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December 29, 2000

Florida Driver of the Year 2000

In a year that saw lots of exciting new talent emerge onto the Florida racing scene, particularly in the late model wars, and veterans such as Ricky Carlton, James Powell III, Jimmy Cope and Mike Franklin Jr. each having excellent seasons, an old timer stood out as the Florida Stock Car Racing Driver of the Year.

Dick Anderson, known around the state by various nicknames, "Tricky Dicky" or 'The Trick', or "King of the Short Tracks", is also known in every corner as a winner. If he is in the race, whether driving the orange and white Jimmy Harris owned #00 or the black #92, he is the odds on favorite to win.

And in 2000 he usually did exactly that.

The 2000 season started out for the 52 year old veteran late model driver with a bang. Florida Speed Park hosted SpeedFest 2000 in February and the Wildwood Florida racer hit the 'hat trick' winning three late model events in a row on successive nights. Anderson emerged from his No. 92 following the final win and immediately began inspecting the rear wheels only to find the right rear hub had broken and was only being held on by one lug nut. "We wouldn't have made one more lap. We really were just lucky tonight."

Of course luck plays a part in any success story, but it wasn't luck that brought the veteran success in 2000. It was 32 years of experience brought to the race track that enabled Dick Anderson to dominate the Florida racing scene in 2000. Experience that began in the late 1960's at Hialeah Speedway, a place where they say 'if you can do run here, you can run anywhere'. Experience that earned Anderson 25 feature wins in Florida's 1978 campaign, before most of his current competition was old enough to get in a car, and before many of the younger Florida late model racers were even born.

[For more on the personal racing history of Florida's legendary racer seeMarty Little feature on Dick Anderson]

The second half of the 2000 season brought out the dominance of Dick Anderson, and though accompanied by considerable controversy, in the end no driver in the state came close to being as large a figure on the late model stage. At New Smyrna Speedway in late July, he got the lead on lap one from the outside pole and never looked back. In August he returned to Orlando Speedworld's high banked 3/8 mile after a five year absence and led every lap of the 125 lap thirty car race. The next night he went back to his roots and won the Bill Flingos Memorial at Hialeah's flat track from the sixth starting spot. Anderson seemed hopelessly out of contention as outside front row starter Joe Winchell blasted into the lead at the drop of the green flag and drove away from the field. A spin by Steve Weaver, Jr on lap 44 restacked the field and Anderson now had a chance. Stalking Winchell's every move, Anderson alertly drove to the lead on the restart when the leader's brake pedal went to the floor in turn one and the rout was on. Anderson crossed the stripe for the win, his second in as many nights, over the best competition Florida had to offer.

In early September Anderson took the checkered flag in the 125-lap Pro Late Model feature event at DeSoto Speedway. Anderson's fourth win at DeSoto in 2000 came in his customary style. In the time trials, he logged a 14.54 lap time, 93 miles per hour to lead the top ten qualifiers. With a pill draw to equalize the field, Anderson started fourth behind Travis Kittleson, Jeff Wogoman and John Yurewitch. When the green flag fell a slow start gave Anderson the opportunity he needed. By the second lap he had claimed the lead and led the whole way.

In October the annual Governor's Cup at New Smyrna Speedway began with Dick Anderson grabbing the lead and holding off Wayne Anderson and David Rogers for most of the first 175 laps. Jimmy Cope took the lead after the long red and yellow flags caused by son Wayne Anderson's crash into Rogers under caution. Dick Anderson had to settle for second. In a post race incident in the pits Dick Anderson was accused of hitting a fan. The resulting outrage of fans combined with those coming to Anderson's defense turned the KARNAC.com Florida message board into a firestorm for weeks following the race. The case is still under investigation by the State Attorney.

In November the Triple Crown of Late Model racing returned to the Sunshine State for the first time in years with a three day, three race affair.

Triple Crown Winner
Coupled with a third place finish on Friday's race at Orlando Speedworld and a second place finish Saturday at New Smyrna, the win on the final day (Sunday) at DeSoto Speedway gave Anderson the Triple Crown Championship. "I owe it all to Jimmy Harris and all the guys that got this car ready," said Anderson, who celebrated his 52nd birthday. "And thanks to all the fans too. You're the greatest." And around the state the fans repay the tribute very time Anderson appears for a late model race. At every venue in Florida he is a huge fan favorite, and when he gets the lead or wins they roar their approval.

We talked with Dick Anderson at Lakeland in late November about the year 2001. He mentioned he may be driving some Hooters ProCup races in the coming year. "I never though in my wildest dreams this series would have taken off like it did." With the likes of accomplished veterans Bobby Gill and Hal Goodson racing for the Championship, mixed with all the young talent in the ProCup, it may be just the place for Anderson to step it up on a bigger playing field and a television audience.

Congratulations to Dick Anderson, for whether you are one of the fans who love to cheer him on or one of those who like to boo him, he was a standout this past year and is Florida Stock Car Racing's Driver of the Year 2000.

-Jack Smith

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