutive MSA title by a slim nine-point margin over 2011 MSA champion Ben Schmidt of Plymouth.
“The 2022 season was a very important one for our team,” Arenz said. “We came into the season with no plans to run a set schedule or with a particular series with the goal of getting our feet wet with the 410. After we found ourselves leading the MSA points after the first few races, I asked the crew if they were up for the challenge of competing for another MSA title. The changes made to the MSA program with qualifying and setting heat race lineups made things more competitive. I want to thank my crew for always giving their best effort.
“Overall, I couldn’t ask for a better team,” he said. “I need to acknowledge all of my sponsors. None of this would be possible without them.”
In just five full seasons of MSA 360 Sprint Car competition, Arenz has amassed 30 A-main victories to stand fifth on the all-time MSA A-main victory list behind Ben Schmidt (fourth place, 32 wins), four-time MSA champ Brandon McMullen of Oshkosh (third place, 38 wins), two-time MSA champion Danny Schlafer of Sussex (second place, 52 wins) and five-time MSA title holder Kurt Davis of South Milwaukee (first place, 64 wins).
MSA 2022 Banquet trophy and award sponsors included Cupcake Wonders, Professional Plating, Don & Lynn Kiel, Pit Road Apparel, Susie Francour, Fred DeBlaey, Tn’T Motorsports, Roger and Dan’s Auto Service, Pedal Down Promotions, Butch and Janet Hafemann, Mark’s Tree Service and RC Custom Design.
MSA 2022 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 Bar 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 and Race Bumpers.
The recently released tentative 2023 MSA schedule features 25 events at four Wisconsin tracks with the season opener slated for Saturday, April 29 at The Plymouth Dirt Track in Plymouth, Wis.
For more information on the Midwest Sprint Car Association, visit www.msasprints.com.
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