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Morris Crowned National Champion At Awards Banquet

CONCORD, N.C. — A week of activities and celebration in the hub of NASCAR racing concluded Friday evening as Philip Morris was crowned national champion at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet in the Embassy Suites and Concord Convention Center.

Morris, from Ruckersville, Va., joined Larry Phillips as the only drivers in the history of the Whelen All-American Series program to earn three or more championships with yet another stellar performance in 2009. Morris finished first in the nation in 2006 and 2008, and a third national title this season was accented by his seventh track championship at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., and a third straight Virginia State Championship.

“What a great privilege it has been to drive the No. 26 Clarence’s Steakhouse car,” Morris said. “Since combining forces with Clarence and Allen Pickurel, it seems like a blur of one celebration after another.”

Morris recorded nine wins, 20 top fives and 23 top 10s in 28 starts this season and accumulated 841 points to clinch the title by 25 over Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn.

As driver and owner of the No. 26 Chevrolet Late Model, Morris also took home the Lincoln Electric Car Owner Award and his crew chief, Chad McCoy, was recognized with the Lunati Crew Chief Award.

“This team has incredible depth and expertise,” Morris said. “Every man contributed to this championship. As a car owner I marvel at their pursuit of excellence, self control, focus and selflessness.”

Rocco, who competed in the Modified division at three Connecticut ovals (Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson International Speedway, Waterford Speedbowl) during the season and won the track championship at Thompson, had the best season of his career. After finishing third in the nation in 2008, the two-time Connecticut State Champion tallied 13 wins, 31 top fives and 35 top 10s in 45 starts.

Nick Joanides from Woodland Hills, Calif., finished third in the national standings thanks to 13 wins with top-five efforts in each of his 21 starts. Joanides was the California State champion and the track champion at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.

Headlining the evening’s special awards was the inaugural Whelen All-American Series National Rookie of the Year Award presented by Jostens. Jacob Gomez, a 16-year-old from Manteca, Calif., took home the award on the strength of three wins and 14 top 10s in 18 starts between three California short tracks.

Jason Romero, who captured the track title at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., was bestowed the prestigious Wendell Scott Trail Blazer Award. Tommy Lee, the crew chief for driver Eric Blackard at Colorado National Speedway, took home Craftsman Mechanic of the Year honors.