(Sauble, ON) – Though the drama of the opening event of the 2015 Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup Series was delayed by three straight rain outs, when the teams and drivers of the series finally got on the track, the action was worth the wait. The tough 1/4-mile Sauble Speedway was the site of the first race of the season on Saturday night, with the racing action going live on Race Time Radio at www.racetimeradio.com for the Lucas Oil 100.
The first competition of the night was qualifying, and Tim ‘The Intimidator’ Tolton (#3) of Guelph posted a time of 15.652 seconds. That time would hold up until the final few qualifiers of the session. Hard charging Doug Cathcart (#48) of Ottawa, put his car on the pole next, running a 15.578 seconds, but it would only last for two cars, as Josh Wood (#66) of London was the next driver to go faster, stopping the clocks in 15.499 seconds. Three more heavy hitters remained, including ‘Mr. Highside’ Brennan Didero (#24) of Brantford, who ripped off a lap of 15.307 seconds to find his way to ‘P1′. With defending champion Shawn McGlynn (#81) of Kitchener, unavailable for the night, local driver Ken Grubb of Walkerton, took the controls of the Mustang, and he was able to rip off what turned out to be the fifth-fastest time of the session.
The final driver to take a time trial attempt was Dave Connelly (#82) of Arnprior, who was able to coax his Dodge into a lap of 15.195 seconds, good enough for the fastest time of the session, and a new track record. This shuffled Didero to seconds, while Wood, Cathcart, and Grubb rounded out the top-five.
In all, seven drivers were able to beat the previous track record during time trails.
The Lucas Oil ‘Fast Five’ qualifiers assembled in front of the grandstand and were each paired up with a lucky youngster. Wood drew the pole, with Didero joining him on the front row, while Connelly and Cathcart occupied row two.
When the green dropped, ‘Mr. Highside’, Didero lived up to the name, racing Wood door to door for the first lap, and while Josh nipped Didero at the line on lap one, Didero was able to clear Wood on lap two, taking command. He started to log laps up front, with Wood on his bumper and Connelly running third.
A couple of early yellows would slow the field, including one for Alvin ‘The Bandit’ McNichol (#77) of Exeter, who was debuting his new ride, the only new generation Trans Am in competition in Ontario.
On each restart Didero was able to hold serve on Wood, but it was becoming evident that it was only a matter of time until Wood went to the front. On lap 27 Wood made his move, but while he took the lead, the third yellow of the night flew negating the pass.
Shortly after the restart, Wood was on the hunt again, taking Didero high, but as he tried to get to the bottom in turns three and four, he didn’t quite clear Didero and contact sent Wood up the track. He saved the car, but Chad McGlynn (#18) of Kitchener was able to get past into second.
Yellow number four appeared on lap 39, and Connelly took advantage of it to duck to the pits for an adjustment under yellow, putting Grubb in fourth, and Tolton into the top-five.
On the following restart, the pair went at it again, side-by-side with each taking turns poking a nose out front at the line before Wood took command for good on lap 44. Didero would get a few more cracks at Wood through the second half of the race, but Wood was strong enough to beat back every advance.
The final decent chance for Didero came on a lap 77 restart, but as the field ran the final 23 laps to the finish under green, it was evident that the best car and driver on the night was going to be rewarded with a well deserved trip to victory lane, as Josh Wood returned to the Sauble Speedway Winners Circle.
McGlynn challenged Didero for second a number of times, but was never able to get past, settling for a third place finish, while Brennan wound up second. Grubb had a solid run finishing fourth in his first Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup start in seven years, while Cathcart out dueled Tolton in an epic battle for the final spot in the top-five. Tolton would finish seventh.
Brandt Graham (#14) of Peterborough was impressive in his series debut. The former Peterborough Speedway Mini-Stock shoe improved drastically throughout the course of the night, and showed he will be a contender before long. He was able to follow Cathcart past Tolton late in the race for a solid sixth-place finish, while Tolton would up seventh.
Connelly, Mike ‘Over the Top’ Nelson (#85) of Peterborough, and Jeremy Coulter (#6) of Smith Falls, rounded out the top-ten.
Wood spoke about his return trip to victory lane at Sauble Speedway, saying, “It was a long time ago that we won here, but it feels great to open the season with a win, and to win again here at Sauble.”
He also talked about his epic battle with Didero, and the patience that the he showed, “That was a lot of fun, and it was great to race a guy like that. He got into me once, but it was probably my fault, I wasn’t clear of him. I knew though at that point that we had car to beat. I just tried to be patient, and I was able to get past him. We were able to open up a cushion on him, and I kept the car out of trouble. This is an awesome way to open up our season. We had some troubles last year in the opener, but this year we don’t have a lot of work to do on the car after this one.”
For Didero, who is still looking for his first career series win, it was his third second-place finish in a row, dating back to 2014. He said, “We are going to win one of these eventually. It was great racing with Josh. He raced me clean, and I tried to race him clean. That was a lot of fun for us. We’re pretty glad to start the season like this, with a solid finish, and a second-place qualifying effort. Now we just have to look forward to Flamboro, and it’s always exciting to race at your home track, and that would be a great place to get our first win.”
Chad McGlynn opened his campaign with a third-place finish. He said, “I think I had enough to get the #24 car [Didero], but he didn’t make any mistakes. I know we didn’t have anything for Josh tonight. This is still a good way to start our season, and I have to thank Ken Grubb for helping us out tonight in Shawn’s car. He had a good run, and brought it home in one piece.”
The next event for the 2015 Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup championship will be Saturday June 27th at Flamboro Speedway, the first of two treks to the Hamilton area 1/3rd-mile ‘asphalt arena’. Wood, Connelly, and Shawn McGlynn are all former winners at the track.
Final Results – 1. Wood, 2. Didero, 3. Chad McGlynn, 4. Grubb [substituting for Shawn McGlynn], 5. Cathcart.
Other Race Award Winners:
Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup – Championship Points Standings (after 1 of 7 events) – 1. Wood (100 points), 2. Didero (98), 3. Chad McGlynn (96), 4. Shawn McGlynn (94), 5. Cathcart (92).
Qualifying points – 1. Connelly (10 points), 2. Didero (9), 3. Wood (8), 4. Cathcart (7), 5. Shawn McGlynn (6).
For more information on the Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup Series, Lucas Oil, Sauble Speedway, Flamboro Speedway, or Race Time Radio, please visit www.lucasoilsportsmancup.com,
Release and Photos by Jamie Maudsley and www.maudsleymotorsports.com.
Additional Photo [#77 McNichol] by Stephanie Schwemler.