For more than four months, short track racing fans throughout North America cast their votes for the 2013 Speed51.com Late Model Most Popular Driver presented by ARbodies. Hundreds of drivers from dozens of tracks and series were eligible for the award and votes were cast in record amounts.
But the winner of the 2013 MPD award came down to two drivers from one track. Cole Williams and Austin Fullerton, two drivers from the Late Model division at Missouri's Lebanon I-44 Speedway, finished the overall voting one-two.
After the more than 70,000 votes were tallied, fans have voted 17-year-old Cole Williams 2013 Late Model Most Popular Driver. Williams edged out his fellow I-44 racer Fullerton by just a few hundred votes.
"This is awesome, but I have to admit, it's kind of unexpected," said Williams, of Sellersburg, Indiana. "I knew that we had been in the top-10 of the voting the whole time. I just can't thank all the fans enough. If it wasn't for their support, there's no way I could've done this.
"Each day my mom, my dad and I worked really hard to get people to vote every day. We got lucky enough to get people voting every day. They stayed committed and they helped us do it."
This year's voting marked the first time in the seven-year history of the Speed51.com Late Model Most Popular Driver poll that the first and second-place finishers competed at the same weekly track or touring series.
"That says a lot about the awesome fan base we have (at I-44)," said Williams, the I-44 Late Model track champion and NASCAR Missouri State Champion in 2013. "It's crazy the support we get. I know he has a lot of fans and we gained a lot of fans by racing locally there this year. The fan base is amazing and it's still growing."
For being voted by the fans as the 2013 Speed51.com Late Model Most Popular Driver, Williams will receive a free white "A" Package body kit from ARbodies of Greenbrier, Tennessee. ARbodies has been the presenting sponsor of the 51 MPD voting since its inception and this year has grown its support to more of the top finishers in the voting.
In addition to Williams' prize, second-place Austin Fullerton will receive a $750 product certificate towards the purchase of an "M" Package body from ARbodies, while third-place Kyle Crump from the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour, will receive a $500 credit towards an "M" Package body.
"With more than 70,000 votes cast this year, the 2013 Late Model Most Popular Driver competition has been another great success and we are proud to have the opportunity to reward the drivers not only for their on-track success, but also the great support they enjoy from their fans," said Jerry Criswell of ARbodies. "We would like to congratulate Cole Williams and his team on not only an exemplary year on the track, but also with his off-track success in the Most Popular Driver competition."
"In addition to the announced prize for Cole Williams as the winner, we would like to honor Austin Fullerton and Kyle Crump for their second and third-place finishes and their successful 2013 racing seasons. It has been our pleasure to honor these three drivers as well as every other driver who earned votes in the competition. We commend every fan and family member for taking the time to help promote our great sport by casting their vote."
Williams, a senior at Silver Creek High School, will now look to use the title of 2013 Late Model Most Popular Driver as a momentum-builder for the 2014 season.
"We got a new Port City car that we're busy getting ready for the 2014 season," added Williams. "Having the extra momentum of being the Most Popular Driver and having this exposure is definitely going to help for next season. We're going to tour a little next year. We'll run at Nashville (Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville) and some JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour races."
Kyle Crump's third-place result was the highest position for a touring series driver in the 2013 Speed51.com voting. Eugene Gregorich, Jr. of the TUNDRA Series and Wisconsin's Marshfield and Golden Sands Speedways, finished fourth in the final voting, followed by JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour competitor Hunter Baize.
Paige Decker from the TUNDRA Series and Marshfield, Southern Super Series standout Bubba Pollard, Bryce Dulabhan from Florida's Five Flags and Alabama's Mobile Speedways, Spencer Davis from PASS South and Justin Alsip from Ohio's Kil-Kare Raceway rounded out the final top 10 in voting.
Williams becomes the seventh different winner in the seven-year history of the MPD voting. He joins the list of former MPD winners Kenzie Ruston (2012), Josh Berry (2011), Trey Mitchell (2010), Ross Kenseth (2009), Nick Murgic (2008) and Andy Pugh (2007).
AR Bodies has become an innovative leader in the ABC body field, which was developed several years ago to help create a uniform set of body rules for Late Model series and tracks throughout the country, while also offering the bodies at an economical price for racers.
For more information on ARbodies, visit them online at www.arbodies.com, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, @arbodies.
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