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Turner, Widner head list of Bristol Dragway champions

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Dec 2, 2017 at 4:41 PM

Jerry Turner may have delivered the best line of the day at the DER Bracket Series championship banquet on Saturday.

Turner won five races and made eight final-round appearances to capture his sixth Bristol Dragway Motorcycle division championship by 132 points over runner-up Russell Justus in 2017. In his acceptance speech, he referred to his dominance.

“I heard a rumor the motorcycle racers are tired of me winning the championship,” said the Bluff City rider at the Holiday Inn conference room. “I know that because the other motorcycle racers have told me they’re tired of me winning the championship.”

Joking aside, there was the business of recognizing the different champions in each of the different divisions. Jeremy Race (Super Pro), Carl Widner (Sportsman), Kalieb Cordill (Trophy) and Junior Dragster champions Andrew Joyce (Division 1), Seth Brooks (Division 2) and Kaden Haynes (Division 3) were also recognized. Pro champion Randy Walters was unable to attend.

James Thomas, one of the track’s chaplains, was honored with the prestigious Jeff Byrd Award given to the person who most lives up to the late Bristol Motor Speedway president’s motto to “Exceed Expectations.”

On the track, Turner again set the gold standard with his domination of the motorcycle ranks. With eight different winners in 16 races, he didn’t win until June. Once he got rolling, however, there was no stopping the Kawasaki rider.

“It was a great year, a very competitive year,” Turner said. “The bike guys started out with a vengeance to keep me from winning my sixth championship. Being lucky, being blessed, I was able to pull it out in the end.”

Turner, who previously served in the Army National Guard’s 771st Maintenance Company in Johnson City, had double the reason to celebrate as his daughter, Hannah, finished fifth in the Junior Dragster, Division 2 standings.

Even more than a proud champion, he was a proud father on this day.

“I really, really enjoy her racing with the Junior Dragsters,” Turner said. “It’s a wonderful group of kids, wonderful parents in the Junior Dragster family, just a whole lot of fun.”

Widner, from Elizabethton, repeated as the Sportsman division champion. He drove his 1985 Buick with a 383 cubic-inch Chevrolet motor to four wins and six final-rounds. There were nine different winners in 16 races, but Widner romped a 132-point margin over runner-up Russell Justus in the track standings.

“It’s been a tough season with a lot of good racers,” Widner said. “Bristol Dragway is a very competitive track. No matter which class you’re in, it’s tough and everybody knows that.”

Besides his Sportsman finish, Widner finished fifth in the Pro division as the top five were separated by just 22 points. Widner had one particularly memorable moment on July 29 when he doubled up and won both classes.

“I had a really good season running the two classes,” Widner said. “I led the points in Pro for the better part of the year. It came down to the wire and I still had a top-five finish, but I would have liked to have won the championship.”

The 2017 campaign was the ninth season of the DER Bracket Series at Bristol Dragway. Promoter Red Whittimore is currently in negotiations with Bristol Dragway officials to run a 10th season.

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