|Westport, MA: The annual NEMA banquet
to honor champions Ben Seitz of Monument Beach, MA and Gene Angelillo of Waterbury, CT was
held on Saturday night at the beautiful White's of Westport. The fun-filled event that
featured award presentations, an auction, and a surprise birthday celebration for
long-time competitor Nokie Fornoro, mirrored the atmosphere that surrounds the
Northeastern Midget Association. The Club continues to demonstrate an ever-present
camaraderie between the competitors while maintaining the integrity of the time-honored
traditions of Midget racing.
The defending champion Ben Seitz took center stage again as he celebrated his
second-consecutive driving title. An impressive record that included four wins and a
remarkable 13 top-five finishes in 15 starts led to the honor.
"I have the advantage of being surrounded by some of the best people in racing,"
said Seitz of his championship run. "People like Pete Valeri, Sam Lorusso of Cape Cod
Aggregates and their families, my family, Mike Scrivani and so many more, really make me
look good each week."
Unfortunately, the owner's champion Angelillo and his driver Joey Payne were unable to
attend the gala event. During the 2005 season, the duo combined to score 3 wins, 11 top
three and 13 top-five finishes in 15 starts. The performances earned Angelillo an
unprecedented fourteenth owner's championship (in NEMA). Bobby Seymour was on hand to
accept the numerous accolades bestowed on Angelillo and Payne. On Sunday, Angelillo was
honored by the NEAR Hall of Fame.
Teams were presented with awards courtesy of Hoosier Racing Tires and Hoosier Tires East,
Inc. A number of specialty awards were presented during the evening as well. A rousing
applause rang out with each presentation showing that the NEMA faithful approved of the
Shawn Torrey was humbled by his recognition as the Johnny Thomson Memorial Award winner.
Shane Hammond was presented with the Joe Csiki Most Improved Driver Award while Kevin
Keeler jubilantly accepted the Mechanic of the Year Award. By virtue of his finish in the
point standings Lee Bundy earned the Evans/Thrall Top Owner-Driver as the highest
finishing owner/driver in the final point standings.
After placing third in the driver points standings during the 2005 season,
Mike Keeler was hornored with the Ed Clotheir Rookie-of-the-Year Award.
NEMA young gun Mike Ordway Jr. was honored with the
Pat Thobodeau Youth and Determination Award.
Bobby Seymour received the Gallagher Award Hall of Fame Award courtesy of David Steward in
memory of his uncle and grandmother, Dick Gallagher and Helen Gallagher Donaghey.
Alex Shlatz was another big winner on Saturday night. His years of dedication to
NEMA were recognized with the Ralph Miller Award, donated in loving memory of Ralph by his
daughter and son-in-law Cathy and John Calure, which recognizes Outstanding and Continuing
Perseverance of a Club member as well as the Ray Roberts Award which salutes the efforts
of the "underdogs".
Cantor Racing was honored with Best Appearing Car of 2005 by Wild Child Design.
Patty Campanale was aptly honored with the Wen Kelley Memorial Award for exhibiting
outstanding dedication and service to NEMA.
"I have to thank Patty for bailing me out and shouldering the burden," said
President Mike Scrivani noting the merit of the award.
The push truck operators and the members with perfect attendance received beautifully
crafted plaques of appreciation. Appreciation Awards were also presented Lance Fornoro,
Jared Fornoro, and Nofri Fornoro.
Other noteworthy honors included a presentation by Andy and Alex Shlatz in recognition of
their 2005 sponsors Rafferty's Fine Grading.
Poignant speeches were given by Peter Valeri and
Bobby Seymour, who each expressed their gratitude for being part of the continuity and
history of NEMA. The evening wrapped up with a rousing presentation of "Still Hot
@50" Hot Sauce to Nokie Fornoro in celebration of his birthday.
The 2006 season will undoubtedly produce many more moments to be celebrated. The season
gets underway at the Waterford Speedbowl on April 1 & 2 as NEMA participates in the