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The Northwestern View: IRacing Helps Me Through The Winter

The Northwestern View: IRacing Helps Me Through The Winter

By Anthony Leek – Ever since my fiancée purchased the G27 Logitech racing wheel for a Christmas gift, I have been racing almost every day on iracing.com. The simulator has been great at allowing me to forget that it is -40C outside and three feet of snow. After several weeks of the end of season 4 2012, I have been running for points in the B Class Impala fixed class. After the first week of the season, I was 14th of 75 drivers in my division (Division 6) after the first week at Homestead. I ran 18 races with 1 win, 8 top 5s and a couple did not finish from wrecking. Not bad for a first week!

The realism in terms of graphics is amazing (could be better, but remember the wide range of computers out there), and the sound is currently being upgraded on many car models. The realism of the track when steering while racing is top notch and improvements are always being made. I would have to admit very quickly that I am addicted to racing due to iracing.

But that doesn’t mean it is cheap to run on the simulator. It costs money to buy the cars, tracks, and you have to have a membership as well. Luckily, they have membership deals all the time to help you decide. When I purchased my membership in December, it was half price for a year! It is a pretty good price for an amazing product.

Not only that, but you have to earn your way up to the higher classes by racing clean and increasing your safety score to get a better license. It took me about 35 races to get to the A rating (the highest most will get to), and even that can be hard to maintain. A couple bad races can see it plummet. If it gets too low for more than a week, you can be demoted to the next class down. The system has some flaws, but overall it keeps everyone honest and trying their best not to wreck.

If you are an oval fan or a road racing fan, there is a separate safety rating license card for each. I personally run three times as many oval races as road course, so I have an A Oval License and still a Rookie Road license. Whichever you choose, there is a whole other set of cars waiting for you!

One of the coolest newer features for iracing is the ability to spot for your friends. You can really build friendships in this way and your iracing colleagues may be nice enough to return the favour. I find it makes the simulator a lot more engaging and the race goes by a lot quicker. Having two minds is better than one when on the track and if things get tense or you have problems on the track, the spotter can really help you calm down and focus on getting those laps back, or coming back up from the back. While the spotting program needs improvement and enhancements to allow the spotter more perspective in the race, it is definitely a positive addition to the simulator.

The biggest downside with the program is that it can take some getting used to, and patience and practice can eat up a lot of your time. As with any real life simulator, wouldn’t you want to practice? Otherwise, being on top is nearly impossible.

All in all, iracing provides entertainment and learning, friendships and even the odd rivalry. After spending the last few months on it, I don’t know if I could play any other type of racing outside of the real thing.

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The Northwestern View: 2012 Draws To A Close

The Northwestern View: 2012 Draws To A Close

By Anthony Leek – It has been a while since I have written a column on ontariooval.com and I felt it appropriate to do something for the end of the year season. 2012 was another year of interesting developments in racing and of course, plenty of fun to be had.

There were two repeat champions in the WISSOTA classes. The first one being #17 Christopher Leek in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds, claiming it over #14C Cody Ossachuk. In the WISSOTA Modifieds, #16 Gavin Paull dominated the majority of the season in wins and took home his fourth championship overall. In the Emo Street Stocks, a young #500 Libby Wilson claimed her first victory in 2012 and claimed her first track championship! She was quite elated at the Awards Banquet, taking home Best Appearing Car.

Only two rainouts this year, with the dates being back to back in June. After June 23rd however, the track never missed a night, although there were several close calls. August 4th comes to mind the most as myself and a couple others spent the majority of the afternoon packing the track in as it drizzled off and on. But we got the show on, and there was some very good racing.

The Emo Fall Fair weekend was an action packed affair with many different winners. International Falls, MN native and class rookie Don Scholler put on an amazing show with Devlin local, Jeff Davis for the feature win on Day 2 (Saturday). Coming to the last lap, Scholler made a last dive around Davis for the lead. It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. The WISSOTA Modified features for both nights were also great with very only two quick cautions on Friday and a few quick ones on Saturday. There was also a first time winner in the Street Stocks as Kyle Godin of Rainy River, ON bested eleven other drivers for a feature win on Friday.

Another notable event was the WISSOTA Super Stock special presented by SBA Engineering out of Orangville, ON. A total of thirteen Super Stocks attended from Manitoba, Thunder Bay, and Minnesota. The heat races had some great battles as well as the feature which was claimed by #70K Rick Simpsons from Thunder Bay. The win was his third in four appearances at the track in that class. The WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds had nineteen cars that night which was won by Winnipeg driver #88 Paul Veert, over local driver #17 Christopher Leek. The WISSOTA Modifieds was won by #16 Gavin Paull.

The new washrooms were installed this summer, and the new frontstretch lighting as also been installed. Just need to get the bulbs up in the spring time and take down the old poles. It should be exciting the first time they light up. Thank you to all the hard working volunteers for making that successful.

As we look ahead, there is some potentially exciting news that could be coming forward before the new year. There are some great ideas for 2013 and a discussion with the Association in the near future will give us a preview of what might be in store.

Be sure to check out www.borderlandracing.com or @emospeedway on twitter, or even the facebook page (emospeedway) for upcoming news and information!

I want to wish everyone a safe and happy holidays!

Posted in Columns, Emo Speedway, The Northwestern View0 Comments

The Northwestern View: Let’s Roll

The Northwestern View: Let’s Roll

By Anthony Leek –  The 2012 season is quickly approaching at the Emo Speedway and plenty of work continues at the facility throughout the month of May.  Just over a week ago, we started our work on the track surface with the sheep’s foot packing away  for several days. Maintenance work on the grader was completed on Monday with a new tire on it, as well as being all greased up for the season. Water tanks are full and the water truck spent some time Monday night working the track in. Work continues on the new speaker system in the pits as well as other miscellaneous work. 

I remember when I was much younger, hearing the sound of the grader starting up and heading to the track was the sure tale sign that the racing season was quickly approaching. I still get that sense of excitement and chills the first evening we start the machinery up. It’s the best thrill you can get before watching the first race of the season. 

With only a couple weeks left until practice (May 12th), volunteers are making sure the facility is in tiptop shape for the upcoming year. Some of the bigger projects of the year will be starting up soon which includes the new pit washrooms and the new frontstretch lighting. Once the lighting is done, all wiring at the facility will now be underground. Four poles currently exist and will be replaced by one pole located halfway down the track on the outside. It will improve lines of sight for the fans and clean up the area more. Project completion will be around the first week of June. Pictures will be posted on the facebook fan page as it progresses. 

Another exciting event to look forward to this season is the return of WISSOTA Super Stocks! While the date won’t be finalized until this weekend (it is tentative for July 14th), the class has always been exciting to watch at the Emo Speedway. With a full complement of WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds, WISSOTA Modifieds, and Street Stocks on top of the special event, it will be an evening not to miss! Drivers from all over the region including Manitoba, Ontario, and Minnesota will be attending in what may be the last time they will be attending. 

The season opener is what I look forward to the most mainly because it is my birthday weekend! The month of May has so many great things going for it, especially when it comes to racing. Tracks are opening up all over the region and I regularly attend Grand Rapids Speedway and Bemidji Speedway on Thursdays and Sundays. With Emo on Saturdays, it’s three days of racing in only four days!

With a new digital camera I bought over the winter, there will be HD videos from the Emo Speedway as well as the other track I visit throughout the year. They will be posted to my youtube channel at www.youtube.com/cooleddown12 . On top of that, I am looking into doing some video interviews with local drivers.

All in all, 2012 is looking to be a great season. Whether you are a fan, sponsor, driver, volunteer, pit person, etc. there is always plenty of fun and entertainment to be had at your local short track!

Photo: 2011 WISSOTA Midwest Modified track champion Christopher Leek grades the track to continue preparations for the 2012 racing season.

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The Northwestern View: Silly Season At Emo Speedway

The Northwestern View: Silly Season At Emo Speedway

By Anthony Leek – It is not very often that a winter is warm and comfortable. After last year’s picture of a pylon at the track that was buried in almost three feet of snow, this year has been relatively calm for snowfall and the track was pretty much bare up until a week or so ago. Even now, there isn’t much more than six to eight inches of snow. The warm weather has also led to very little frost penetration, meaning that it could be an early spring to get working on the facility. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

With the more urgent need to redo the front stretch lighting, an early spring would allow us to get on the job quickly enough without having problem leading up to the season opener on May 19th. Practice does not need to worry about lighting (other than electricity for the flagstand) since the event is only from 5:30pm to Dark. 

As for driver news, there is plenty to go around. Jake Rea, son of a former track champion Dan Rea, is predicted to be running in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds as a rookie. In 2011, there was a rumor he was going to run Street Stocks, but it never came to fruition. In related Father/Son news, Brody Strachan, son of 2010 Track Champion Glen Strachan is planning to cut his teeth in the racing world with the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Ethan Firth is planned to return as well. 

Interestingly enough, three time champion Gavin Paull is still planning to run in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds as well as the WISSOTA Modifieds in 2012. It will be interesting to see if things come together for him, how much more competitive the class will be. Right now, it looks like the class will be having a growth year. Last year saw the lowest count (12 a week on average) in the last few seasons, but it looks like an average of fourteen to fifteen is expected. 

Steve Nordin is another past driver that is planning a return to racing at the Emo Speedway. While he is unsure of running WISSOTA Modifieds or WISSOTA Midwest Modified, another car to add to the field is positive signs of a good turnout in the classes.

As for the Street Stocks, there may be the addition of one car, but less appearance of another. Terry Martin, who has run both for the Streets and WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds in the past, is switching focus from the Street back to the WISSOTA class. I am sure he hopes that his second full attempt at the class will be much improved from the last time. 

There are two competitors that are planning to get geared up for a championship run. Ron Westover (7 time track champion record holder) plans to run a full season to reclaim the Street Stocks. However, Dan Hettinga who took last year off for the most part also plans to take a shot at top spot. They will also have to battle with 2011 track champion Don Bowman and hard runner Jeff Wickstrom (who plans on having a new Street in 2012). The class had several new and different winners last season and it looks like the stakes are even higher for this summer. 

While I haven’t heard much in the way of news for Chris Shine, after two years of no racing, there might be a light of hope that he will make a full time return in 2012. I personally hope so as he’s had very little seat time in the car he rebuilt before taking time off. 

There is plenty going on behind the scenes and while silly season really is a guessing game in the local area, it gets us all excited about what the summer will turn out to be. Whatever the case is, the weekly action will be hot and on the edge of your seat entertaining. I can’t wait!

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WISSOTA Weekend A Time To Reflect, Look Ahead

WISSOTA Weekend A Time To Reflect, Look Ahead

By Anthony Leek – Another year is almost over and a racing season long over since September in Emo. This is the time of the year where the weather gets colder and everyone starts to hibernate in their homes. This weekend is the WISSOTA Promoters’ Association Annual General Meeting. It’s a three day event that involves workshops for track promoters, a rules meeting, and on the last night, culminates to the 2011 WISSOTA National Banquet that takes place in St. Cloud, Minnesota. It is a weekend of discussion, planning, and fun. 

  What I like most about the weekend is the opportunity to see dozens of other member tracks come together and talk about how their seasons went, whether based on the weather, fan count or car count. Every track has their own unique situation, but it’s cool to see how everyone faired. Over the last several years I have met a lot of different people and going to the WISSOTA meetings has helped to extend that relationship. My travels have only taken me to a handful of tracks such as Grand Rapids Speedway, Greenbush Race Park, Bemidji Speedway, Red River Co-op Speedway, Cedar Lake, etc. but I have met some great people from all over the region including Madison Speedway, Hibbing Raceway, Princeton and so on. There are some real dedicated individuals throughout the region that want to see the best of what dirt track racing has to offer. 

 2011 was an interesting year at Emo Speedway. As with many tracks, our car count suffered overall. Midway through the season, three drivers in one class went to Alberta for work. Not their fault, being young, the money is great there. Next year, they are not expected to race at all. However, we are expecting some new rookies in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds which should bring some stability back to the class. When you look at historical trends, it is interesting to note the roller coaster rides the classes take. Even with only three divisions, we have seen record high numbers of MWM (average in 2009 was 19 a week), go to only 11-12 average in 2011. On the other hand, five years ago, we could barely get five Street Stocks, and now we average over 10. Adversely, in 2006, we were having an average count of WISSOTA Modifieds at 17-18 a week, now we barely see 10 a week.
 It just goes to show you there are natural trends that are not necessarily controllable. All we can do is our best to maintain counts and hope that they will go up again. Trends can also come from fan counts. We learn that certain types of weather/temperatures curb the number of attendees, and that summer months bring in more money than the spring or fall. There are so many trends, that sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what you can influence to improve the situation and what you can’t. 

 This weekend is an opportunity to talk with others, those long in the business and those new to the business, and find out what worked and what didn’t. It’s a chance to create a think tank to help continue the evolution of the sport so that we can endure even the toughest economic or social times. With rules meetings, many things can become controversial as differing opinions tend to stand out. But at the end of the day what we all want to do is come together and make serious decisions that can help us as an organization and the world of motorsports as a whole.

 WISSOTA has had its own growing pains and difficulties throughout its decades of existence. Some of the personalities and self-interests can sometimes disrupt the overall whole of progress. At the same time, it is up to all of us to consider the whole picture when making decisions. In that way, we can understand what is important and what is not. The compromises and votes that go through the process can create consequences that reach far into the future. We need to make sure we do the proper research, take the positives and negatives, and move forward with the best information we have. Like Chaos Theory states, “It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.”

While not all decisions create a “typhoon” of sorts, the result of thinking and decision making can have dramatic impact on how a sport survives versus how a sport grows, evolves, and sustains itself for generations to come.

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The Northwestern View: Street Stock Preview

The Northwestern View: Street Stock Preview

In 2010, the Street Stocks had some of the highest turn outs in their class in the past five years. There were five different winners with Ron Westover taking the most at seven during the season. Dan Hettinga won his first ever race in 2010, during the Keith McNally Memorial, while Don Bowman and Scott Messner took home three feature wins each. Jeff Wickstrom also returned to victory lane twice. Let’s take a look at what we could expect in 2011:

10. #7 Darien Trimble – Best Finish 3rd, Average finish 8.73 (11 Starts). Trimble returned to racing for the first time in several years donning a black and green street claiming four top 5s and two top 10s. Unfortunately, he was unable to run a full season, but did run the majority of it. He also took one heat win. Hopefully he will return in 2011 and continue to move up the ranks.

9. #5 Wes Morriseau – Best finish 4th, Average finish 8.42 (12 Starts).  Morriseau made a nice return in 2010 with an appearance of twelve races. While he did not fair too well overall, he did get one top 5 finish and nine top 10s. He is planned to return in to 2011 although on another limited schedule.

8. #38 Don Bowman – Best finish 1st (3 times), average finish 5.09 (11 starts). Bowman has been a strong runner throughout the past few years. Winning three times in 2010 plus four top 5s and three top 10s, gave him a competitive edge. An unfortunate incident during the season finale was the only real trouble he had. In 2011, he will be returning for a full season and is running to be a strong contender for the championship. Expect to see him win a few races again this season.

7. #69 Terry Martin – Best finish 2nd, average finish 6.69 (13 starts). Martin had a solid season in 2010 with seven top 5s and three top 10s. However, he is not returning in the Street Stock this season and is opting to run in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds on a part time basis. But the car may still be making some appearances as his brother Dean will make the trip on a few occasions.

6. #44 Nick Leininger (Rookie) – Best finish 3rd, average finish 7.92 (13 starts). Perhaps the most surprising driver of last season is young Leininger who won two heats races during the season and gained one top 5 finish. He took Rookie of the Year honours and will be back at the track for a close to full season. Don’t be surprised to continue to see improvement in this driver as he may have a serious shot at winning a feature race.

5. #500 Libby Wilson (Rookie) – Best finish 6th, average finish 9.25 (16 Starts). Wilson continues to gain experience in the Street Stocks and 2010 was an excellent start. She was one of four drivers that ran a full season and because of that, it gained her a top five points finish. Even though her average finish was not very high, she finished many of the races she started, giving her valuable knowledge. Expect to see her out every week again in 2011 and perhaps get her first top 5 finish.

4. #20 Daniel Hettinga – Best finish 1st, average finish 5.87 (15 starts). There is plenty to mention about Dan Hettinga who took his first feature win in 2010. During the Emo Fall Fair, in dramatic fashion, Hettinga won the Friday night feature of the class, but forgot to scale, giving the win to Westover. But it seemed inevitable that he would win again as he took honours the following weekend at the Keith McNally Memorial.  It was a bittersweet moment for a driver who had his share of ups and downs. He will not be returning for a full season and will run limited shows for 2011.

3. #4U Lindsay Bourre – Best finish 3rd, average finish 6.69 (16 Starts). Bourre has shown her share of improvement through the last year or so with seven top 5s in 2010. Finishing third in points is attributed by a solid attendance record and not giving up even when the going got tough. With a new looking race car rebuilt from the ground up, expect Bourre to continue to improve on her average finishes and possibly a runner up finish sometime in the year.

2. #25 Richard Visser – Best finish 2nd, average finish 4.56 (16 starts). The veteran driver of Visser had a drought in 2010, not winning a race for the first time in several years. But, even after twenty-five years of racing, he is still going strong having finished second in point again in the division. A full record in appearances made him the only matchup to the eventual champion of Westover. Visser will return to the track in his pink #25 once again, continuing his march towards a second championship with a win or two.

1. #15 Ron Westover – Best finish 1st (Seven times) average finish 2.44 (16 starts). Westover claimed his 6th ever championship in 2010 with seven wins and many top five finishes. The experienced driver has raced pretty much every class at the Emo Speedway at some point, and that knowledge has led him to many, many feature wins. If he is able to return to a full season again in 2011, expect several wins and a close battle for the championship between him and Bowman.

Notable Mentions for 2011:
#? Jake Rea – While not confirmed, Rea may be making the move from Go-karts to Street Stock in 2011. Coming from a family of racers at the Emo Speedway, expect some great improvement as the year progresses and potentially take Rookie of the Year when it is all said and done. He is one to watch over the summer months.

#88 Tyler Wickstrom – Tyler is planning to run a full season in 2011 and because of that, he has a great shot at finishing within the top ten in points. It will be a great achievement for the driver who hails from International Falls, Minnesota.

#21B Carlee Bosma – With only a 50% appearance at the track in 2010, Bosma was unable to truly show her improvement until towards the last half of the season. In her eight starts, she managed four top 5s and even took runner up on the last night of racing. It is expected she will run the majority of the season in 2011 and I will give the bold prediction of her taking a win. If not, she will get very, very close.

The opinions reflected herein are solely those of the above commentator and are not necessarily those of OntarioOval.com. Please direct comments or concerns to Anthony Leek at anthony_leek@hotmail.com.

Posted in Columns, The Northwestern View0 Comments

The Northwestern View: Modified Preview

The Northwestern View: Modified Preview

By Anthony Leek – The 2010 season in the WISSOTA Modifieds saw nine different winners throughout the season, the most different winners since 2007. This even came off the heels of the lowest average turn out in the Modifieds in about five years. While the low car count has happened in the past, there hadn’t been this many winners in one season with such a count. It was good news for the fans though, who tend to enjoy different winners throughout the year. Let’s take a look at the 2011 potential:

10. #16 Gavin Paull – Best finish 1st (Twice) average finish 4.83 (6 starts). Paull had a banner year with a new car that pulled him to the front not only at Emo Speedway, but at Red River Co-op Speedway in Winnipeg and a few other tracks in the United States. His average finish and two feature wins are a testament to a car that worked well with his driving style. He ran a limited number of shows in 2010 but more than in the previous season of 2009. There is expectation that he will run close to a full season at Emo in 2011 and there is no doubt he will win at least a few races and have a shot at the championship.

9. #12P Dwayne Pelepetz – Best finish 1st, average finish 6.73 (11 Starts). Pelepetz won his first feature event in the WISSOTA Modifieds in a while. He had run fairly limited seasons at the track in the past and this year was no exception. A sore back had him sidelined for several weeks during mid-season. In 2011, Pelepetz will return to the track for close to a full season trying to run for a championship. It is hard to say whether he will get to the winners circle, but he will definitely have a shot to win.

8. #1L Brad Loveday – Best finish 1st (five times), average finish 4.64 (11 Starts). Loveday was a dominate force throughout the year. Untimely accidents led to a few early exits from feature events. However, he took the most feature wins award and had a solid average of a top 5 throughout his starts. In 2011, it is unknown how many races he will run, but expect to see him at the Emo Fall Fair to take a shot at the biggest weekend of the year.

7. #66 Denny Trimble – Best finish 2nd, average finish 6.00 (13 Starts). Trimble had four top 5s in 2010 and eight top 10s. Having missed the first few weeks of racing, he was unable to run for a championship. Hopefully Trimble will return for a full season and take a run at a top 3 in the points and a chance at a win or two.

6. #14 Tyler Brown (Rookie) – Best finish 4th, average finish 7.87 (15 starts). A wedding left Brown with one race short of a full season. But for the rookie, it was a good year overall by finishing in the top 10 in points and getting the seat time he needed. Expect more from the young driver in 2011 as his experience level increases throughout the year.

5. #3 Bill Witherspoon – Best finish 4th, average finish 6.50 (14 Starts). Witherspoon had a rough year in 2010 with mechanical issues and accidents. He even had a shot or two at winning, but transmission problems led to early exits. It is not known if he will race in 2011, but there is hope that he does. He isn’t too far away from his first ever win in the WISSOTA Modifieds.

4. #4U Rick Bourre (Rookie) – Best finish 3rd, average finish 7.94 (Full Season). Bourre was one of two drivers that made it to every race during the 2010 season and it paid off with a fourth place points finish. But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows as Bourre earned plenty of experienced in his first year in the WISSOTA Modifieds. While he finished the majority of races in 2010, mechanical problems at the fair and early exits during some features had Bourre a little overwhelmed. The good news is that he will return to the class and continue to improve upon his 2010 experience. Expect to see a rejuvenated driver and some real progress.

3. #6 Gary Wilson – Best finish 2nd, average finish 4.93 (14 Starts). A veteran driver, Wilson came oh so close in a couple races for his first Modified win in plenty of years. Having sported a newer car that he bought towards the end of 2009, you could see new life in the classic driver.  He had an excellent finishing record, but missing two races kept him out of the hunt for a championship.

2. #41 Ron Korpi – Best finish 3rd, average finish 5.87 (15 starts). Korpi had been in this situation before finishing second in points for the second time in four years. He missed the last race of the year, but the points had already been decided the week before as Glen Strachan pulled off an amazing season. However, the veteran had a solid season with nine top 5s and five top 10s. Expect a full season return from the driver and another top 3 finish in the points.

1. #99 Glen Strachan – Best finish 1st (Three times), average finish 3.44 (Full season). A lot can be said about Strachan in 2010. Coming from a career worst season in 2009 with many mechanical/engine problems and DNFs, there was little good to come from that season. However, 2010 was a complete 360. He took honours as the high point champion for the Emo Fall Fair, the Keith McNally Memorial, the Hard Charger Award, and the point championship. There wasn’t much negativity to go around. Expect a solid return in 2011 and another shot at a points win and several feature wins.

The opinions reflected herein are solely those of the above commentator and are not necessarily those of OntarioOval.com. Please direct comments or concerns to Anthony Leek at anthony_leek@hotmail.com.

Posted in Columns, The Northwestern View0 Comments

The Northwestern View: Midwest Modified Preview

The Northwestern View: Midwest Modified Preview

By Anthony Leek – With the quickly approaching racing season, it is time to check out last year’s top ten in the standings and find out what we might be able to see throughout the season. As per the 2010 preview, we will look at stats from their previous season, what their appearance on a weekly basis may be, and who could be the favourite to win the 2011 season championship. First off, is the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds starting with the tenth place finish of 2010:

10. #60X Chuck Lambert – Best Finish 1st (Twice), average finish 6.20. Not having run for points in 2010, Lambert was able to concentrate on feature wins garnering two throughout the season including one during the Friday night of the Emo Fall Fair. Three top 5s and one top ten capped out his year of a total of ten shows at the track. As for 2011, there is a good chance he will be running at least the same, if not more than in 2010. If he does run a full season, expect to see him near the top three for a championship run and at least a few feature wins.

9. #95 Matt Mutz – Best Finish 3rd, average finish 7.46. Mutz started in 13 of the 16 shows getting four top 5s and six tops 10s. It is not known what they are planning to do in 2011, but hopefully they are able to get to the track and make a run for the championship. He has yet to get a feature win, but has come close over the past couple of years. Watch out for Mutz to be a forerunner throughout the season if he is able to make it out.

8. #09 Steve Nordin – Best Finish 4th average finish 8.19. Nordin had a rough season in 2010, several mechanical issues and unfortunate accidents led to a frustrating season overall. Consistent attendance put him in a good finish in the standings and he did have five top 5 finishes. It seemed to be an average year with some good runs through the season. Unfortunately, the news is he will not be returning for a full season in 2011, although there is a slight chance he will at least make a few shows, especially for Fair weekend in August.

7. #06 Mike Wilson – Best finish 1st (Twice), average finish 8.88. If there was one driver that had a checkers or go home situation was Mike Wilson. The driver had a tremendous showing in 2010 with two features wins (his first one ever and a nice closing win at the end of the season).  Of the entire top ten in the standings, Wilson had the worst average feature finish. Accidents and mechanicals problems plague the majority of his season except for two amazing nights where he cleaned up both heats and features. They were bittersweet highlights in a season of DNFs. Expect a stronger return for the driver in 2011 with getting at least one win. If he is able to finish more races this season, expect a run for a top 3 overall.

6.   #17 Christopher Leek – Best finish 2nd, average finish 7.94. A DNS during the season opener left Leek behind the 8 ball off the start for a shot at the championship. However, the driver finished second several times throughout the year, his highest finish so far in his four years of racing, and ended in the top five for five weeks in a row in June/July. Eight top 5s (a 50% rating) and four top 10s helped him stay within the middle of the points. He also earned the most amount of heat wins out of all drivers. Who knows what will happen in 2011, but expect a close run at a win or two.

5. #11 Anthony Visser – Best finish 2nd, average finish 7.69. Seven top 5s was a decent year for Visser who had a winless streak for 2010. After winning a race in 2009 for the first time in four years, there was plenty of hope for a return to the winner’s circle. Transmission problems during a couple key races put Visser on the back burner for the points. A solid top five finish worked out okay for the driver, but after several years of being further up, it was a little disappointing. There is a chance he will return to the winner’s circle at least once. He also has a good chance with minimal mechanical problems that he could get another Midwest Modified championship.

4. #33 Kendal Gamsby – Best Finish 1st (Three Times), average finish 5.60. Right off the top, it is always a good bet that Gamsby will win the championship in 2011, or any year for that matter. The three time champion in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds took home several checkered flags in 2010 but was unable to stay in the hunt due to not making the feature on one of the fair nights. Five top 5s and six top 10s kept him in a good spot when the season was over. Barring from any problems, expect Gamsby to take 2-3 wins, and probably be at least runner up in the points.

3. #55 Tylar Wilson – Best finish 1st (Three Times), average finish 6.63. A rookie in the Midwest Modifieds, but no rookie to racing, Wilson converted from Street Stock to the open wheel quite nicely taking three wins, five top 5s and four top 10s. He was a contender for the win quite often and rarely missed a good finish. Expectations for Wilson will be higher this year as his rookie season has set the bar high. There is a good chance he will win another three in 2011 and finish in the top 5 in points.

2. #19 John Hettinga – Best finish 1st, average finish 5.44. Returning to a full season did wonders for Hettinga who had an excellent year with a win and claiming second in the points, only 8 behind the winner. Hettinga won’t be at the track for a full season in 2011, but will be out hopefully by mid-June. He is always a factor on the track and there are high expectations for a win or two.

1. #50 Brady Caul – Best finish 1st (Twice), average finish 5.00. This young driver has impressed a plenty with many wins under his belt with only five years of racing. Winning his first championship was only a matter of time. Caul was the only driver to have a top 5 AVERAGE finish with nine top 5s and only finishing once outside of the first five (still a top 10 finish). For 2011, expect much of the same with at least a couple of wins and plenty of top five finishes…. Maybe even another championship.

Notable Mentions for 2011:
#14C Cody Ossachuk – Starting out at the end of July, Ossachuk has some natural talent as he took second during a heat at the Emo Fall Fair only a few weeks after his opening race. In fact, he led most of it until the last lap when Kevin Monteith got underneath him. He was also solid in Greenbush at the end of the year. Keep an eye out for him.

#18 Cody Drennan – Another rookie in 2010, Drennan was only able to race the first half of the season before having to head out west to work. By his last race, he was starting to pick up speed and was able to hold onto the back of the pack. Expect continued improvement in 2011.

The opinions reflected herein are solely those of the above commentator and are not necessarily those of OntarioOval.com. Please direct comments or concerns to Anthony Leek at anthony_leek@hotmail.com.

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The Northwestern View: The Job Ahead

The Northwestern View: The Job Ahead

By Anthony Leek – Now that the month of March is now past, the real concentration of spring comes. April is the unofficial start of the racing season a few hours south of Emo. Deer Creek Speedway has plans of a large special event for mid-April where several local drivers will be heading down to. But for racing at the Emo track, it will be another month until any action is seen at the 57 year old facility.

In the meantime, volunteers and workers will be prepping the place for the 2011 season. There is plenty of work to be had, such as the new lighting on the front stretch being the first priority. The four poles that have stood there for about twenty-six years will come down and be replaced by two new poles. The wiring will move underground, making the entire facility with no more overhead wires. The next important improvement will be the infield drainage. After the 2009 resurfacing of the track, the infield was raised up as well. However, since then it has sunk below the drainage level for the culvert and the water will need to be taken out of the low spot and new material will go in. That will cut back on the amount of grass I have to cut, but it will be seeded and probably grow like weeds in August. The extended turn one will have some new clay over the backdrop and the go-kart track will be resurfaced. The next item is to get the newly expanded pit road with some more gravel and add a culvert or pipe of some sort to drain the water proper. On top of all this, cleaning up the concession stands, announcers booth, and other general maintenance such as painting will be all done from around the third week of April to the practice night on May 14th.

We are hoping the remainder of the snow will melt away in the next couple weeks so that work can start around April 18th-20th. It is a bit of wishful thinking, but being hopeful is what gets the season going on time. With everything to get done, we need all the time we can get.
 
Let’s take a quick look at some of the stats from last season (Total 16 Shows):
 
WISSOTA Modifieds:
9 different feature winners (#1L Brad Loveday had the most at 5)
Highest Car Count was 17 at the Emo Fall Fair
Average Car Count was 11
The longest hauled driver was #71 Derrick Big Eagle from Manor Saskatchewan
One new rookie in 2010

WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds:
9 different feature winners (#55 Tylar Wilson (R) and #33 Kendal Gamsby had 3 each)
Six new rookies in 2010
Highest car count was 23 at the Emo Fall Fair
Average car count was 15
Street Stocks:
5 different winners (#15 Ron Westover had the most at 7)
Two new rookies in 2010
Highest car count was 18 at the Emo Fall Fair
Average Car count was 11
Longest hauler was #27 Mike Wilson of Manor, Saskatchewan
 
Since it is only forty or less days until the open practice, my next few columns will be previewing the 2011 season at the Emo Speedway. I will take a focus on last year’s top ten of the final standings in each class and make predictions that may work out throughout the season. The weather is shaping up!

Photo by Dan Falloon: #2 Ward Imrie and #30L Lynn Lucken duke  it out in turn 3/4 during the Super Truck special at the Emo Speedway in 2010. The Winnipeg Super Trucks will be making a return visit on August 6th 2011.

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The Northwestern View: Spring, Spring, Where Art Thou?

The Northwestern View: Spring, Spring, Where Art Thou?

By Anthony Leek – As we reach the end of February, there is still a tinge of early January as the temperature on the 25th of February reached a low of -30C. Just over a week ago, it was almost 10C and there was plenty of hope that maybe, just maybe, spring would come early like last year. However, the opposite was true, and the temperature has been averaging -20C almost every day with the exception of Wednesday, when it actually reached -4C. The next week doesn’t look good either with temperatures remaining below seasonal for the first week of March.

Luckily, the season doesn’t start until May 14th, when there will be an open practice at the Emo Speedway for the first time in several years. Starting at 5:30pm and lasting until dark, this practice will give young drivers and experienced drivers alike the chance to get some seat time before having to gun it hard for the opener. I think this was a good move by the Borderland Racing Association, given the new changes in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds and the high number of new and young drivers. The quality of our program will benefit from this practice. Let’s just hope that March becomes warmer than originally anticipated so far, we have a ton of snow to melt away.

Last week’s Daytona 500 was one for the record books. There were a record number of cautions, lead changes, different leaders, and the youngest driver to ever win a 500. Congratulations to Trevor Bayne for running strong the entire race and being there for the finish to win it. Did anyone else see the amazing shot Carl Edwards had? I thought that was a great way to end it. Unlike many others, I enjoyed this change in the racing at Daytona. To me, Daytona has been the same as always, a horsepower race where nobody has any type of advantage except to get pushed to the front. The only difference between the past and present is the new surface allowed bump drafting around the entire racetrack, which led to huge leads for only about a half dozen cars. Some say that this year’s Daytona wasn’t racing, then again, has it been racing in the past 30 or so years? The racing itself has always been about pushing and drafting, so other than the look of it (two car packs instead of 5,10, or 15 cars doing it) it has been the same type of racing. As the track loses grip over the next couple years, the pushing will become less in the corners and it will return to packs of cars drafting instead of what we saw this year. For me, Daytona is exciting because at the end of the night it’s anybody’s race and we saw a twenty year old take the win. It is not very often where a 500 is so exciting from start to finish, but it is almost always exciting in the last ten laps. That’s why many of us “suffer” through the first 190 laps, because we are hyped up with anticipation for the end.

Anyway, I am excited to see how the rest of the season turns out. I am also very interested to see what Steve Arpin is planning behind the scenes. His Facebook status keeps giving us hints of what might be happening, but until something is official, we will keep digging for more information. I really hope he at least gets into a part time truck team, since he needs the experience on the tracks Nationwide and Sprint Cup run. We will hear something soon enough.

Right now iracing.com, Dirt Knights, the racing life, and watching NASCAR are what are keeping me sane for the next couple weeks as I look outside to the snow and the cold, wishing for the days of warmth. The sun is sure warm, but the air refuses to heat up. Old man winter sure is a stubborn one.

Photos: (Left) The cone on the frontstretch coming out of turn four has just enough height to peek over the snow. The cone is about three feet high. (Right) The frontstretch lighting will be replaced in the spring with underground wiring and two light poles on either side of the flagstand.

 

The opinions reflected herein are solely those of the above commentator and are not necessarily those of OntarioOval.com. Please direct comments or concerns to Anthony Leek at anthony_leek@hotmail.com.



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The Northwestern View: The More Nostalgic

The Northwestern View: The More Nostalgic

By Anthony Leek – Many people in Ontario have had no idea that the Emo Speedway existed, and you technically can’t blame them. Being way out of the area where the majority of people live in the province, has plenty of drawbacks. With the power of the internet, more and more individuals have had the luxury to find out all about the track. First off, many people laugh at the word “emo”. Its pop culture reference tends to be the first thought that comes to most people’s minds. But to the 1,300 residents, the town of Emo has existed for over 110 years. 

In a crossword puzzle a couple years ago in the Winnipeg Free Press, one of the questions was “a small town in Northwestern Ontario known for its stock car races”. This reference is something many people from the area and region can relate to. The Emo Speedway’s history goes plenty of years back to 1954, where the very first race was held on July 30th. A total of thirteen cars started a tradition that lives on today.  Even with its ups and downs, the speedway has existed throughout half of the township’s life span being a central part of the community every weekend in the summer. Generations have enjoyed the great world of dirt track racing in their own backyard and you can see it in the grandstand and in the pits. Over 640 drivers have had their time racing at the place, including ARCA Re/Max driver Steve Arpin. Arpin got his start in racing Go-Karting in the nearby town of Rainy River and in 1997, raced Mini-Sprints at the Emo Speedway part time. By the next year, Arpin was in a WISSOTA Modified, starting his growth to the level he competes at today. 

It was no surprise to see Steve racing at the dirt oval since his father, Chuck, and brother, Chuck Jr. had also raced at Emo in the past. In fact, Chuck was a two time, back to back track champion and an aggressive force on the track, taking home many feature wins. Steve won his first track championship in 1999 and did it again in 2001. Soon after, he skyrocketed his career, taking home a win at the Silver 1000 in Proctor and in 2003, the WISSOTA 100 at Cedar Lake Speedway. 

The Emo Speedway celebrated its 55th anniversary in 2009 with cake and presentations in front of the grandstand before the evening’s racing program started. There were three special guests that attended the anniversary, Raoul Cayer, Maurice Frenette, and Lyle Busch. They were some of the original drivers that raced that very first night in 1954. Cayer was the winner of the opening heat, one that he will never forget. At age 93, he stills attends several races a year, and still has that itch to get in a race car.

Tradition is important in any family, and those that have been a part of racing in the area understand that this is a family and a community that cares about the well-being of racing. The family connections have lasted through generations and everyone has helped to build the foundations of a long lasting relationship with that tradition. 

I hope that many other tracks can relate to this nostalgic view of history and community, of how it has shaped our lives. To me, being a part of the local track has given me experience I could not get from anything else. It teaches you to respect others, to work with differing opinions, to appreciate the skills and talents of others, and last but not least, gives you a sense of belonging.
 Thanks for reading.

If you would like to know more about the history of the speedway, you can visit www.northernsuperseries.com/w/index.php or search “Emo Speedway” on Wikipedia.

Photos: (top) #00 Steve Arpin in his Mini-Sprint at the Emo Speedway in 1997 (Thank you to Rick Hagarty). (below) From left to right, Lyle Busch, Anthony Leek, Maurice Frennette, and Raoul Cayer during the 55th Anniversary Celebrations on July 25th, 2009) Photo by Tim Johnson.

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The Northwestern View: Closing The Gap

The Northwestern View: Closing The Gap

By Anthony Leek – Being located so far away from the rest of the province when it comes to racing, it is sometimes hard for me to relate to the events and people that are involved in the rest of Ontario. The nearest track to the Emo Speedway in Ontario is in Sault Ste. Marie, a long 1,000km drive to Laird Speedway. It wasn’t always like that. Until 2003, Dryden and Thunder Bay had their own dirt tracks where there was a lot of travelling drivers to and from all locations. In the past seven years, Emo has survived through its local drivers and fans including the few that still have cars from Thunder Bay. While it can be isolated up here, OntarioOval.com has provided a connection and a relationship like never before. When I found out about this site, I quickly communicated with Greg Calnan and told him my interest in wanting to become a part of this. 

Since that time, I have been working at getting special interviews, articles, and weekly results to the site and Greg and I have a great working relationship even though the distance is about 1,800km one way. He has helped allow us in the great Northwest of Ontario to find out more about racing in the province. This communication makes us all closer to each other. 

I would like to introduce myself and give a little bit of history with my involvement in racing. I lived across the field from the racetrack (Emo Speedway) for all of my childhood and into my teen/young adult years.  I guess at 26 years old I am still a young adult to most, but my time with racing feels like a long time. Going to the races when I was just a kid made me the perfect candidate for getting involved as I got older. When I was 15, I started playing around with website stuff and designed an unofficial website for the track. Not many knew about it, but I had a ton of fun. When I was 19, they asked me to do the official website and well, the rest is history. In 2004, I did the website even though I was working/living about 150km away. They would email me results and I would post them on the web on Sundays. In 2005, I did my first ever special with NOPA Super Trucks from Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was elected Director in the winter of that year, and in 2006 to 2008, I did three more specials including a touring series for WISSOTA Super Stocks. I was President of the Borderland Racing Association from 2008-2009 as well as Promoter from ’09 to present. I really wouldn’t trade my life of racing for anything in the world. The experience has been wonderful and I hope that I will continue my life in that direction. 

Another passion of mine has been writing, which is a reason why I decided to start this column. One of the best ways for people to get an understanding of racing up here in the Northwest is through writing and sharing the stories that happen. Due to our location in the Northwest, our relationship of racing has been with the United States and Manitoba. But with the power of this website, we can build a new friendship with those that love racing in the province.

Many of you reading this may never have the chance to come to the Emo Speedway or even the region, but at the very least, this can give you some interesting reading and peak your curiosity. 

The 2010 season in our region was all about luck. For the Emo Speedway, it was good luck. The weather held long enough for the night’s races to get in every week for four weeks, with rain falling only an hour after the evening’s events. But for Red River Co-op Speedway in Winnipeg, Manitoba, about 325km northwest of Emo, experienced fourteen nights of cancellations and postponements out of thirty-five planned. Greenbush Race Park, a track in Minnesota, about 165km west of Emo had five weeks straight of cancellations. The list could go on, but you get the picture. 

December is a time of year where we can celebrate family and friends around the fireplace (if you have a fireplace), and talk about the warmer days of summer and the racing season. I feel especially talkative when it comes to how things went in the previous season and there are many opportunities to check out videos and articles from this past year and years past.

Whatever you do this Christmas, be sure to reflect on all the great times you have had. Racing season isn’t too far away once the New Year comes around. I can already feel the itch.

Until next time. Happy Holidays!

The opinions reflected herein are solely those of the above commentator and are not necessarily those of OntarioOval.com. Please direct comments or concerns to Anthony Leek at anthony_leek@hotmail.com.

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