Champion’s champions of 2002
Hobby Stock Champion
Resides: Carson City
Car: 1979 Chevrolet Camaro
Years driving: Two
First championship? Yes
Family: Wife, Jan; daughter, Carie; grandson, Christopher
Crew: Chief Bob Shaw, Scott Terry, Scott Oveson; motorman Steve Turnbull
Sponsors: Shaw Crane; Joe Bob’s Hot Springs Roadhouse; Capitol Glass; All Parts; American Industries, Dan; Sierra Racing Products; K&M Enterprises, Michael Hohl Motor Company, NAPA Auto Parts, and Julie’s Sign Shoppe of Reno.
Special thanks to: “My wife, for putting up with me and supporting me for seven months (during race season) on the decisions I made, and to Tires Plus, Aamco Transmission and Jim Flynn and Linda Shaw. My grandson was my biggest fan.”
Influences: Chet Danburg, Al and Ed Goss, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. “I bug Al, Chet and Ed every week. Asking them what do I change, working set-ups, stuff like that.
“It’s been great racing with everybody,” Betz said. “I made a lot of new friends. It was a little tough out there, but I knew if I stayed near the top of the points and raced every race I’d have a chance at the championship.
“It was a big surprise to me because last year we were a fifth or sixth-place car. This year we were top-5. And I only had time to work on the car on the weekends. My crew chief came into play by being able to set up the car after I would tell him what it was doing. He set up the car so it would work well for me. And, he kept me calm.”
Betz said his biggest improvements were being patient, looking ahead and driving a clean race. “Nevadaracing.com held a state-wide points challenge and I finished fifth in the state out of about 145 drivers. I think that’s pretty damn good.”
Depending on money and sponsors, Betz might move up to the sportsman class. Right now, he plans on staying in the hobby stock class.
“I’m going to have fun, always. Near the middle of the season if I’m anywhere close (to the top in points), I’ll put my mind towards another championship.”
Resides: Carson City
Attends: Brookfield School, Reno
Car: 2001 Bandolero, manufactured by 600 Racing
Years driving: One — this is his first championship.
Family: Parents Henry and Mary Hodges; sisters, Kelley and Jennifer
Crew: Chief Mike Menke, Henry Hodges, Andy McCool, Geoff Moore
Sponsors: Nevada Automotive Test Center; Keva Juice in Reno; Champion Speedway Driving Enrichment
Special thanks to: Jim and Kris Martin, Jim Bawden and fellow drivers for their camaraderie.
In just his first year of racing at Champion Speedway, Bobby Hodges shows great potential should he choose to continue his sport of choice.
Bobby gives much credit for his driving skills to his dad, Henry, and NASCAR Racing 4, which comes complete with a steering wheel and pedals.
“Racing this year was really exciting and quite difficult,” Bobby said.
“The cars are identical except for the individual weight. You can’t run away from anybody. You have to watch your mirrors constantly.”
Bobby credits the three other drivers for their competitiveness and Champion Speedway Driving Enrichment and NATC for supplying four competitive cars in the division’s first year.
Though he didn’t start the season with intentions of winning the championship, Bobby was truly excited it came his way.
“I wasn’t really going for the championship, but I think it’s cool I got it. This year was the first year. Next year, maybe we’ll have 10 cars.”
Bobby said he’ll spend the first half of next season gaining more driving experience and if he does well, begin driving a Legends car and possibly move into that division.
Regional Sprint Champion
Resides: San Jose, Calif.
Family: Wife, Debbi; children, Matthew, 14, Bailey, 12, and Erin, 10
Car: 2002 Oval Chassis Research Motor and chassis
Years driving: 22
First championship? Yes
Sponsors: Oval Chassis Research; Ohman Livestock Company
Special thanks to: Mike and Carla McCreary; wife Debbie for putting up with all this foolishness, Tom Vaughn, Warren Dickerson, Ronnie LaMana and Ohman Livestock.
Hopper began racing in 1980 in a supermodified racecar. He moved to South County micro midgets in 1984 and for the first time drove a sprint car in 1986 for fellow racer and friend, Mike McCreary.
“My goal was just to be able to come back each week and race,” Hopper said. “I’ve always been able to run statistically in the top-10, but I never plotted to win a championship — it just happened. And this is my first year racing on pavement.”
Hopper was raised on dirt watching his dad race at San Jose. He tried to learn as much as he could around the dirt, putting in 21 years of driving experience with only one or two races on pavement.
“McCreary talked me into driving pavement. I needed a new car either way, so I used the off season to think about it.”
Hopper made the switch and after a few races into the season discovered it was a very real possibility he could win the series.
“Just the thought took more settling in than actually winning it. What I liked most was that it was so much fun to not feel pressured throughout the night to make the show. There was a different winner every week and well-distributed talent.”
Hopper said the competition was spread out over quite a group of men. Each were competitive and raced hard and Champion Speedway was a good place to get some pavement experience.
“Next year I’ll pretty much do what I did this year,” Hopper said. “Win a couple of USAC races and defend my championship. There’s a good group of cars and a drivable racetrack. We’ll put on a good show.”