Posted on 16 September 2011.
The following is a special edition of the Open Wheel Report. Our Open Wheel Columnist, Tommy Goudge, takes a look at some of the top names that will be in contention for the 7th Annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals win on Saturday, September 17th at Ohsweken Speedway.
By Tommy Goudge (September 15, 2010) – The much-anticipated seventh annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals take centre stage at Ohsweken Speedway starting tonight and finishing up on Saturday. With seventy or more of the best Sprint Car teams in North America expected to compete for the top prize of $11,000, it’s not easy to pick who will make the feature field on Saturday night, let alone who might win it. That said, I’ll still give it my best shot and try to outline some of the names I think you’ll hear when it’s time to introduce the thirty starters of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals A-Feature on Saturday, September 17.
#1z Jessica Zemken (Sprakers, New York)…“JZ” looked to be one of the drivers to beat in last year’s Nationals after she dominated much of the Friday portion of the event, and set fast time on Saturday. Her luck ran out in a tough Saturday heat race when she drew the number six pill for heat race inversion, and couldn’t make up enough ground to gain a transfer spot. Jessica then won her B-Main and charged from row ten to salvage fourth place in the Nationals feature. She also had a strong run going in 2009 before a flat tire took her out of contention.
#2m Dustin Daggett (Grand Ledge, Michigan)…Daggett is the only driver to qualify for all six Nationals features, and has finished fourth on Saturday three times. He started in row twelve last year after trouble in his heat race, and finished fifth. He’s well on his way to another ASCS Sprints on Dirt championship, and has seven feature wins on that tour’s trail this season. He was on his way to a possible Northern Summer Nationals win in August before spinning, restarting at the tail, and putting on a show to recover for a podium finish. Daggett is currently tied for second all-time in Ohsweken feature wins, with nine.
#3g Shane Stewart (Brownsburg, Indiana)…Stewart must be considered the prohibitive favourite to win on Saturday night. He’s held the big cheque in the winner’s circle at Ohsweken in each of the last two years, and returns this year with the same Gaerte/Norman team. The Oklahoma-born racer is enjoying another great season in his regular Silva #57 ride on the ASCS National tour as he leads the points standings, and has three feature wins, including another triumph in the Knoxville 360 Nationals. He also stole the show in the (410) Knoxville Nationals when he finished runner-up to Donny Schatz in the Saturday finale after starting in the ninth row.
#7x Jamie Collard (Burford, Ontario)…Collard broke into the Engine Pro Racing Winner’s Circle at Ohsweken in a big way last month, scoring three consecutive feature wins. His streak began with an impressive charge from twenty-first to get the Northern Summer Nationals win on August 19. Since qualifying eighth and finishing eleventh with his 360 engine against the World of Outlaws at Ohsweken in July, Collard has claimed four feature wins and a runner-up in nine races at assorted tracks. His quest for four feature wins in a row at Ohsweken was derailed by a hard crash on the opening lap last Friday, and the Hill’s Racing team worked hard this week to get the car back together.
#15h Sam Hafertepe, Jr. (Sunnyvale, Texas)…Sam returned to Ohsweken in July and scored the feature win over a talented field on Tony Stewart night. Hafertepe and Canadian crew chief Daryl Turford have been running a “true Outlaw” schedule this year, racing where and when they choose instead of chasing points with one series. The result has been seven feature wins for Sam this season, including his first ever World of Outlaws series triumph, along with 23 finishes in the top 5 while racing all over North America.
#22h Randy Hannagan (Pittsboro, Indiana)…Like Stewart and Hafertepe, “The Hurricane” is a former World of Outlaws series regular. Hannagan has been racing on the NRA Invaders series trail this season, and is officially the champion of that series for 2011 with four feature wins. The California-born driver competed in his first Nationals last year and finished 13th after starting 30th on the grid. Hannagan and car owner Dennis Yoakam have formed a solid team this season, which should lead to good results on Saturday night.
#28fm Steve Poirier (Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloiel, Quebec)…One of the most successful drivers in Nationals history, and definitely the most successful Canadian, Poirier has entered the Nationals five times, and never finished worse than seventh. He won in his 2006 Nationals debut, and again the following season. The three time Empire Super Sprints series champ gave Shane Stewart all he could handle last year at the Nationals before fading to third and Top Canadian honours. Poirier has seven Empire Super Sprints feature wins this season, and currently sits second in the ESS standings.
#45 Chuck Hebing (Ontario, New York)…“The Cobra” has been the Nationals runner-up in each of the last two years, and has finished in the top ten in four out of five Nationals attempts. He currently leads the Empire Super Sprints championship chase, and has won six ESS features this season, including last Saturday’s special event at Can/Am Motorsports Park. He’s been to Ohsweken’s winner’s circle twice before in his career.
#51 Bryan Howland (Auburn, New York)…Howland may have the worst luck of any Nationals driver. A perennial favourite to win, Howland’s most recent Nationals misfortune came when he suffered injuries in last year’s Night Before the Nationals and wasn’t able to race on Saturday night. He scored third at the Nationals in 2008, and recovered from a heat race crash to charge from twenty-eighth to eleventh in 2009. Bryan is a four time Patriot Sprint Tour champion, and has three career feature wins at Ohsweken.
#77x Wayne Johnson (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)…The 2008 Nationals winner had to sit out last year’s event, and much of last season in fact, while rehabbing from a serious leg injury. Wayne finished third in the 2009 Nationals, and returned to Ohsweken this year on August 26, finishing second to teammate Jamie Collard in a Corr/Pak event. He also traveled with the Hill’s Racing team to Brockville the following night and dominated the Patriot Sprint Tour event there.
#0 Dave Dykstra (Port Colborne, Ontario)…The 2010 Ohsweken Sprint Car champ has had a tough season with blown engines and crashes. Dykstra has been filling in for the injured Glenn Styres over the past few weeks, and had a strong run from the fifth row to finish fourth in last week’s Season Championship feature. Styres drove the #0 to eighth last year at the Nationals, and set fast time in 2009. Dykstra scored his fourth career feature win at Ohsweken in July, and sits tied for sixth on the all-time feature win list.
#07x Dain Naida (Tecumseh, Michigan)…Naida was a name mentioned among potential track champions before this season began, but his Ohsweken luck has not been great this year. He scored a feature win at Owendale, Michigan against the ASCS Sprints on Dirt series last month, and has finished in the top ten at the Nationals twice in five attempts. A top six starting spot in last year’s Nationals was derailed after early contact damaged his car.
#7 Kyle Moffit (South Dayton, New York)…Moffit has shown flashes of dominance while racing weekly at Ohsweken over the past couple of seasons, and was in his own time zone when he won on opening night this year. A crash and some mechanical problems prevented him from contending for the title, but he did get a top five finish in the points chase for a second consecutive season. Moffit finished eleventh in last year’s Nationals feature after starting in row eleven.
#14h Jim Huppunen (Fenwick, Ontario)…Consistency and two consecutive feature wins in July propelled Huppunen to the 2011 championship at Ohsweken. He finished outside the top ten just once all year in fourteen Corr/Pak division races. Jim qualified for the Nationals feature in his second attempt last season, and it’s a good bet he’ll improve on that twenty-first place finish this time around.
#21k Lou Kennedy, Jr. (Winnipeg, Manitoba)…Kennedy’s second attempt at the Nationals last year was going very well until he suffered damage early in the feature and did not finish. Prior to that, he won his heat race, and started third in the feature. He has three feature wins and ten finishes in the top ten this season racing in the upper Midwest and Canadian prairies.
#35 Jared Zimbardi (Salamanca, New York)…”The Juice” is the 2011 Patriot Sprint Tour champion, and scored three feature wins with that series this year. He also competed at Ohsweken five times this year, and scored a win and four finishes in the top five. The only blemish on his Ohsweken record this season is a crash during the Northern Summer Nationals that kept him out of that feature. Surprisingly, Jared hasn’t been in the top ten at the Nationals yet, but it’s only a matter of time before he breaks through.
#42w Rick Wilson (Joyceville, Ontario)…”The Joyceville Jet” is fifth on the all-time Ohsweken Speedway feature win list, and leads the all-time SOS tour win list. He collected four Southern Ontario Sprints feature wins this year, including a sweep in the Brighton Speedway Labour Day Classic. Rick has finished in the top ten twice at the Nationals, including a charge from twenty-fifth to tenth last year.
#0 Kyle Sauder (Archbold, Ohio)…Kyle is a hired gun for car owner Glenn Styres this weekend, after spending the season racing all over the midwest with the #7k team. He finished second to Randy Hannagan in the NRA Invaders series standings, and scored four feature wins so far this year, including an Ohio Sprint Speedweek victory against the All Star Circuit of Champions at Limaland in June. He’ll make his first Nationals attempt this weekend, but has tons of team experience to draw from, with track owner Styres in his corner.
#5 Keith Dempster (Alton, Ontario)…The 2008 Ohsweken track champ and two time SOS champ has not had luck go his way this season, and he’s never had particularly good fortune at the Nationals either. He finally qualified for his first Nationals feature last year after five previous attempts, and has the experience, talent, and good equipment, and he’s overdue for a good showing. Dempster is tied for second all-time on the Ohsweken Sprint Car win list with nine victories, including the 2003 Canadian Sprint Car Championship.
#17j Lance Yonge (Penn Yan, New York)…A former Empire Super Sprints champion, Yonge’s best Nationals finish came in 2005, when he finished third. The veteran driver has been in the top ten at the Nationals in each of the last two seasons, including sixth last year. He has a feature win and sixteen finishes in the top ten on the ESS trail this year.
#32 Justin Barger (Montrose, New York)…Barger finally broke into the top ten at the Nationals last year with a ninth place finish on Saturday night. He recorded an ESS feature win in May’s Earl Halaquist Memorial at Fonda, New York, and a Patriot Sprint Tour win at Little Valley Speedway in July.
#33k Kyle Patrick (Tilbury, Ontario)…The “Tilbury Tornado” was in contention for the Ohsweken championship this season right up to the final race, until an opening lap crash last week ended his title hopes. He scored a feature win at Ohsweken in August, and recorded eight finishes in the top five. His best career Nationals finish was ninth, back in 2005.
#49t Gregg Dalman (Bellvue, Michigan)…Dalman’s Nationals record may come as a surprise to some. In five Nationals attempts, he’s finished sixth twice, and seventh last season after starting twenty-first. He scored a feature win and finished tenth in the NRA Invaders standings this year, and had six top five finishes in seven ASCS Sprints on Dirt events too.
#87 Jason Barney (Constantia, New York)…Barney and fellow New Yorker Chuck Hebing are the only drivers with two runner-up finishes in the Nationals on their resume. He is one of only seven drivers to finish in the top ten in the Nationals three or more times. He scored an Empire Super Sprints win two weeks ago at Canandaigua Speedway.
#6s Ben Rutan (Jerome, Michigan)…Rutan hasn’t competed at the Nationals since 2008, but he’ll be back this year in a potent ride – the Ron Hammons-owned #6 normally driven by J.R. Stewart, who is unavailable to race this weekend. Rutan has raced only sporadically this season, but does have a couple of top five finishes against the ASCS Sprints on Dirt series in 2011. Stewart finished third in the NRA Invaders series standings this year with the Hammons team.
#13 Kevin Ward, Jr. (Port Leyden, New York)…Kevin is currently fourth in the ESS tour standings and has a feature win and eleven top five finishes this season on that tour. He finished fourteenth in his first Nationals appearance last season, and was one of the fastest cars on the track in the later stages of the race, which gave the leaders fits when trying to lap him.
#17 Jared Horstman (Cloverdale, Ohio)…Horstman will make his first Nationals start this weekend. He’s a consistent driver, and split time with the NRA Invaders series and ASCS Sprints on Dirt. He scored top ten finishes in six of seven SOD events, and eight of ten NRA events.
#33 Shawn Donath (South Onondaga, New York)…Shawn Donath isn’t a household name at Ohsweken, but he’s become one in New York state with the ESS tour. Donath has two feature wins and eleven top five finishes on the ESS trail this season, and is currently third in the ESS points standings. He’s driving for Doug Emery, who has prior Nationals experience, including a top ten in 2008.
#51 Lee Ladouceur (Alexandria, Ontario)…”General Lee” focused on winning the Southern Ontario Sprints title this year, and accomplished his goal, finishing out of the top ten only once all season. He didn’t make the feature at last year’s Nationals, but he did qualify for it in 2008 and 2009, and drove from twenty-fourth to thirteenth in 2009.
#80 Chris Steele (Fenwick, Ontario)…Ohsweken fans saw why Chris was tagged with the nickname “The Real Deal”, as the young driver was in contention for a handful of Corr/Pak division feature wins this year. He was runner-up to Jamie Collard two weeks ago, finished third last week, and seems to be getting faster at the right time.
NEXT UP AT OHSWEKEN:
Please visit www.OhswekenSpeedway.com for more information on the Seventh Annual Arrow Express Canadian Sprint Car Nationals.
Friday’s Night Before the Nationals has a full slate of racing, with Twin 15 lap features for Sprint Cars, plus the Ohsweken Shootout, and Dave McLeod Memorial Mr. Sprint Car Challenge, and Vintage Cars.
The weekend finishes with the big $11,000-to-win Arrow Express Canadian Sprint Car Nationals on Saturday night, September 17!
Ticket information, gate times, special Nationals coverage including past results and much more is all available on www.OhswekenSpeedway.com.