NASCAR honored six of its national champions Saturday night in Charlotte, handing out rings and trophies for drivers ranging in age from 16 all the way up to 38 years old.
The veteran of the group was Milford, Connecticut, racer Doug Coby, 37, who won his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title and became the first driver to win three titles in a row in that series.
“It seems like just yesterday I was standing right here giving a speech for my first championship and now here I am for number four,” said Coby. “But a lot has changed in the five years since my first championship, and in fact it has been a great five years for all of the series champions.”
On the flip side, Todd Gilliland (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West) and Cayden Lapcevich (NASCAR Pinty’s Series), both 16, were crowned as the two youngest champions in the history of NASCAR’s touring or national series.
“Originally we weren’t supposed to run a whole year,” said Lapcevich. “Just me and my dad and a couple crew members. Our thinking was, ‘Let’s try and play this out.’ There’s so much great talent in Canada. When you’re up against the best, it really teaches you to dig deep and bring your best. After that, every weekend I wanted to race for the championship. So thankful I can live out my dream racing every week.”
Gilliland, of Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, joined his grandfather Butch as a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion. His six victories tied for the most in the series since Jimmy Insolo won nine races in 1978.
Burt Myers (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour) and Anthony Kumpen (NASCAR Whelen Euro Series) each collected their second NASCAR touring titles. And Justin Haley (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) will attempt to follow former teammate William Byron’s path from being a touring series champ to a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series contender.
“Winning a championship is a hard and long battle and you need a family that supports you,” said Kumpen, who also won the Whelen Euro title in 2014. The 38-year-old from Hasselt, Belgium, won a series-high five races, and he clinched his championship in front of his home crowd at Circuit Zolder and in front of his racing idol, Jeff Gordon.
The Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award winners recognized were Gilliland in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and Hunter Baize in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Matt Swanson in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Kyle Bonsignore in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Lapcevich earned the Josten's Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Pinty's Series, and Alon Day was awarded the Junior “Jerome Sarran” Trophy by the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series as the series' top young driver.
The Most Popular Driver Awards for each series were also presented during the ceremony. The winners were Austin Theriault (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Salvatore Iovino (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West), Melissa Fifield (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour), Trey Hutchens (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour), Jason Hathaway (NASCAR Pinty’s Series), and Day.