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Johnny Collins is Florida Driver of the Year

January 24, 2009

Jacksonville driver takes home the ring from Pandora Jewelers

By Jack Smith

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All throughout 2008 fans and drivers have heard about the Inside Florida Racing Driver of the Year program sponsored by Pandora Jewelers of Deerfield Beach, Florida.  

It all began in January with the Pandora Jewelers Driver of the Month pick of short track standout Jeff Choquette, and concluded with December’s winner Steve Darvalics.  There were seven winners who raced primarily on asphalt and 5 who run dirt.

Collins East Bay Interview LIVE!

In March the Pandora Jewelers Driver of the Year ring was announced as the award for the end of the year. The beautiful gold and diamond ring is appraised valued at $3,800.  Each month the hosts of the various Real Racin’ USA shows, in addition to other racing media and even fans gave their input, and a winner of the month was announced on Inside Florida Racing. In most cases the drivers were interviewed on the show and were quite surprised to earn the award.

In each case the drivers stepped out with achievements a little, and sometimes a lot, more than their competitors around the state. Sometimes it was a hard decision. Sometimes it was just a no-brainer. 

As November wound down, and races dwindled to but a handful left in 2008, and  the decision had to be made, it was pretty much a unanimous one. 

So on January 21 at East Bay Raceway Park’s Hall of Fame Cafe, Johnny Collins from Jacksonville, Florida was named as the winner of the Pandora Jewelers Driver of the Year Award and presented the ring by Inside Florida Racing’s co-hosts Rob “Bonehead” Elting and CeCe Brooks. 

The occasion was the re-incarnation of the Real Racin USA Live! show hosted by Rick Anges, Bill green and Jack Smith which will be live from East Bay Raceway Park each month during 2009.  With East Bay in the midst of a huge remodeling of the facility and one of the coldest nights in memory in Florida, the crowd was small but very enthusiastic. 

Collins had a year in 2008 that comes across maybe once in a lifetime for a racer. “This means a lot to me, this is special, I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless.” Collins said after being presented with the award. “You know When you are racing not only against the guys in the dirt, but we have asphalt series and there’s a lot of guys out there that’s good at what they do, and to come out on top I appreciate the fans support and the people who voted.”

“After busting up a rear end at Ocala and not getting to start the feature in the first race of the year, I said this is going to be rough, an uphill battle. I never would have thought we could come back so strong.” he said. 

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But he did come back, winning four United Dirt Late Model Challenge Series races in route to taking the championship, and was runner-up in the National Late Model Series. He also won the wire to green flag race 50 lap race on asphalt at Charlotte County in August. “The stars were lined up, it was perfect year, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.” 

The Pandora Jeweler’s Driver of the Year was made possible with the help Terry Wall, the national sales representative for Real Racin’ USA and KARNAC Media.

Pandora Jewelers have been located in Deerfield Beach since 1976 and specialize in fine jewelry, rolex watches and custom items.

Pandora Jewelers Drivers of the Month:
January – Jeff Choquette   (asphalt)

February -Shane Williams    (dirt)       

March – Jeff Firestine      (asphalt)           

April – Clint Foley        (asphalt)                       

May  -  Travis and Charlie Statts  (dirt)  

June – Johnny Collins    (dirt)    

July – Donnie Ollie Jr.  (asphalt)  

August – David Rogers    (asphalt)  

September -Roger Crouse  (dirt)    

October- Shan Smith      (dirt)    

November – Wayne Anderson  (asphalt)  

December – Steve Darvalics   (asphalt)

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