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On The Road: The Canadian Motorsports Expo

On The Road: The Canadian Motorsports Expo

By Greg Calnan – While the temperatures in Ontario continue to be frigid outside, the racing season was just getting heated up indoors at the Canadian Motorsports Expo. Competitors, industry insiders, and fans converged in Toronto for the 5th annual edition of Canada’s ulitmate racing show.

On Saturday, January 22nd my father – and Ontario Oval photographer – Dale made the trip to the International Centre to kick off our 2011 racing season. Our goal was to meet and talk to the many promoters, drivers, and companies in attendance. The CME has become a great place to get together and meet with several people who we haven’t seen since the final checkered flag flew in the fall.

[VIEW CME PHOTO GALLERY]  [VIEW VIDEO INTERVIEWS FROM CME]

The first stop was to the Kawartha Speedway booth were we met with our friend Jim Clarke. Jim has been a mainstay in the sport for many years through his announcing and writing. This past year was a rough one for him as an unknown illness kept him from being at the track as much as he would have liked. It was great to see him feeling better, and to have the chance to chat for a while.

While we were at the Kawartha booth, we had a chance to interview Jason White, driver of the #21 A&W NASCAR Canadian Tire Series car. Jason announced at the CME that he is combining efforts with DJK Racing and the Kawartha Speedway Group to compete for the 2011 title. The move allows Jason to focus on the driving and marketing aspects of the team, while making the logistics in getting the car from race to race easier. The move has him feeling excited about the team’s potential, especially having Doug Kennington engines under the hood, and an experienced veteran like Derek Lynch serving as his crew chief.

Throughout the afternoon we interviewed a number of people from around the province. We spoke with Mark Dilley of Sunset Speedway about their $50,000 Shootout that is taking place this summer and the ongoing upgrades that are taking place at the track.  We also sat and chatted with Ken Pelkie of Ohsweken Speedway about the upcoming season of sprint car racing at the 3/8 mile clay oval located on the Six Nations reserve just west of Hamilton. We were also able to talk with a number of track promoters and officials including Derek Lynch of Kawartha Speedway, Jason Thom from Sauble Speedway, JP Josiasse of Peterborough and Ron Sheridan of Delaware. Unfortunately, due to some microphone gremlins a few of those interviews didn’t turn out. Time to head to the local audio store for some new equipment!

A number of drivers were on hand including Sauble Speedway regulars Marvin Freiburger and Roy Wilkie. We caught up with both drivers as they displayed their attractive looking 2011 rides. The ‘Pocket Rocket’ Danny O’Brien and his newly lettered Global Warranty small block dirt modified were also on hand. Danny will be competing again at the Brockville Ontario Speedway this year, but with a new number as he switches from the #7* to the #1*. At the end of the day we also managed to catch up with Dave Dykstra – the 2010 Corr/Pak Sprint Car Champion – at Ohsweken Speedway booth. Our microphone completely died at this point and ruined what was a great interview with the driver from Port Colborne, Ontario.

One of the most interesting interviews of the day came with Paxton Waters, designer of the Canadian Motor Speedway. Paxton announced that the approval process is complete in Fort Erie, and that the next step will be the official ground-breaking ceremony this coming spring. We spoke about what goes into the design of a track, and how instrumental Jeff Gordon was in developing this facility. Probably the most intriguing tidbit of news in speaking with Paxton came off camera when he made us aware of a new short track possibly in the works for Sudbury, Ontario. He was apparently under consideration to be the designer for this new facility as well, but the investing group went in another direction. Needless to say the news of a new short track in the province piqued our interest, and we will be doing some digging to see what further information we can find.

The 5th Annual Canadian Motorsports Expo was covered well from all angles. In addition to running into numerous track photographers, both Race Time Radio and Raceline Radio were in attendance, and we managed to spend some time talking to Joe and Sue Chisholm from RTR. Our microphone decided not to work for this interview, however Joe announced exciting news that he and Speed51.com’s Bob Dilner – also of SPEED TV – will be combining efforts during Speedweeks in Florida to offer fans in-depth coverage from the sunny south. For more information on their broadcast schedule, visit www.racetimeradio.com.

Once again it was a great time at the CME, as we had the chance to see many of our friends from around the province. The show continues to grow every year and has something for both the race fan and industry insider. We would like to thank our friends from the Canadian Motorsports Expo and Inside Track Motorsport News for their support, and allowing us to be at the show. We look forward to returning in 2012, and hope to have a bigger presence over the entire weekend.

The 2011 racing season is now officially underway for OntarioOval.com and we are excited about what the new year will bring. After just six months in existence, our following continues to grow every day and we look forward to traveling across the province to help spread the word. So until our next stop along the way, we will see you “On The Road”.

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On The Road: Peterborough Speedway

On The Road: Peterborough Speedway

By Greg Calnan – Now that the short track racing season in Ontario is basically complete, it’s time to look back at the many stops OntarioOval.com made during a busy inaugural season.

Peterborough Speedway was a bookend of sorts for our travels this year. Back on May 15th my photographer/father Dale Calnan and I made our first visit to this very unique 1/3 mile paved oval. We followed that up with a return trip for the Autumn Colours Classic on Thanksgiving weekend.

The track is located just off Highway 115 on the northwest end of Peterborough. I had been to Kawartha Speedway before, but never realized how close it was to the track in Peterborough. It’s literally a 10 minute drive up the road – anyone living in the area is fortunate to have two tracks so close by.

Our first visit to the track in May was a fun trip. It’s always interesting to see a speedway for the first time. The added bonus on that excursion was a chance to finally see the Ontario Legends Series in action, and they didn’t disappoint. We arrived early enough to watch each division run practice sessions and check out the entire facility.

The track is promoted and operated by Jean-Paul “J.P.” Josiasse and his family. During our initial visit, I was able to meet J.P. and introduce myself and the website. We were graciously welcomed to the track and allowed access to the infield to take some photos. In helping to promote grass roots racing in the province we have tried our best to work in a visit to each track and series. J.P. has been great in assisting us ever since we met.

The weather in May was actually colder than our return trip in October. Thus, the race in May didn’t attract a large crowd. Winter jackets and gloves were the attire for that spring trip, but thankfully the weather on Thanksgiving weekend was beautiful for the 18th annual Autumn Colours Classic.

When we returned for our second visit, we weren’t sure what to expect. All we knew was it was going to be a huge event. Huge was an understatement. As we pulled into the parking lot, it was a sea of campers – Motor-homes, trailers, and tents as far as the eye could see. This mobile community was large enough to have its own municipal election. Immediately we knew this wasn’t just any other event.

For three days, Peterborough Speedway played host to what has become known as the ‘Superbowl of Ontario Short Track Racing’ and that it was. Drivers from all across the province were on hand to battle for bragging rights in this prestigious weekend. Everything from Hurricane Midgets to Super Late Models were on a racing card that had something for everyone.

For me, the atmosphere at an event is what makes or breaks the show for me. Obviously the on-track product is most important, but the overall experience is how I judge any trip to the track. The Autumn Colours Classic at Peterborough definitely impressed me in this area. We had a great time at the track and enjoyed meeting a variety of different people and interviewing many of the competitors.

My ‘tip of the cap’ this time goes to the Mini Stock drivers in the A-Main of the Autumn Colours Classic. Their 50 lap feature was clean and very competitive. Write down the names Tyler Junkin, Bobby Love, and Mike Nelson. These drivers made up the top three in the feature and have a bright future in the sport. After seeing them race at Peterborough and a couple of other tracks in Ontario, they certainly left a good impression.

After two visits to Peterborough Speedway and seeing nearly every class of car compete there, I can say it is a great place to watch some classic bullring action. There is plenty of side-by-side racing with a lot of bump-and-run mixed in. For the diehard short track fan this is one place you definitely must visit.

For more information on Peterborough Speedway visit www.peterboroughspeedway.com.  

That does it for this week’s edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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On The Road: Tillsonburg Indoor Track

On The Road: Tillsonburg Indoor Track

By Greg Calnan – My journey took me to the indoor micro sprint track in Tillsonburg for this edition of ‘On The Road’. The cars that race here on a weekly basis may be tiny, but the action is as fast and wild as their full-size Sprint Car counterparts.

On Tuesday, September 28th, my friend Kevin Norris and I headed to the track together with two separate agendas. For Kevin it would be a chance to compete in his #41 Outlaw kart in the Expert division. Due to mechanical difficulties and a busy work schedule, he hasn’t had the time to compete weekly like he had the season before. My desire to tag along and see the track got him motivated though, and we made the trip southwest from Brantford.

VIEW TILLSONBURG PHOTO GALLERY

The track is located at Chesterman Power Products in Tillsonburg, Ontario. At the back of their property is a large building which is home to micro sprint racing every Tuesday night throughout the summer. During the winter months, the racing surface is converted into a motocross track. They also host R/C racing throughout the winter. The building is comparable to a small arena with upstairs seating, as well as an enclosed pit area in the lower level. The setup is quite unique, and allows spectators to be up and close to the action from a number of vantage points.

The parking lot was packed with race trailers and micro sprints. Each week the track runs four divisions – Beginners, Juniors, Seniors and Experts. There were a number of competitors both young and old ready to race on the indoor dirt oval.

Upon arrival, I went and introduced myself to the man who runs the show – Dave Chesterman. Dave was gracious enough to allow me to stand on the starter’s tower and shoot both photos and video. Unfortunately my father Dale, who normally does a great job with photography, wasn’t able to make the trip. I was left holding the camera and it was apparent very early that this isn’t my speciality. Nonetheless I had a great deal of fun trying to catch these cars as they whipped by each lap.

I have seen several photos of the track, and even watched them put on a demonstration race at Ohsweken once this year, but seeing them on their home track in person was most impressive. The cars in all four divisions can motor around the oval in no time at all. The Expert class is controlled chaos.

Just like full-size Sprint Cars, these machines need a push start to take off, and when they took off, they moved in a hurry. Most of the field was able to lift the front wheels off the  track through the corners. Their lap times are just over 8 seconds around the 1/11 mile track, which is close to 48 MPH, which is incredible considering the tight confines they race within.

The show ran along smoothly with racing action starting at 7pm and wrapping up around 9pm. It was the final points night of the season, and all drivers were racing for every point they could gain. Teams were also looking forward to their big season-ending 100 lap special on Sunday, October 3rd. Many teams were talking strategy, with the hot topic being fuel mileage.

For anyone that doesn’t think a micro track is a real race track, they need to see and be a part of the experience first. The racers and crews were just the same as at any track – There for the fun and the thrill of competition. I would certainly suggest a trip to Chesterman’s indoor facility to anyone looking for fix of racing during the week.

THANK YOU: Thank you Dave Chesterman and his staff for their hospitality. The officials were nice enough to allow me to invade their flag stand for the evening and it was much appreciated. It gave me a great view of the action and a chance to see how well they run the show from the stand.

WHO I MET: During the evening I had the chance to meet Greg Beecroft from Ridgetown, Ontario. Greg owns and operates One Stop Auto Parts and is the sponsor of many drivers, including former SOS champion Adam West, and Late Model driver Dale Glassford. He was there with his son Josh who competes in the Senior division. It was nice to meet Greg after having seen his sponsor logo for years in and around Ontario racing.

WHO WAS THERE: While I was there I also ran into Paul Ballantyne. Paul is a former Sprint Car driver, and crews with the Hills Racing team on a weekly basis at Ohsweken and a variety of other tracks around the northeast. Paul was there helping Miles Hill and his daughter Alex as she prepared to race that evening. It was nice to see a few familiar faces at the track. With the indoor track growing so rapidly, it will only be a matter of time until a few of their regular drivers are moving up to full-sized cars and becoming familiar faces across the province.

My trip to Tillsonburg was certainly a great deal of fun and a totally new experience. I will certainly be returning in 2011 to see more of the racing action at the Chesterman facility. I highly recommend the trip to anyone who is looking for racing during the week.

For more information on the Chesterman Power Products indoor facility visit www.chesterman.ca

That does it for this week’s edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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On The Road: Kawartha Speedway & Barrie Speedway

On The Road: Kawartha Speedway & Barrie Speedway

By Greg Calnan – With the season now in the homestretch, the races are bigger and more money is on the line. On Friday, September 10th my photographer/father Dale and I made the trip to Kawartha Speedway for the rescheduled Summer Sizzler 150. We followed that up with our first visit to Barrie Speedway for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series on Saturday night.

The weekend kicked off with a big night in Fraserville, as champions were about to be crowned in all three divisions at Kawartha. Also on hand was the Ontario Pro Challenge Series. The main attraction was a trio of 50 lap features for the Late Model division. A number of outside invaders came in an attempt to take the $3,000 payday.

VIEW KAWARTHA SPEEDWAY PHOTO GALLERY

There was no lack of action on this night as Dan McHattie took the first segment of the Summer Sizzler. The second segment was a barn burner with Chris Morrow winning, taking away any chance for McHattie to make it a clean sweep. A multi-car wreck right in front of where I was standing in corner three eliminated McHattie from a shot at the third segment victory and the title.

Bryan Mercer was hooked up in the final 50 lap race and looked certain to make it three winners in three races, but Morrow slipped by in the dying laps and took the victory. The win not only made him $3,000 richer, but also helped him clinch the 2010 Kawartha Speedway Late Model championship. The man they call Mr. Excitement certainly lived up to his name on this night.

In the Ontario Pro Challenge Series, Ken Nicholson drove to victory lane, while Willie Reyns continued his dominance at Kawartha winning the Thunder Car feature and second championship in the last three seasons. The always smooth “Too” Moroney piloted his #2 to the win in the Mini Stock division, while Mike Nelson claimed the season championship.

From Kawartha it was on to Barrie Speedway for the first time. As is the ritual at a new track, once I was signed in it was straight up to the fence to see the track surface. I have seen many photos of Barrie over the last number of years and to be honest I thought it was much bigger. The track is a classic bullring, which led me to believe it was going to be a bumping-and-banging kind of night. To be honest though I was very much deceived, as the evening was one of the cleaner night so of racing I have seen all year.

The headline on Saturday was the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Wild Wing 300 presented by DriveWise. Also on tap were the Thunder Cars and Pure Stocks in what was a chance for them to perform in front of a crowd of non-regular spectators.

VIEW BARRIE SPEEDWAY PHOTO GALLERY

The Pure Stocks were up first, and although they had a tough time getting laps in at the start, the race finally got going and was entertaining. A familiar face was standing in victory lane when the checkers flew as Mike Nelson – fresh off claiming his Kawartha title the night before – took the win. Mike announced to the crowd that he intended to return to Barrie a few more times in 2011 as the team plans to travel to a variety of tracks on Saturday nights rather than points race.

The Thunder Cars put on a great race with plenty of passing and 2 and 3 wide action. “The Polish Prince” Jim Belesky took the win with a late race pass. We spoke to many teams after the race and they said the track raced differently than normal, noting the different brand of rubber the NASCAR teams were laying down as one of the contributing factors.

Once the regular divisions had completed their races, it was time for qualifying and pre-race festivities for the Wild Wing 300. Ron Beauchamp Jr. grabbed the pole for the race while Scott Steckly lined up second.

My ‘tip of the cap’ for Saturday goes to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series for their pre-race autograph sessions. The best way to create fan interest is to allow access to the stars and their cars. The front stretch was jam packed with fans young and old looking for an autograph and a photo. It was also nice that track allowed fans to exit the speedway surface in turn one at the much larger spectator gate. This helped make wrapping up the session much quicker than jamming that many fans through a one person gate one at a time.

I must admit that I thought the 300 lap event was going to be filled with wrecked race cars and yellow flags. I was pleasantly surprised how fast these cars could get around the small track surface and yet find a way to keep from wrecking each other. The race went 42 laps before the first caution flag flew, and that was for a minor spin. The two biggest accidents on the evening where Dexter Stacey’s excursion on top of Kent Nuhn’s car, and Kerry Micks sustaining heavy damage just past the half way mark after a crash in turn one.

The laps clicked by very quickly and before too long it was down to a late race restart and a shootout for the win. What a finish it would be. DJ Kennington led much of the second half of the race and was leading with Don Thomson Jr. right on his rear deck lid as the field took the white flag. Thomson applied the bumper in turn two and loosened Kennington enough to get by going down the backstretch. DJ made a comeback on the bottom however and it was a drag race to the checkered flag.

At the line Kennington edged his machine to victory by just 13/100th’s of a second. Not often does the guy who gets bumped and passed in corner two storm back to take the win, but Kennington did just that. It was the finish that the capacity crowd was waiting for, and I don’t think much else could have topped it.

The finish was a great way to end a fun weekend at two central Ontario race tracks. Again, a track’s appearance deceived me, but left me pleasantly surprised. Barrie was a lot of fun and I will definitely be going back again next year for a regular show.

THANK YOU: Thank you to both Derek Lynch at Kawartha, and Jim Payetta at Barrie Speedway for the hospitality in allowing us to attend both events. We had a great time and saw some great racing yet again.

WHO I MET: While at Barrie I had the chance to meet Gary Grant from the Garage Blog. He was on hand to get some photos of the event and check out the speedway for the first time as well. His website can be found at www.thegarageblog.com

I also had a chance to meet Mark Dilley and thank him for our enjoyable experience at Sunset Int’l Speedway three weeks prior. He invited us back and mentioned their upcoming invitational on Sunday, September 26th. He said he wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of car counts and competition, but was sure it won’t disappoint. For more information visit www.sunsetspeedway.ca.

WHO WAS THERE: On Friday night I finally had the chance to talk to Jim Clarke of Clarke Motorsports Communications. Jim has not been able to be at the track as much as he would like in 2010 because of an ongoing back ailment. He does a great job doing press releases and announcing for Kawartha Speedway. The staff of OntarioOval.com is certainly wishing Jim all the best as doctors continue to look for a solution to his situation.

My father and I were both surprised to see fellow media member Rick Young at Barrie. Rick operates www.RickAtTheRaces.com and was out for the weekend to visit a couple of first-time tracks on his track chasing list. The following afternoon he was headed to Timmins, Ontario to the Bristol Speedway. It was a long haul, but from the looks of his most recent report he had a great time. It’s always a pleasure to see Rick at the track because you know you will get to share a laugh with him. Hopefully next time we see him, he will have more decals so we can join his throng of supporters.

WHO I MISSED: While at Barrie I was disappointed not to cross paths with Dave Bradley. Dave is the voice of Barrie Speedway and also anchors NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Broadcasts on TSN. I met Dave a couple of years back and he is a true class act. His plate was full on this evening handling both the regular divisions and his TSN duties. I look forward to running into him at a coming race.

That wraps it up for another edition of ‘On The Road’. As I mentioned off the top, the races get bigger as the season winds down. We saw two big nights of action on this trip with a handful still remaining in 2010. As a race fan its hard not to get excited about the big events, but at the same time we need to enjoy them as they come, because before too long we’ll be shovelling snow and dreaming of race cars.

For more information on Barrie Speedway visit http://www.barriespeedway.com, and for more on Kawartha Speedway and their upcoming NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race on September 25th visit http://www.kawarthaspeedway.com.

That does it for this week’s edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”

NOTE: I wish to make a correction on my previous column of “On The Road” from Sunset Int’l Speedway. I mistakenly mentioned that Mark Dilley was the owner of the facility when in fact a group of investors actually own the speedway. The column has since been corrected and we thank the reader who noticed the error.

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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On The Road: Sunset International Speedway

On The Road: Sunset International Speedway

By Greg Calnan – After a stretch of visiting familiar speedways in Ontario during the month of July, the opportunity finally arose to travel to a new destination on Saturday, August 14th. My father Dale and I headed back on the highway to promote OntarioOval.com, but this trip was filled with a different kind of anticipation. Since marking the date on my calendar, I had been anxious about visiting the newly renovated Sunset International Speedway in Innisfil.

Best known for his talent behind the wheel, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series driver Mark Dilley and the folks at Wide Open Motorsports Solutions took over promoting and operating the track in 2009 after the track was sold to a group of new owners. Immediately the new group began making changes to the facility. Unfortunately I never had the chance to see the ‘before’ product at Sunset, but I can tell you the ‘after’ results are astounding. It is obvious that a large financial investment was made to renovate the new high banked 1/3 mile oval, however it’s also very apparent that a great deal of pride and consideration has gone into the transformation.

VIEW SUNSET INT’L SPEEDWAY PHOTO GALLERY

Upon entering the speedway grounds, the entire facility had a very polished and tidy look. Everything from buildings to billboards are in tip-top condition while parking is ample and well organized. We signed in and headed to the pit area for our first glimpse of the track. Immediately we noticed the large expansion that was taking place in the pits. Although the track surface is complete, further progress is still very evident all around.

My father and I headed straight to the corner one fence to take a look at the new layout. Everything is fresh and new, and judging by the setup of the infield I had a sneaking suspicion that some big events are planned in the coming years. A complete pit road with a large number of stalls encompasses the track from corner three all the way around to corner two. After speaking with a number of people, it became obvious that the goal is to host a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event as early as 2011. I for one will be there without hesitation if it is added to the schedule.

Not only has the track surface and pit area been upgraded, but the spectator side of the fence has seen some tremendous work done as well. A brand new concrete walkway between the track and the stands has been poured, and much of the seating has been replaced or upgraded. The setup of the grandstand is unique. Although the bottom row of seats are a decent distance from the front-stretch fence, you somehow get a feeling like you are right on top of the action.

Before we had the chance to start handing out our promotional material and decals in the pit area, many teams came up to us and welcomed us to the track. In all our travels in 2010 everyone has treated us great across the province, but the attention we seemed to draw at Sunset was unique. It was as though we were being welcomed into the family and being shown the ropes.

Many competitors, staff and officials came to us, introduced themselves and gave us a little information on the track. Our first time to a speedway is always a little unnerving because you just don’t know what to expect, but the folks at Sunset made us feel at home within minutes of arriving.

While touring the pit area we talked to a number of teams and handed out every decal we had brought with us. A few faces were familiar, but for the most part we were meeting an entirely new group of racers. There seems to be a good amount of camaraderie amongst the teams and that was nice to see.

Once the racing began, my father headed to his usual position at a racetrack – in the infield to take photos. There he met track photographer Mike Kiers and his wife Joan. We are always careful not to infringe on each photographer’s home turf, but Mike went above and beyond to be professional and courteous. He is also a great photographer. There were some memorable moments during the evening, and he had caught them all as they were happening. His work can be viewed at www.cableguyphotos.com. I also have to mention that Mike is the first photographer I have ever seen who wears a helmet while he shoots. He said a neon vest won’t stop a car from hitting you, but a helmet might help keep you safe if a car, tire or part were coming at you. He makes a great point and both my father and I thought that it was a very positive and proactive way to think about safety.

When you first see the newly paved racing surface, you envision tight bullring type action, but the track actually races very differently. Every division on this night had three and even four-wide racing at times, making it entertaining from start to finish. The thought put behind a track’s layout is very crucial to the outcome of the final product and it’s entertainment value. No corners were cut on this, and you can tell that by how competitive the racing was in each class. My ‘tip of the cap’ on this night goes to the ownership and management group at Sunset for the fantastic job they’ve done. Being a track owner is not easy, but it is obvious that attention to detail is prevalent  in all facets of the speedway.

On this night, the fans definitely got their money’s worth as the Late Model race saw a heated battle between point leader Chris Morrow, Rob Poole, and wiley veteran Stompin’ Tom Walters. In the end Walters muscled his way to victory lane and gave an entertaining interview.

The Super Stock division at Sunset has some of the most unique creations I have seen of any Street Stock style class in the province. With my father and I both being Mustang fans, the #14 of Ken Britt had to be one of the best looking race cars we have seen all year. The other major stand out is the Chrysler 300 #44 of Dave Doucette, creativity certainly isn’t lacking in this division. In the end it was Kyle Donaldson picking up another feature win after starting deep in the field. Kyle has been nearly untouchable in 2010 and I was able to see first-hand why he is so good.

The Mini Stock class had ample room to get around the 1/3 mile oval and they used every inch of the track. At the conclusion of their 25 lap feature, point leader #10 Doug Butler was standing in victory lane.

A couple of unforeseeable snags slowed the program on this evening, but overall the product on and off the track was fantastic. Side-by-side racing is the norm at this track and the action is non-stop. The signs that further improvements are being made just leads to even more excitement over the future possibilities for Sunset. I for one look forward to returning again in the near future.

THANK YOU: Thank yous go to the many teams, officials and staff that helped make our visit a memorable one. You certainly have a great family atmosphere in the pit area and make visitors feel welcome. Also, thank you again to Mike Kiers for his hospitality and helpfulness in making sure we could get some quality photos.

WHO I MET: When we go to a track for the first time it’s hard to remember all of the people that I meet. A number of drivers and crewmembers were great in welcoming us to the track. While we were there though, I did get a chance to meet track General Manager Steve Slaughter, and Tech Director Ted Gray. Both men were very helpful and took care of any need we had. It is an organized group at Sunset, and it is evident that it comes from the top.

While in the infield my father also met Luke Greiner of PitPass.tv. Luke is launching a new website highlighting tracks, series and teams through video. You can contact Luke at LukeGr@hotmail.com.

WHO WAS THERE: As is the case every race night, the voice of Sunset Spencer Lewis was there and I had a chance to catch up with him. If you haven’t heard Spencer announce before, then you’re in for a treat. He knows his racing and he knows the drivers and their stories, but most of all he knows how to announce. It was a pleasure to stand in the tower with him on this night and keep informed on all the latest news from both on and off the track. You can also catch Spencer’s Ontario Asphalt Short Track Power Rankings column in every issue of Inside Track Motorsport News. To subscribe visit www.insidetracknews.com

WHO I MISSED: While both my father and I got to try a ‘Dilley Burger’ at Sunset, we unfortunately didn’t get to meet Mark himself. He was in Quebec on this evening competing in the NASCAR race at Trois-Rivieres. Everyone who spoke about Mark though had only great things to say about him. Hopefully in a future visit I will be able to meet him and thank him for the hospitality his staff showed towards us.

This edition of “On The Road” took us to a new location, and a newly renovated track to meet some new people who are race addicts like us. The visit was well worth the drive to see some of the best short track action we’ve seen all year.

We look forward to returning to Sunset International Speedway in the future, and meeting up again with our new friends. If you haven’t been to Sunset yet, I strongly urge you to visit. More information can be found at www.sunsetspeedway.ca.

That does it for this week’s edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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On The Road: The 401 Stretch

On The Road: The 401 Stretch

By Greg Calnan –  The summer months are the most hectic of the racing season and this year has been no different. Although we’re already into the month of August, I’d like to rewind to late July, and a weekend where many miles were traveled and many friends were met.

Friday, July 23rd is when the fun all began. Heavy rain at my home track – Ohsweken Speedway – forced management to cancel the racing for that evening very early in the morning. Quickly, I made arrangements with Lisa Brandt at Delaware Speedway to attend their show that night. The forecast was not the greatest, but this was a chance to finally see one of their weekly shows, as my only previous visit was for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. In only a couple of visits I have truly taken a liking to this track. The setting, the atmosphere and the track’s configuration just makes it an enjoyable place to go see a race.

VIEW DELAWARE PHOTO GALLERY

A brief shower interrupted the show early, but officials moved the program along and all the scheduled races were completed. The top attraction on the night was a pair of features for the NASCAR Late Models. The top class put on a pair of good races with Steve Robblee returning from a back injury to record a win and a pair of top-three finishes. The second feature went to first-time winner Andrew Gresel of Hepworth, Ontario. There was plenty of passing and action on this night, and a few teams went home with bent up racecars.

This would also be my first chance to see the Powerade Modifieds. These machines are not only cool looking, but can get around the ½ mile oval in a hurry. Paul Shipway took the win over the ever-powerful Jamie Cox. I had the stopwatch on the pair during the closing laps. Cox was gaining a good tenth of a second each time by, however the lead built by Shipway was enough to capture the win.

The Demar Aggregate Trucks were the third division on the docket at Delaware and were again entertaining to watch. Truck divisions have sprouted up all across North America, but this one had to be the best one I have seen so far. Jeff Showler of Mt. Elgin took the win in the caution-free 25 lap feature.

With Friday night in the books, it was time to return to Brantford for some sleep and to pack for a weekend in Eastern Ontario. Part of my announcing duties in 2010 includes working with the Ontario Dirt Late Models (ODLM). Debbie Brush and Ron Piotrowski have done a fantastic job with this young series and I jumped at the chance to help out where I could.

The ODLM season opener at Autodrome Edelweiss was also cancelled on Friday night so it meant things would kick off at one of my old home tracks, Brockville Ontario Speedway. It’s always a pleasure to return to the ‘BOS’, as owner Paul Kirkland and his staff are friendly and great to work with. I also look forward to returning to Brockville because I get to work with fellow announcers Steve Young, Dave Murphy and Tim Baltz.

If there were ever a Larry, Curly and Moe of Ontario race announcers, these three would fit the bill. Although they aren’t stooges per say, they certainly do enjoy having a good laugh at each other’s expense. Next time you’re there, get ready for a rousing rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’ at intermission. There aren’t enough words to explain this halftime show, but it has to be the most entertaining I have seen at any track. The crowd participation made it all that more fun.

VIEW BROCKVILLE PHOTO GALLERY / ODLM GALLERY

The racing at Brockville was great as expected. Despite being a tight little track, there is always plenty of passing and action. A full crowd was again on hand for a packed night of racing. The ODLM brought 27 cars to do battle and in the end it was David Scott of Garland, Pennsylvania taking the win. A multi-car pileup in the opening laps meant the local hotels in Brockville would be littered with car parts and crewmembers rebuilding their rides. This is part of the true tour experience. The other big winner of the night at the BOS was Sheldon Hoogwerf who captured his first ever DIRTcar Sportsman victory.

On Sunday we took a one-hour car ride down the 401 to Cornwall Motor Speedway. Anyone who knows me knows that Cornwall is one of my absolute favourite places to go see a race. Ron Morin is the owner of the track and keeps the facility in top condition. I am ashamed to say the infield grass at Cornwall is in better shape then my own yard. For Ron it isn’t just about the racing, and it shows.

To return to Cornwall as tour announcer of the ODLM was a privilege in every way. Having grown up going to Cornwall on a semi-regular basis, it meant a lot for me to finally have a chance to be behind the microphone there. My ‘tip of the cap’ on this trip has to go to the Cornwall Motor Speedway staff. From the moment I arrived the staff was extremely helpful, informative and courteous. Everyone I met went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I can’t say I have ever had a bad experience at a track with staff, but the folks at Cornwall were really top notch.

VIEW CORNWALL PHOTO GALLERY / ODLM GALLERY

I would also like to thank the sponsor who brought the free poutine up for the announcing crew. I’d like to say thank you, but I was too busy filling my face that I didn’t take time to write the name down. All I can say is if you like poutine, Cornwall wins it hands down. When the cheese curds are so fresh that they squeak in your mouth, you know its good poutine.

While at Cornwall there was also some racing to attend to. The ODLM feature was probably the best race I have seen in many years. No less than five drivers were in the hunt for the win, and the lead was seemingly up for grabs every time around in the closing laps. In the end, slower traffic worked to the benefit of Peter Mantha and he captured his first ever dirt late model victory. Hailing from Gatineau, Quebec, it was a home track victory of sorts for Mantha and the crowd was vocal in showing their support.

I don’t think three straight nights of racing at three different Ontario tracks could have been capped off much better than that feature. It was a lot of miles for both myself and my father / photographer Dale, but we had a great time at all three tracks.

THANK YOU: A big thank you goes out to both Debbie Brush and Ron Piotrowski of the Ontario Dirt Late Models. They have put an unbelievable amount of hours and effort into this traveling series and it shows. They treat all of their drivers, officials and volunteers in a first class way. I have never eaten so well, or seen a track or touring series put forth such a nice hospitality spread before a race. Between that and the track poutine I think I gained 20lbs that weekend. It was a really nice touch.

I would also like to thank each track for their hospitality. Delaware, Brockville and Cornwall are all great tracks to see a race, and their staff members are courteous and friendly.

WHO I MET: While at Brockville I met a fellow by the name of Bill Johnston. Bill is a crewmember on the #34 ODLM team of Jim Jones. Bill is in need of a new liver and is currently on a waiting list for a transplant. As part of becoming a solution to the problem, their car now carries the Gift of Life decals and they are spreading the word about the need to sign your organ donor card. For more information, you are encouraged to visit www.giftoflife.on.ca.

On Sunday at Cornwall I got a chance to meet one of my favourite drivers growing up, Stephane Lafrance. I was always a fan of his father, Marcel ‘The Hammer’, and I even have a photo of Stephane with his first street stock. I’ll pull that out for a feature article in the coming months. Stephane has been tearing it up this season in his own custom designed chassis. He has worked with many of the top chassis companies in the region, but the car he has this year seems to be some of his best work yet. It was a nice to meet one of the most unique innovators dirt racing has ever seen.

While at Cornwall I also had the opportunity to meet the folks from both Track Mart and Klotz Synthetic Lubricants. Both companies were on hand as part of their marketing partnerships with the ODLM. Jay from Track Mart gave away a DefNder Head & Neck Restraint System to the winner of the Track Mart Challenge. Gregg Haskell of Chatham was the winner of this terrific prize. Sam from Klotz was in attendance at both tracks and gave away a number of free t-shirts to the fans as well as a number of contingency prizes to the competitors. It was great to see companies being active in both promoting their products at the track and supporting local racing in Ontario. For more information on both companies visit www.trackmart.com and www.klotzcanada.com.

WHO WAS THERE: Upon arriving at Delaware Speedway both my father and I spotted Bill Oldroyd. Bill has been involved in many facets of racing and currently is the souvenir program designer at Ohsweken Speedway. With the races being cancelled earlier in the evening he too made the trip up the 401 to London. Shortly thereafter, our very own Open Wheel Columnist Tommy Goudge showed up turning the evening into an Ohsweken invasion.

While at Brockville the next evening I had a chance to catch up with both Craig Revelle and Henry Hannewyk. Craig is our Eastern Ontario Dirt Columnist, and also owns and operates Finish Line Designs (http://www.finishlinewebdesign.ca/). He has been a contributor to OntarioOval.com since day one and it was nice to finally meet up with him face to face.

Henry meanwhile is the track photographer at the BOS and is also the President of the Eastern Ontario Vintage Stock Car Club (http://www.easternontariovintagestockcarclub.com/). He has been a strong supporter of our efforts. A sample of his work can be seen at http://www.henryhannewykphotography.com/.

WHO I MISSED: It meant a lot for me to finally get the chance to announce at Cornwall Motor Speedway. Having gone there so many times as a youngster, it was special for me. However, I was disappointed that when my opportunity did come I wasn’t able to share the microphone with the voice of Cornwall, Brian Mulligan.

Brian recently underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour and has been recovering in hospital. I grew up listening to him call races at tracks all across the northeast and admired his work. It wasn’t the same announcing without him there, but it was great to hear he is making positive progress. Get well Brian, and I look forward to working with you next season.

This edition of “On The Road” took us from one end of the province to the other. Nearly 1800 kilometres were racked up on my father’s car, but it was worth the fun and laughs that we shared…easy for me to say as it wasn’t my car.

We look forward to returning to Brockville for the Fall Nationals in late October and encourage fans to visit www.brockvillespeedway.com and make plans to attend this huge weekend of racing.

That does it for this week’s edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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On The Road: South Buxton Raceway

On The Road: South Buxton Raceway

By Greg Calnan –  My latest journey ‘On The Road’ took me to the farthest reaches of Southwestern Ontario to a track that I have become very familiar with over the past few years. Just south of Chatham near the small town of Merlin is the South Buxton Raceway. This 3/8 mile D-shaped dirt oval has been a part of my summer travels for the past number of years while I held the duty of Southern Ontario Sprints tour announcer.

Although the SOS did not have a date there this year, Tommy Goudge – my co-announcer at Ohsweken – was asked to fill in for ASCS Sprints On Dirt tour announcer TJ Buffenbarger. TJ was unable to attend the South Buxton show so I tagged along with Tommy to lend a hand with the announcing duties, and spend some time promoting OntarioOval.com.

Our trips to South Buxton are generally a lot of fun. Although the drive from London to Chatham may be the flattest land this side of the prairies, we always manage to turn it into an adventure. Last year we took the scenic tour through Ridgetown and passed by the now defunct Ridge Raceway. Rumours a few years ago had it re-opening, but that never came true. It is a shame because there are so many great race fans and competitors in that region.

VIEW SOUTH BUXTON ‘ON THE ROAD’ GALLERY

This time around Tommy, along with my father Dale and myself were on a mission to track down a restaurant in Blenheim called Home Run. This burger joint is all the talk in Southwestern Ontario so we felt it was a must-visit. After some time driving around town we finally gave up and stopped to ask for directions. The meal lived up to the hype as I got a large double patty cheeseburger, an order of onion rings and a pop for just $7. It is hard to beat that much food for that low of a price. My arteries may not have thought it was a good deal, but my taste buds did.

After our pit stop we headed to the track. You can tell you are getting close to South Buxton by the fans that begin to appear just miles from the track. When I say fans I mean the large wind turbines that now dominate the area. Being so close to the shores of Lake Erie, wind energy harvesting has become a big deal in that area and the number of towers has increased by at least ten-fold over the past year.

When we arrived the real fans were filing in and packing the stands as they do on any given race night. We signed in and made our way to the pit area, and took some time to walk around to every team and introduce them to our website.  The response was positive and all the teams were genuinely friendly. Race time was just around the corner though and that friendliness turned into competitiveness. The show moved along very quickly and the racing action was great.

In 2010, track owner Scott Mihalco made the decision to lease the speedway out rather than operate it himself. A pair of familiar faces took over the reigns as Ann Rombouts and Dean Outhouse moved into the promoter’s position. Ann was a former owner of the speedway so it was a turning back of the clock of sorts.

South Buxton Raceway is as unique as it gets in Ontario. Unlike most local D-shaped tracks, the D-bend in the speedway surface is on the front stretch rather than the back. The layout is much like the Richmond Int’l Raceway and it creates a unique view of the race cars from the main grandstand. South Buxton’s top two divisions – the UMP Late Models and UMP Modifieds – are able to pull the left front wheel off the ground down the majority of the frontstretch.

My ‘tip of the cap’ on this night goes to South Buxton Raceway PR Director and Announcer Mike Bennett. When we arrived at the track Mike spotted us in the parking lot and came right to the entry gate to be sure we got signed in. When visiting a track it is always nice to be greeted by a friendly face and Mike made sure we were taken care of from the moment we pulled in.

Dustin Daggett of Portland, Michigan was the big winner on this night capturing the ASCS Sprints On Dirt feature. It was his second win in a row, as he walked away with the Northern Summer Nationals title one night earlier at Ohsweken.

Mike Lewis took his second UMP Late Model win of the season as did C.J. Field in the UMP Modified feature. Also grabbing their second wins of the year were Eric Vanderiviere in the Sport Stock class, and Denis DeSerrano in the Comp 4’s.

After a couple of wrong turns and a few laughs along the way, the OntarioOval.com crew was back on the 401 and on the way home. I don’t think we have ever had a bad trip to South Buxton and this was yet again another fun night. The track officials and competitors are always a pleasure to deal with, and the fans are top notch. Any time I have visited South Buxton, the atmosphere is always energetic, and the crowd is knowledgeable. We look forward to seeing all our friends at South Buxton again in 2011.

THANK YOU: Thanks to Ann Rombouts, and Blake and Dean Outhouse who were very hospitable to us all evening long. Dean and Blake also operate Outhouse Image & Design in Chatham. If you are a racer looking for a race car wrap or any other sign designs check them out at http://www.outhousesigns.ca/.

Again I would like to thank Mike Bennett for taking care of us and sharing the microphone as we announced the sprint car portion of the show. Mike does a tremendous amount of work promoting the speedway and also operates a website called http://www.cksportsonline.com/. The site features amateur sporting news from the Chatham-Kent region, along with special features from the track.

WHO I MET: I have seen Kirk Hooker race a number of times including back in the days that Brighton, The Ridge, South Buxton and Can-Am ran their Late Model Challenge series. Kirk is well known around the province for his accomplishments on both dirt and pavement. It was nice to finally meet him and talk about his season.

I also had the chance to meet Scott McKenzie who drives #28 in the Sport Stock division. Scott is part of FOG Speedway near Windsor. FOG – by the way – stands for Fat Old Guys Racing. Their kart track is a dirt oval that competes every Monday night from May to September. For more information visit www.cyberbiker.ca/fog/.

WHO WAS THERE: Once again I ran into James MacDonald of Apex One Photo. James is the track photographer at South Buxton, so this was his home turf we were invading. James is always great to talk to and share a laugh with. I must apologize for sabotaging his efforts in my last column as I misspelled his website address. You can check out his work at http://www.apexonephoto.com/. Really, this is the correct link this time.

Also in attendance was Dale Shunamon. Dale is well known around the province for his work on the flagstand with both the Can-Am Midgets and weekly at Ohsweken Speedway. As I youngster growing up I wanted to be a flagman, having watched such greats as Andy ‘Rags’ Mahaffey at Can-Am and DIRTcar’s Dave Farney. Dale Shunamon ranks right up with the best of them because of the show he puts on atop the stand, along with his professionalism he holds about his position.

WHO I MISSED: The person I missed on this night was Glenn Styres. Glenn wasn’t able to make the show, but his teammates were in attendance. The reason I missed Glenn being there is because his two-seater sprint car was on hand, but he wasn’t there to drive it. Over the past few weeks Styres Racing has put together a pair of 410 sprint car two-seaters, and have been treating fans to the ride of their lives. Hopefully the extra long #0 and its driver will be in attendance for the second sprint show at South Buxton on August 21st. For fans interested in taking a ride, visit http://www.ohswekenspeedway.com/ for information on weekly opportunities.

We had another fun visit to South Buxton Raceway and had a chance to see much of Southwestern Ontario. Thank you to the track, its fans and its teams for welcoming us on this night. We will definitely be back next season.

That does it for this week’s edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”

For more information on South Buxton Raceway visit http://www.southbuxtonraceway.com/.

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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On The Road: Merrittville Speedway

On The Road: Merrittville Speedway

By Greg Calnan – Once again OntarioOval.com was ‘On The Road’, this time at a familiar track to see a familiar series. You can tell summer is near when mid-week specials start appearing on the racing calendar. This special event came on Thursday, June 17th as the World of Outlaws Late Models were at Merrittville Speedway for their first ever event at the Thorold, Ontario facility.

Merrittville Speedway is a track that I have attended many times over the years, although none very recently. During my younger years, my family would take a week of our summer holidays to visit my uncle and aunt in Niagara Falls. My Uncle Larry is one of many racing addicts in our family, so anytime we were in town to visit, it meant a trip to Merrittville.

As a kid I grew up watching Marcel LaFrance, Doug Carlyle, John Dahm and the O’Briens race at Brockville, Can-Am and Cornwall. It was always fun to go to Merrittville once a year and see the likes of Pete Bicknell, Brian Stevens, Jimmy Bigelo and Fred Cade. I’d find myself wondering how my favourite drivers back home would fare against the best from the Niagara region. Nowadays with the way teams travel, we see them competing head-to-head on many occasions without any thought.

VIEW MERRITTVILLE PHOTO GALLERY

On this night, top billing went to the World of Outlaws Late Model tour. It marked their first visit to the 3/8 mile clay oval, and with former DIRTcar Big Block stars Tim Fuller and Tim McCreadie in the field it was bound to be a hot ticket. I had the privilege to see and even help announce the tour in both 2008 and 2009 as they made stops at my Friday night home – Ohsweken Speedway. Both races were great, and although I was disappointed they wouldn’t be returning in 2010 I very quickly made plans to see them at Merrittville. The decision was a good one, as again they put on another exciting show.

Upon arrival you could sense the special event feeling in the air. The pit area was packed with large haulers. I spent some time walking around and talking to a number of people including the full roster of Hoosier Stock teams that were preparing for their Duel In The Dirt race that evening.

Making the trip with me to Merrittville was my father and OntarioOval.com photographer Dale Calnan, along with our Open Wheel Columnist Tommy Goudge. My father always heads to in the infield to get action shots, and on this night both Tommy and I decided we would take in the action from the same location. This was our best decision of the night. We stood in between turns 3 and 4, which was the prime location. Not only was that the spot to watch these powerful Late Models come to life as the green flag flew, but the entry to corner 3 was also their highest point of speed.

I quickly learned that most photographers are as crazy as the race car drivers themselves. Many of them stood right next to the infield guardrail taking pictures as the cars raced by them… just inches from the other side of the wall. They could have reached out and touched them as they went by. I spend most race nights high up in the tower, so this was new for me. Needless to say the brave person that I am, I tucked myself in neatly behind a couple of large tractor tires and a light post. I figured they wouldn’t stop a car completely, but would at least give me time to run. I had two close calls in previous infield experiences so my nerve has slowly faded over the years.

The atmosphere on this night was electric; it was what mid-week shows are all about. The Hoosier Stock feature was a good one, as many times cars were three and even four wide racing for position.

My ‘tip of the cap’ on this night goes to Doug Anderson. Doug is a regular at Brighton Speedway in the Pro Stock division, but made the trek to Thorold to run the Duel in the Dirt event. A cut tire in his heat race relegated him to start 19th in the 25 lap feature. He had an impressive drive making his way up to 5th when the checkers flew. If there had been one late race caution I believe he might have had something for the leaders.

Regardless, it was a great run considering he was racing against drivers he doesn’t normally compete against on a track that he doesn’t get to visit very often. Graham McKay – who had one of the nicest paint jobs I have ever seen on a Street Stock – won the race in a close finish over Dolf McCready.

The moment of the night came at the start of the 50 lap World of Outlaws Late Model feature. Being in corner 4 for the initial green flag was one of those moments you never forget. To hear the full field come to life, to feel the rumble in the ground and to see the flickering of fireworks light up the sky as the green flag flew is what racing is all about.  We were there to see a show and that is exactly what we saw.

The only head-scratcher of the night came on a mid-race restart when leader Steve Francis didn’t get on the gas and the field bunched up behind him like a bad day on the QEW.  At the end of 50 laps it was Edwards, New York driver Tim Fuller standing in victory lane for the second race in a row. He had won a couple of nights earlier near his hometown at Can-Am Speedway in Lafargeville, New York.

Tim climbed from the car to a round of cheers and was quickly surrounded by a local dinner theatre group dressed in Canadian apparel. He was awarded a number of items, – including his cheque for $10,000 – but most impressive was the custom-made aluminum trophy he received. The piece weighed 33 pounds and was one of the most unique and impressive looking trophies I have seen in short track racing. One thing can be said, Merrittville Speedway knows how to do things right, and they showed that on this night.

THANK YOU: Thanks to Erica Bicknell and the entire Merrittville Speedway staff for their hospitality. I didn’t get to talk to Erica on this night, but she has always been a pleasure to deal with. Also, a thank you goes out to the race teams that we stopped and chatted with. It was a pleasure to meet you and have a chance to promote OntarioOval.com.

WHO I MET: Although I have known Derek Smith for quite a while now, I am not sure that we had officially met in person and had a chance to talk. Derek runs a website called www.RacePulse.com where he posts a variety of information along with the thousands of photos he takes. He can be found at just about any race track in Ontario on any given weekend. His shots are first class. As a graphic artist myself, I have always appreciated the unique angles and style of photos he takes. He certainly likes to think outside of the box and his great photos show that.

WHO WAS THERE: Again we met up with Joe and Sue from Race Time Radio. They spend countless hours traveling to tracks all across the country and it shows in the quality of their shows. Tune in weekly at www.racetimeradio.com.

The folks from Have Bus Racing Tours were also in attendance with a busload from Eastern Ontario. Among the passengers was Huck Flindall, the voice of Brighton Speedway, along with his son Rob and a cast of many other fans. I am not certain, but if census had been taken in the Brighton area that evening there would have been a sharp decrease in the population. I had to constantly make sure I was at the right track.

Also on hand on this night was James MacDonald of Apex One Photos. James is the track photographer at South Buxton, but travels to many different races across North America and gets some incredible shots. It was a pleasant surprise to see him the next night at Ohsweken. You can check out his work at http://www.apexonephoto.com/.

WHO I MISSED: As mentioned before, I didn’t get a chance to catch up with Erica Bicknell.

I also didn’t have a chance to track down the voice of the Outlaws, Rick Eshelman. I had the chance to work with Rick the previous two years at Ohsweken and he has always been a first class announcer.

Unfortunately, I also didn’t get a chance to see Ron Piotrowski who handles marketing and promotions for the Ontario Dirt Late Models. I saw his car in the parking lot and others told me he was there, but our paths never crossed. Ron has done a phenomenal job preparing sponsorship for the 2010 ODLM season, which starts in late July at Autodrome Edelweiss. Their full schedule is available at www.ontariodirtlatemodels.com.

My return trip to Merrittville was a memorable one to say the least. It was a night that had a fantastic buzz about it and great action on the track topped it off. A special thanks goes out to Adam Ross of www.DirtTrackDigest.com who headed up our live updates during the evening. The coverage was well received and we look forward to bringing you more updates from events around the province.

My only negative comment on the night comes in the form of a ‘Two Thumbs Down” to the group of guys who left their buddy stranded in the parking. As we left the track this gentleman was looking for a ride to Welland as his friends had all left in separate cars and not one had remembered to take him home. The worst part was, he was the one that organized the night and ordered the tickets. I’ll bet he goes by himself next time.

That does it for this weeks edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”

For more information on Merrittville Speedway visit http://www.merrittvillespeedway.com 

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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On The Road: Delaware Speedway

On The Road: Delaware Speedway

By Greg Calnan – For the second instalment of “On The Road” I’ll once again go back to the first weekend of June. As documented in my first column, I made the trip to Kawartha Speedway on that Friday evening. The weather was threatening, but I managed to see the entire racing card to the finish.

The following day featured a trip to Delaware Speedway just outside of London, Ontario. The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series was set to open its season at the half mile oval, and the forecast was much worse than the previous day. The weatherman played nice though, and what I saw was yet another great night of racing.

VIEW PHOTO GALLERY FROM DELAWARE SPEEDWAY

This was my second trip to Delaware, but my first with cars actually doing laps. That first visit came at the beginning of the 2009 season. I made it to the track just in time for the races to be cancelled due to weather. The track staff was nice enough to let me go onto the racing surface and roam the pit area as teams packed up.

I took some time to take a few pictures and just take in the unique setting of this track. Delaware truly is a special place. It’s hard to describe, but when you get there you can almost feel the history and tradition from all the years gone past. The main grandstand sits on the side of a hill, which gives the crowd a fantastic view of the entire track and the skyline well beyond it. It was one of the few times I wasn’t totally disappointed leaving a wet racetrack. Just getting to see Delaware was worth the trip.

Fast forward to June 5th, 2010 and the forecast again looked dismal, but with the track only a little over an hour from my home base in Brantford, it was worth another try. When we got there, the atmosphere certainly was different from a traditional weekly show. You could tell immediately without seeing a race car that this was a NASCAR event. The concession area was filled with vendors of all sorts, and fans of all ages were filing in with their favourite driver’s t-shirts and hats on.

We signed in just in time to catch qualifying for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. With no time to get to the pit entrance, we took in the session from the main grandstand area and the view was terrific. Local favourite DJ Kennington won the pole (19.22 seconds), much to the approval of the crowd.

Qualifying wrapped up and we headed to the infield, where all the teams pit on a race night.  With a brief break in the action we had the chance to get some photographs and wander the pit area. Joining the race card was a 50 lap Delaware Super Stock feature that was top notch. Steve “Pee Wee” Smith took the win in what was a clean race considering the much longer distance for a weekly division.

During the Super Stock race I got to see how truly treacherous turn two is at Delaware. Early race leader Jared Shields ran up the hill and out of room. He managed to ride his right side tires on the wall and back down to safety without missing a beat. For my first taste of racing action at Delaware, that was impressive.

When the Super Stock feature was complete and the NASCAR teams headed to the front-stretch for their pre-race autograph session, the skies opened up. Thankfully we only needed a brief moment of cover in the infield canteen before the rain ceased and the festivities continued.

I had been to a few CASCAR races in the past, but this was my first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race. I was thoroughly impressed by the entire evening. I have been to many Cup races all across the U.S. and this event definitely had that feeling of a professionally run show. The pre-race autograph session was a huge hit with the fans.

This week my ‘tip of the cap’ goes to Jason White and the #21 A&W team who not only had autograph cards to hand out, but cold cans of A&W Root Beer. That was a nice touch and well received by fans both young and old. When they start handing out A&W onion rings, my elbows will be clearing my way to the front of the line.

Due to the forecast and earlier sprinkle, the race officials wisely moved the event schedule up half an hour. This was a good move and proved to be a timely decision in the end. Only a couple of minor showers slowed the action, and the entire 200 laps were completed and full of action.

The first half of the race was clean, with the main stories being DJ Kennington’s domination, and rookie Steven Mathews contending up front. The second half of the race was heated on many fronts and there were more than a few torn up race cars in the garage by the end of the night.

On the whole, the racing was good. There was plenty of side-by-side racing and exchanges for the lead. The finish came down to the final corner with DJ Kennington beating out JR Fitzpatrick for the win. A home-track win always makes for a good story line in any race.

The timing of the race was near perfect as the skies again opened up on the way home. Somehow two races I thought I wouldn’t get to see were in the record books, and both left me impressed and wanting more.

Delaware Speedway truly is a unique and fun place to watch a race. I look forward to returning on Wednesday, July 7th when Kyle Busch, David Reutimann and Regan Smith invade Delaware for the first annual Summer Showdown. Sparks will surely fly that night.

THANK YOU: Thanks go out to Delaware’s Public and Media Relations Official Linda Brandt who took care of my requests to attend the show. She has been a pleasure to deal with, as we try to make a name for OntarioOval.com across the province. The entire track staff is first class and knows how to promote a race track. I thank them for their hospitality during the evening.

WHO I MET: This time around I got to meet another person I had heard much about, but had never spoken to – Jamie Maudsley. You name it and Jamie does it when it comes to motorsports in Ontario. His website www.maudsleymotorsports.com is loaded with tons of great racing photos and press releases from around the province. He also works as an announcer at the track and is the voice of the Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup Series.

I also had a chance to finally meet Joe Chisolm from Race Time Radio. In a very short time, Joe and Sue have turned their radio show and website into a huge success. For their broadcast schedules check out www.racetimeradio.com.

WHO WAS THERE: As is the case at every NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race, Adam Ross was on hand. I have known Adam quite well for a few years now, but this was my first chance to hear him announce in this type of setting. After listening for most of the night on the FM channel at the track I can say that the series picked the right man for the job. His knowledge of motorsports and professionalism on the microphone makes him the perfect fit… and he didn’t even pay me to say that.

I also met up with Inside Track Motorsport News Editor Greg MacPherson. It’s always good to see Greg as I don’t believe I have ever seen him without a smile on his face. You can check out his column and articles inside every issue of Inside Track. Log on to www.insidetracknews.com to learn how to subscribe.

WHO I MISSED: This week the person I missed was actually at the track, but didn’t compete in the Super Stock feature as I had hoped. After following the off-season Facebook updates of JR Fitzpatrick as he built his Super Stock I was anxious to see this hot rod in action. JR elected to leave the car at home for another day much to my dismay. Maybe I will catch it in action in the near future.

All in all, my first chance to take in a race at Delaware was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go back. My first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race was also one that left me looking at the calendar to see when I could catch another round of action. Thankfully, it looks like the calendar will work into my favour, and I’ll be able to accomplish both again in 2010.

That does it for this weeks edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”

For more information on Delaware Speedway visit http://www.delawarespeedway.com
For more information on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series visit http://www.nascar.ca 

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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On The Road: Kawartha Speedway

On The Road: Kawartha Speedway

By Greg Calnan (June 10, 2010) – Now that OntarioOval.com has officially launched and is becoming a regular destination for Ontario short track fans, it is time to introduce my column called On The Road. It will be a chance for me to review different tracks and events that we travel to as we spread the word about our website.

The first journey I would like to document took place on Friday, June 4th. My normal destination on a Friday night is Ohsweken Speedway where I am a track announcer and web designer. Unfortunately due to poor weather during the week the evening’s races were cancelled early that morning. This opened a rare opportunity to visit one of the other two Friday night facilities in Ontario… either Delaware or Kawartha. Knowing I would be at Delaware the following night for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race and seeing that OSCAAR was on the schedule at Kawartha I very quickly decided to make the trip to Fraserville.

I had been to Kawartha Speedway a few times in the past, but had only seen one race there. It was during the opening season as they hosted the CASCAR Super Series on Canada Day of 2001. Very quickly I could tell that the aging of the track’s surface had created many more grooves of racing compared to my first trip there. Myself, along with Tommy Goudge and our photographer Dale Calnan arrived early enough to see the last few practice sessions before the drivers meeting and were immediately impressed.

This would be my first chance to see the high horse-powered OSCAAR Super Late Models. The moment we got parked and opened the doors all we could hear was the roar of these mean sounding machines. It didn’t take very long to grab our things and make our way up towards the fence to catch a glimpse.

Those who haven’t had the chance to visit Kawartha Speedway really need to make the trip. The stock car track is located inside the 1-mile horse track, making a very unique setting on race night. Portable grandstands are moved into place for each event. There is seating available in the large glassed-in grandstand, but the real hardcore fans bring their camp chairs and sit right up by the fence. Talk about getting a sense of the speed!

When we arrived we made our way up to the corner three fence and watched most of the racing from there. We did unfortunately move down to corner two later on in the evening, but more on that later.

Once practice was over we roamed the pit area for a chance to hand out some stickers and promotional material to spread the word about OntarioOval.com. The teams and drivers were very friendly and receptive to our visit. We were able to meet a number of new people and make some new connections.

The drivers meeting was filled with smiling faces and a few rounds of applause, which told me right away that this was obviously opening night… no one had the chance to be upset about anything yet. One of the claps for approval came when Track Promoter Derek Lynch announced that new seating was being brought in for 2010. He wasn’t confident it would be ready for the next show on June 18th, but he did say it would be ready for use later this season. Once the meeting was over it was time to hit the track for some racing action.

Things started off with a roar as the OSCAAR Super Late Models took to the track first for their qualifying heats. As we stood in turn three we watched them climb the banking in turn two before rocketing down the backstretch, it was quite the sight. These cars truly are fast and can whip around the surface with amazing control.

The evening moved along very quickly as qualifiers and semi-features were completed with only one uncontrollable hiccup. OSCAAR was first up for feature time and the sparks would fly by the end of the race. Glenn Watson won the event, but the main story was a late race incident. Contact between Brandon Watson and Wayne Isaacs sent Isaacs hard into the turn three wall. Unfortunately, we had decided to watch the features from corner two for a different perspective and missed the incident in turn three. Talk about bad timing. We decided to return to our corner three spot, and checked out the action at the Watson trailer after the wreck. There was quite a crowd, but that was about all we could see.

From there on out we watched the regular divisions do battle in their feature events. All three classes had exciting races right down to the end. Chris Morrow held on for the win in the Late Models over a hard charging Dan McHattie who made his way through the entire field after early race problems. The Thunder Car win went to Norm Mayhew while the Mini Stock race went to Kelly Wood. And let me say this, if you want to see Talladega type action without the trip to Alabama, go to Kawartha to see one of their Mini Stock races. It was wild and woolly to say the least. My ‘tip of the cap’ for the night goes to the #2 of Too Moroney who was the class of the field this night, but crashed into the front stretch wall in a three-way battle for the win.

As the final feature drew to a close the skies opened up, just in time for the drive home. Needless to say the decision to visit Kawartha Speedway was an excellent one. Team OntarioOval.com was impressed by the facility, the staff and the racing.

THANK YOU: Thanks go out to Derek Lynch and Jessica Moya-Brown who treated us like royalty that evening. Considering our website was less than a week old and we had just called for media access earlier that afternoon they bent over backwards to accommodate us. You won’t meet a better-organized or nicer bunch in all of racing.

WHO WE MET: It was nice to finally meet Spencer Lewis who is one of the main voices of asphalt racing in this province. We were able to hear him loud and clear from the pits all night and he made it entertaining and informative. We also were able to meet up with Don McLeod who does a great job with Public Relations and Web design for OSCAAR. He writes some really interesting articles on the teams that follow the tour at their website www.oscaar.ca

WHO WAS THERE: Laura Lamb from Inside Track Motorsports News was on-hand with their bright red tent on display. It’s hard to miss that tent so make sure you stop by and support the Official Publication of Canadian Motorsports when they are at your home track. You can also check them out online at www.insidetracknews.com. Also in attendance was my friend Doug Andrews from Have Bus Racing Tours. They have a good thing going with their race tours. I had a chance to check out one of their busses and it is like a hotel on wheels. When they are at the track stop by and say hi, you won’t be disappointed. For upcoming tour dates visit www.havebus.com.

WHO WE MISSED: Unfortunately Kawartha Speedway PR Director and Announcer Jim Clarke was not in attendance. A nagging back injury has him sidelined at the moment. We wish him the best in recovery and hope that he gets to a racetrack soon before they have to put him in a rubber room. Get well Jim!

Overall my return to Kawartha Speedway was a great one. It’s unfortunate that I am not able to make it there more often, but if the stars align again I will surely be returning. Everything about the experience was a positive one from the way were treated, to the very clean washrooms to the excellent food. Most of all though was the racing action. If you like side-by-side, down-to-the-wire racing then Kawartha Speedway is high on my suggestion list.

Hopefully you enjoyed this first instalment of my column, I plan to be travelling many kilometres in 2010 so there is much more to come. So until next time I will see you “On The Road!”

For more information on Kawartha Speedway visit http://www.kawarthaspeedway.com

Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at news@ontariooval.com

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