Archive | Exclusive Features

When The Unthinkable Happens: Hotchkiss Scores Varney Title On The First Shot

When The Unthinkable Happens: Hotchkiss Scores Varney Title On The First Shot

By Greg Calnan / OntarioOval.com – For Varney, Ontario’s Lance Hotchkiss the thought of capturing the 2013 Late Model Championship at Varney Speedway Motorplex never crossed his mind.  After all, what driver entering their first full year of competition in a division thinks they will be able to walk into a class and knock off the returning veterans? This 23 year old certainly didn’t however by the final night of the season the unthinkable had come true. It wasn’t easy, and he won by just a single point, but consistency and a short learning curve gave this youngster all he needed to take the crown.

Unlike many in the sport Lance does not come from a long line of racers, but he does come from a family that has been deeply involved in the sport for a number of years. His grandmother owns the property to the north and the east of the speedway and his late grandfather John Eden worked at the track for many years and owned Eden Automotive.  His uncle, Gerald Eden was the President of the Ontario Modified Association and did PR work for the track in the past. Winning is also in his family bloodlines. His cousin Chad Eden had much success at Varney over the years in the Thunder Car ranks before shifting gears to Sauble Speedway.

Growing up around the track Lance knew he wanted to drive. At the age of 14 he was given the opportunity to drive a 4 cylinder car for Don Tremble. Don’s son Jason also 14  was starting in this class as well .  Lance won 8 features during his time in the division along with multiple heat race wins. The experience both on the track and in the shop working with the Tremble Family proved invaluable and helped make the transition to Late Models that much easier.

Did he feel he would be a contender entering the 2013 season? “Not at all” says Hotchkiss. “I was more concerned about keeping the car in one piece and gaining experience”. That attitude was the right approach as his steadiness and patience started putting him into contention early in the season.

“By the third night of racing we were competing for the win, I was surprised. As the weeks wore on I realized we were a contender”. In fact he was the point leader heading into the final night of the season, and what a night it was.

Lance led the standings by 1 point over Dan Wright. Although he had not yet scored a feature win he knew that element wouldn’t come into play as Varney Speedway Motorplex only counts heat race points in the season finale. That meant all he had to do was keep pace with Wright. But that was easier said than done. Wright went out and won his qualifier and locked the pair in a tie atop the standings. That put all the pressure on Lance in heat two. He needed to win the heat to take the title, or finish second to at least remain tied. When all was said and done, Lance won the heat and clinched the championship by just 1 point. To add an exclamation mark to night he passed Wright late in the main event to capture his first ever feature win.

The championship season certainly caught this humble driver by surprise, but he never lost sight of those that helped get him to the top. “I want to thank Don Tremble of Candue Homes for his support and Crew Chief Todd Edwards for all his hard work, as well as his son TJ Edwards for spotting and helping . I also appreciate all the setup advice and tips that Jason Parker has given me over the years. Without all of these people I couldn’t be where I am today. We also have folks like 4 Wheels Performance, Merv Benders Carpentry, Durham Well Drilling,  MacGregor Imports, H.Bye Const. and Statefarm to thank.  Their support helps make it possible for us to compete at such a high level”.

Although no one expected the name Lance Hotchkiss to be on the championship trophy at Varney this season it definitely won’t be forgotten in the years to come. He proved that anyone with the right amount of talent, patience and passion can compete with the best and most importantly… make the unthinkable happen!

Posted in by Greg Calnan, Exclusive Features0 Comments

Special Feature: Has Grassroots Racing Lost Its Appeal?

Special Feature: Has Grassroots Racing Lost Its Appeal?

Opinion By Eric Uprichard – Have you ever wondered what life would be like away from a local short track on a Saturday night? I’d be willing to bet my last nickel you are a diehard racing fanatic because you are reading this column; and there’s the rub, it ends with the diehards. Whether you are a driver, crew member, track official or a photographer like me, we have been left scratching our heads wondering where all the fans went.

When Kawartha Speedway announced at the end of last season that they would not be returning with a regular weekly program in 2013, the closing almost seemed inevitable. Current economic conditions would just not support three tracks within a short radius and a diminishing car count.  On Wednesday night, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park ( Mosport Oval ) announced in a driver meeting that they would be closing the front gate on regular weekly competition to make room for a driver development track. Politics? Maybe. But the truth remains that operating a racetrack is a business, period.

So, the question of the decade is: has grassroots racing lost its appeal? The grandstands are a clear indication that motorsports has lost its glitz and glamor amongst the general population here in Ontario. But why? In my opinion, there is nothing like experiencing a live motor race; the sights, the sounds, the smells and the excitement of driver personalities and skill make for an exciting night of entertainment. So again, has grassroots racing lost its appeal?

Of course there are many factors that drive an industry, and a poor economy certainly doesn’t help even a booming industry. But business is cyclical, and motorsport is clearly in a downturn. The recession as obviously hit the automotive industry hard, but most Canadians have seen the bottom of the downturn and are spending money freely once again. So who or what is the culprit? The information age! We are no longer operating in the industrial age. Today is a different era, and it has crept up on the motorsports world without us even knowing. Old ways of connecting with sponsors and fans does not work. Children at a young age are connected to the world in ways their parents could not have dreamed of only a few short years ago, and they are choosing much different forms of entertainment today.

As a youngster I recall doing the ‘Sauble Shuffle’ ( a move where everyone got a little closer to each other to accommodate more people in the stands at Sauble Speedway ). And while I don’t have the answer to getting fans back into the seats, I do know that we have been blind to the way young people view the world. We do not operate in the same world we once did. The way a company connects with its customers has changed, and it’s occurring at a rapid pace.  While discounting admission 50% may draw a few extra fans that night, what that says to me is, ‘the show being put on is only worth 50% of what I’m willing to pay’.

Until the racing community can figure out what it is the fans in the grandstands REALLY want from a racing show, grassroots racing will continue to lose its appeal… and tracks!

Below: A few shots around Ontario over the past few years. 

 

Posted in by Eric Uprichard, Features0 Comments

Late Model Report: 2013 Ontario Late Model Preview

Late Model Report: 2013 Ontario Late Model Preview

Ontario Oval Exclusive
By Clayton Johns (@cjohnsmedia)

The Ontario Late Model season will open this weekend with three of eight tracks hosting their marquee divisions.

Barrie Speedway, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) Speedway, Delaware Speedway, Flamboro Speedway, Peterborough Speedway, Sauble Speedway, Sunset International Speedway, and Varney Speedway Motorplex will all host late model racing in 2013.

Additionally, two Late Model touring series, the Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup and OSCAAR Super Late Models, will make stops throughout Southern Ontario for much of 2013.

We break down each track and series’ championship contenders in this Late Model season preview.

The top contenders at each facility are likely to do battle multiple times throughout the summer at various invitational events. Check out our master schedule below to see when the track nearest you will host the province’s best.

Most major Late Model events throughout the province will return once again in 2013. Those include Flamboro’s Grisdale Triple Crown and Gold Rush events, Sauble’s Beat the Heat 150 and Dash for Cash, Delaware’s Great Canadian Race, Sunset’s Velocity Weekend, and the famed Autumn Colours Classic at Peterborough Speedway.

There will be no shortage of action or cars around the province this summer, in what is largely considered to be one the most talent-laden asphalt racing division in the province.

 

Barrie Speedway – Wahta Springs Limited Late Models

First Race: Saturday May 4

Defending Champion: Dwayne Baker

Subtractions: Dwayne Baker (Sunset)

Additions: Leonard Johnston

Drivers to Watch: Ron Quesnell, Al Inglis, Gord Shepherd, Keith McLeod, Randy Bull

Barrie Speedway’s top division will crown a new champion in 2013 as the current crown holder, Dwayne Baker, has decided to make Sunset Speedway his home. There are no shortage of drivers waiting to take over in 2013.

After dominating at Barrie in 2011 to win the track championship and provincial NASCAR Whelen All-American Weekly Series championship, Ron Quesnelle struggled throughout the 2012 campaign. Quesnelle only managed two trips to victory lane, which were below the veteran’s expectations, despite a second place overall finish in the championship standings. Look for ‘RQ’ to be a more dominant force in 2013.

The division’s 2010 champion, Al Inglis, earned a trio of victories in 2012 which means the ‘Red Rocket’ will be hungry to take back the title come opening night.

Gord Shepherd earned four feature victories in 2012, but fell to fourth in the final standings. Shepherd, the 2009 track champion, ran well at the Autumn Colours Classic last October in a stacked field and will look to build on his success to retake the speedway’s highest honours.

Keith McLeod is the only driver besides Baker to earn more than five feature wins in 2012, totalling seven at season’s end. McLeod, however, missed a few points nights and finish seventh overall. Should he return to full-time competition this season, he’s sure to be a championship threat.

 

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Speedway – Limited Late Models

First Race: Saturday May 18

Defending Champion: Kyle Donaldson

Drivers to Watch: Kyle Donaldson, Darren Kearnan, Dan Kimmerly, Mark Gordon, John Baker Jr.

Defending champion Kyle Donaldson dominated the Bowmanville, Ont. half-mile last season, earning six feature wins over the course of the summer. Donaldson’s #53 was routinely tested by Darren Kearnan, who also earned a feature win in 2012. Add Mark ‘Flash’ Gordon in to the mix as a weekly threat to win. Gordon, however, only ran a partial schedule last summer, but did have a solid showing at Peterborough’s Chase for the Colours (6th). Veteran Dan Kimmerly split time aboard his familiar #01 with daughter Shannon last summer. When the former ALSTAR veteran is in the field, he is sure to contend for a victory.

 

Delaware Speedway – FT Garage Pro Late Models

First Race: Friday May 17

Defending Champion: Mark Watson

Subtractions: Andrew Gresel (OSCAAR), Marc Jacobs (Jegs CRA), Jaxson Jacobs (Jegs CRA)

Additions: Justin Demelo

Drivers to Watch: Mark Watson, Matt Pritiko, David Elliott, Kirk Hooker, Matt Hendricks, Matt Box, Stephen Richmond

Delaware’s marquee division is often home to the most talented drivers anywhere in the province and this season is no exception. Defending track champion and 2012 Great Canadian Race winner Mark Watson will be back with a vengeance to defend his title in 2013.

Matt Pritiko fell just 25 points shy of the track championship last season and will be as hungry as ever. Pritiko also turned in an impressive performance at the Autumn Colours Classic and will look to ride that wave in to the May 18 season opener.

The ‘Waterdown Warrior’ David Elliott is always in contention for a win at the London, Ont. ½-mile.  Elliott turned in impressive results at Flamboro’s Grisdale Triple Crown as well as Sunset’s MRE Pro Series in 2012, so more of the same should put him in championship contention.

Former ALSTAR Series regular Kirk Hooker has flown under the radar for the past season, but should provide some flare to the dramatic again this season. Don’t be surprised if the #38H is in victory multiple times this year.

Matt Hendricks and Stephen Richmond will both be in their sophomore years in the speedway’s top division after graduating from the weekly modified division. A steady and consistent improvement on last year’s efforts will go a long way.

 

Flamboro Speedway – Grisdale Pro Late Models

First Race: Saturday May 4

Defending Champion: Jason Shaw

Subtractions: Brad Corcoran (Jegs CRA), Shane Gowan (OSCAAR)

Additions: Shawn Chenoweth

Drivers to Watch: Jason Shaw, Steve Laking, Paul Howse, Jeff Stewart, Dale Shaw

It’s become awfully tough not to select Jason Shaw as the championship favourite in Flamboro’s Pro Late Model division. Shaw has been Mr. Consistent for a number of seasons and has proven his talent and equipment against the province’s best talent at invitational shows as well. Preparing a second car for his son Dale doesn’t seem to have slowed the veteran down as he notched four victories last season.

Steve Laking finished second in the championship standings despite just one trip to victory lane. Laking has stepped up his game for 2013, and has already competed in a PASS South event on the other side of the 49th. This year could be Laking’s best chance for victory if all goes well.

Paul Howse seemingly dominated the Millgrove, Ont. speedway last year with five weekly victories as well as a victory in the 100-lap Gold Rush. He’ll need to bring a consistent program to earn a championship ring.

Dale Shaw earned 2012 rookie honours and will feature a new paint scheme on his #83 to start the season. With a season under his belt and father wrenching on the car, Dale is in good hands to improve again in his sophomore year.

Shawn Chenoweth returns to the division after a one-year hiatus with the OSCAAR Super Late Model tour.

 

Peterborough Speedway – Vanguard Self-Storage Limited Late Models

First Race: Saturday May 18

Defending Champion: Bryan Sudsbury

Subtractions: None Confirmed

Additions: Chris Mitchell

Drivers to Watch: Bryan Sudsbury, Chris Mitchell, Todd Delisle, Tyler Liscum

It will be no small task for Bryan Sudsbury to defend his title at Peterborough Speedway. In order to do so, Sudsbury will have to battle with Todd Delisle, Chris Mitchell, and Tyler Liscum on a weekly basis. And that list has yet to factor in Jack Horner. The track will host at least a half-dozen drivers who are capable of winning each week.

The hometown drivers may have an advantage for the track’s June 30th running of the Chase for the Colours. The 75-lap event will lock the top two finishers in to the Limited Late Model front row for the 21st Autumn Colours Classic on Thanksgiving weekend.

Chris Mitchell found himself in Autumn Colours victory lane two seasons ago and knows his way around the storied facility. If Mitchell can turn out a couple of victories and consistent top-five, he could be a champion come September.

Todd Delisle adds another layer of talent to the division. Having committed to a full-season, the 2011 Autumn Colours runner-up will have high expectations for the year.

 

Sauble Speedway – Limited Late Models

First Race: Saturday May 18

Defending Champion: Scott McTeer

Subtractions: Andy Kamrath

Additions: Brittney Gresel, Matt Mullholland

Drivers to Watch: Scott McTeer, Jason Parker, Marvin Freiburger, Tom Gibbons, Josh Stade, Matt Mullholland

The 2013 late model season at ‘The Beach’ is shaping up to be one of the most competitive yet. Defending champion Scott McTeer will have a tough time repeating in 2013 with a stout field in pursuit. The #49 team will need their weekly performance to resemble that which earned them a 2nd-place finish at Peterborough last October.

A rejuvenated Jason Parker will be intent on winning as many races as possible throughout the upcoming campaign. Parker had impressive showings away from Sauble, including Sunset, and Peterborough. Parker will have to find a balance for his aggressive style in order to remain at the top of the championship standings.

Veterans Marvin Freiburger and Tom Gibbons will be tough to beat once again. Freiburger had a successful 2012 campaign and the former thunder car wheelman will hope to take checkers again this year. The perennially competitive Gibbons will also be a weekly threat to take checkers.

Matt Mullholland will make his limited late model debut at Sauble after several seasons in the tracks tightly contested thunder car division. Mullholland will have help from teammate Parker and will compete against Brittney Gresel for the rookie-of-the-year title.

 

Sunset Speedway – Limited Late Models

First Race: Saturday May 4

Defending Champion: Tom Walters

Subtractions: Kevin Cornelius (OSCAAR), Sean Cronan (OSCAAR)

Additions: Dwayne Baker, Andy Kamrath, Herb Walters, Brian Wilson Jr., Anthony Simone

Drivers to Watch: Tom Walters, Mike Bentley, Andy Kamrath, Dwayne Baker, Taylor Holdaway, Gary Elliot, Jason Witty, Bruce Rankin, Chris Morrow, Sean Grosman, Anthony Simone

Sunset Speedway may be home to the province’s most competitive and talent-laden late model division in 2013. Defending and 30-time champion Tom Walters will be hard pressed to repeat his spectacular 2012 campaign with the influx of new drivers this year. Not to mention the Bradford, Ont. pilot’s weekly rivalry with Mike Bentley, who finished second in the championship standings.

The return of Dwayne Baker to the division, who had a career year at Barrie in 2012 with 13 feature wins, only increases the level of competition. Baker is joined by Andy Kamrath as late model veterans joining the series.

Sunset staples Taylor Holdaway, Chris Morrow, Jason Witty, Bruce Rankin, and Scott Beatty are also threats to win on any given week. Holdaway took the final feature of 2012 and brings one of the most complete programs on weekly basis. Morrow has yet to commit to a full season, but the seven-time Sunset champ is usually in the mix for a checkered flag.

Golden Beach, FL native Sean Grosman has improved his Tom Walters-prepared ride over the off-season. The #29 team will feature a new paint scheme for a new campaign and is determined to improve on his ninth-place points finish.

Former NASCAR Canadian Tire Series regular Anthony Simone is expected to compete at the Innisfil, Ont. oval on a regular basis this summer, adding yet another victory lane candidate.

Herb Walters and Brian Wilson Jr. have both graduated from the speedway’s thunder car division and will battle one another for rookie honours. Herb dominated the first-half of 2012 before a surge by Nick Roth knocked him from the top championship spot. Herb will not face the transition alone and will have support from a host of drivers, as will Wilson.

 

Varney Speedway Motorplex – Limited Late Models

First Race: Saturday May 18

Defending Champion: Cole Weber

Drivers to Watch: Cole Weber, Tommy Robb, Jeff Lotspeich, Dan Wright

The tight and high-bank confines of Varney Speedway will once again feature a competitive late model division. Cole Weber and Tommy Robb dueled side-by-side many nights with Weber eventually emerging as the 2012 track champion.

Robb, however, is one of the most competitive drivers in the province and will look to reclaim the track championship this season.

Jeff Lotspeich was also competitive last season, finishing third in the championship standings. Lotspeich’s #85 is capable of winning and should be considered a threat for the track title.

Former Sauble champion Dan Wright ran a partial schedule at Varney in 2012 and was increasingly dangerous throughout the year. When Wright does make appearances, look for him to challenge for the win.

 

Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup

First Race: Saturday May 18 (Varney Speedway Motorplex)

Defending Champion: Shawn McGlynn

Drivers to Watch: Shawn McGlynn, Josh Wood, Jay Doerr, Amanda Conolly, Tim Tolton, Jake Ott

The 2013 Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup tour will take the series to six different tracks for eight races. Each of the eight events will feature a 100-lap feature, including the series finale at Flamboro’s Oktoberfest Classic.

Shawn McGlynn dominated the 2012 edition of the Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup, but not without being tightly contested by Josh Wood and Jay Doerr. McGlynn and Wood each won twice, while Doerr took the checkers once.

Amanda Connolly stole the show and surprised many with an early season win at Delaware. If the sophomore driver can once again earn a spot in victory lane, she is likely to improve on her fourth place finish in the championship standings.

Tim Tolton, Mike Nelson, and Jake Ott will also look to improve on their rookie seasons and move up the standings from their seventh, eighth, and ninth-place finishes in the championship standings.

 

OSCAAR Super Late Models

First Race: Sunday May 19 (Sunset Speedway)

Defending Champion: Brandon Watson

Subtractions: Shawn Chenoweth, George Wilson

Additions: Kevin Cornelius, Andrew Gresel, Sean Cronan, Rob Gibson, Shane Gowan, J.R. Ftizpatrick, Ethan Courneyea

Drivers to Watch: Glenn Watson, Brandon Watson, Rob Poole, Derrick Tiemersma, Mike Beyore, Rob Clark, Jesse Kennedy, Jeff Hanley.

The 2013 OSCAAR Super Late Model tour will be the most competitive edition of the tour in years. After Brandon Watson dueled ferociously with George Wilson last season, it seems neither will be in championship contention this season. Brandon has said he is likely to miss some races, while Wilson takes a hiatus to focus on his son’s racing career.

Glenn Watson failed to earn a win in 2012 after seven trips to victory lane in 2011. The ‘Red Rocket’ is beyond determined to win again this year and reclaim the championship crown.

Derrick Tiemersma had a successful season last year after a one-year hiatus, but the Newmarket, Ont. driver is more interested in winning than his third-place points finish.

After a pair on engine failures a year ago, Mike Beyore is preparing for a big season. Beyore has returned to a spec motor for 2013, which he feels will be more consistent.

Five-time series champion Rob Clark is expected to compete full-time in 2013. ‘Magic Shoes’ earned his only win of 2012 at his home track Delaware Speedway. With a chassis that is just one year old, Clark should be able to find victory lane again this year.

Sophomores Jesse Kennedy, Rob Poole, and Jim Bowman have all upgraded their Outlaws for the upcoming campaign. Kennedy won at Barrie last year, Poole has already been testing at Sunset, and Bowman is likely to benefit from a series return to his former home at Flamboro.

This year’s rookie class is definitively the most competitive of the millennium. Kevin Cornelius holds the 2011 Sunset Limited Late Model track championship to his name and will pilot the first ever Super Late Model from McColl Racing Enterprises. The talented Andrew Gresel has ARCA experience under his belt this season and a brand new ride under him. Meanwhile, Sean Cronan was the 2011 Sunset Shootout champion and Rob Gibson will fulfill a childhood dream driving a Super Late Model.

 

Master Schedule (Late Model Special Events)

Date – Track/Facility – Series/Event (Laps) (Start Time)

May

Sat. May 18 – Varney Speedway Motorplex – Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup (100) (7pm)

Sun. May 19 – Sunset Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (6pm)

June

Sat. June 1 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (6pm)

Sat. June 8 – Flamboro Speedway – Grisdale Triple Crown Round #1 – (75) (6pm)

Sat. June 8 – Sauble Speedway – Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup (100) (TBA)

Sat. June 15 – Barrie Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (6:30pm)

Sun. June 16 – Sunset Speedway – Invitational Event (75) (3pm)

Fri. June 21 – Delaware Speedway – Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup (100) (7:30pm)

Fri. June 28 – Delaware Speedway – Canada Day 100 (100) (7:30pm)

Sat. June 29 – Sauble Speedway – Sauble to Sunset Home & Home – (TBA) (TBA)

Sat. June 29 – CTMP Speedway – Invitational Event (50) (6pm)

Sat. June 29 – Sunset Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (Don Biderman Memorial) (50) (6:30pm)

Sat. June 30 – Sunset Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (Don Biderman Memorial) (50) (6:30pm)

July

Sat. July 6 – Flamboro Speedway – Grisdale Triple Crown Round #2 (75) (6pm)

Sat. July 13 – Sauble Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (TBA)

Sat. July 13 – CTMP Speedway – Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup (100) (6pm)

Sat. July 13 – Sunset Speedway – Sauble to Sunset Home & Home – (TBA) (6:30pm)

Sat. July 20 – Flamboro Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (6pm)

Sat. July 27 – Sunset Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (6:45pm)

Wed. July 31 – Sauble Speedway – Dash for Cash Round 1 (TBA) (TBA)

August

Sat. Aug. 3 – Peterborough Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (6pm)

Sun. Aug. 4 – Sauble Speedway – Beat the Heat 150 (150) (TBA)

Sun. Aug. 4 – Sunset Speedway – Invitational Event (75) (6:30pm)

Sat. Aug. 10 – Peterborough Speedway – Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup (100) (6pm)

Sun. Aug. 11 – Kawartha Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (4pm)

Wed. Aug. 14 – Sauble Speedway – Dash for Cash Round 2 (TBA) (TBA)

Mon. Aug. 19 – Flamboro Speedway – Gold Rush ft. Kenny Wallace (100) (6pm)

Sat. Aug. 24 – Peterborough Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (6pm)

Sat. Aug. 24 – Flamboro Speedway – Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup (100) (6:30pm)

Sat. Aug. 31 – Delaware Speedway – Great Canadian 200 (200) (2pm)

September

Sat. Sept. 21 – Barrie Speedway – Garry Reynolds Memorial (100) (3pm)

Sat./Sun. Sept. 28-29 – Sunset Speedway – Velocity Weekend (75) (1:30pm)

Sun. Sept. 29 – Sunset Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (1:30pm)

October

Sat./Sun. Oct. 5-6 – Flamboro Speedway – Oktoberfest Classic (Triple 50s) (3pm)

Sat. Oct. 5 – Flamboro Speedway – Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup (100) (3pm)

Fri.-Sun. Oct. 11-13 – Peterborough Speedway – 21st Annual Autumn Colours Classic (TBA) (TBA)

Sat./Sun. Oct. 12-13 – Peterborough Speedway – OSCAAR Super Late Models (50) (TBA)

Posted in By Clayton Johns, Columns, The Late Model Report0 Comments

O’Brien Brothers Looking For A Slice Of Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout Pie

O’Brien Brothers Looking For A Slice Of Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout Pie

By Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications

Pat and Danny O’Brien have a score to settle with their younger brother.  Since the 2005 inception of Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout, featuring the DIRTcar 358 modifieds the name “O’Brien” appears on the championship trophy only once and it doesn’t belong to the 4 time Mr. DIRTcar title holder or the 10 time Brockville Speedway track champion.  In 2011, Tim O’Brien captured the prestigious win with a thrilling late race triumph over Danny O’Brien and Mike Bowman.  With the 2012 edition of the Benson Auto Parts 100 lap extravaganza, presented by VP Fuels and Imagefactor.ca taking the green flag Saturday, September 22nd the older O’Brien siblings have a chance to earn a trip to the winner’s circle.  Track promoter Mark Rinaldi says the brothers are crowd favourites wherever they race.

“There’s no disputing the numbers these guys have put up throughout their careers and the fact that only one of them has picked-up the checkered flag at this race speaks volumes about the level of competition at our race,” said Rinaldi.  “Pat, Danny and Tim race each other as hard as – or harder than any other car in the field.  All 3 finished in the top 10 in points atBrockvilleduring the 2012 season, so our fans are in for a great show.”

After another self-imposed hiatus, Pat O’Brien returned to Brockville Speedway’s weekly wars this year.  His 4th place point finish – on the strength of a pair of wins in 17 starts – proved there is no slowing down the driver of the #6 Gypsum Logistics/Milestone Protective Coating Systems Bicknell Racing Products machine.  The eldest O’Brien would like nothing better than being the second family member to walk away with the $4,000 winner’s cheque in his back pocket.

His uncharacteristic 7th place point finish, with 2 feature victories punctuated a frustrating year at Brockville for Danny O’Brien.  On the other side of the coin, the middle of the 3 racing brothers finished 5th at Mohawk International Raceway and enters Brighton Speedway’s Mr. DIRTcar championship trail event 6th in the standings.  A perennial top 5 finisher on the tight 3rd mile bullring, no one would be too shocked to see the #17D 1000 Islands RV Centre/Ponte Brothers Masonry/103.7 BOB-FM ride in victory lane after 100 laps.

A series of late season mechanical woes prevented Tim O’Brien from cracking the top 5 in Brockville’s final point standings, but as the defending Applefest Shootout champion, the pilot of the #88 Jim’s Performance Plus/S.G. Wells/Windmill Construction Ford powered TEO Pro Car heads into the fray as a marked man.  The youngest of the clan will be looking to put his bad luck in the past and earn a second trip to the winner’s circle.

The Benson Auto Parts Applefest Shootout, featuring the DIRTcar 358 modifieds – presented by VP Fuels and Imagefactor.ca – takes the green flag Saturday, September 22nd at 6:00 at Brighton Speedway.  For a complete schedule of events, see www.brightonspeedway.com, www.imagefactor.ca/applefestshootout or call 866.681.1102.

 

Photo attachment:  Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications

Kingston’s Pat O’Brien is looking to join younger brother Tim in having his name engraved on the winner’s trophy for the Applefest Shootout – Saturday, September 22nd – at Brighton Speedway.

 

Prepared by:  Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications

clarkemotorsports@hotmail.com

613.968.6410  /  613.922.0654

Posted in by Jim Clarke, Features0 Comments

DIRTcar Racing’s Rising Stars Get Ready For Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout

DIRTcar Racing’s Rising Stars Get Ready For Brighton Speedway’s Applefest Shootout

By Jim Clarke, Clarke Motorsports Communications

At first glance, the youthful appearance of DIRTcar racing’s young lions may lead some to question their abilities but checking the resumes of these talent laden youngsters will paint an entirely different picture. Saturday, September 22nd, the sport’s brightest boyish stars will battle in the 100 lap Benson Auto Parts Applefest Shootout, featuring the DIRTcar 358 modifieds – presented by VP Fuels and Imagefactor.ca – at Brighton Speedway.

“Maybe its saying something about me, but these kids seem younger every year,” said track promoter Mark Rinaldi. “From the go karts, through street stocks, sportsman modifieds and eventually the 358’s, there are so many different outlets available to develop their talent and skills. It’s never a big shock to see the young lions battle the veterans and come out on top.”

While still carrying his ‘Teenage Tornado’ handle, Chris Raabe made headlines as the youngest Mr. DIRTcar sportsman modified champion in the sanctioning body’s long history. The Napanee, Ontario speedster – who currently attends Queen’s University – missed last year’s Applefest event while making a handful of starts in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. While finishing 2nd in points at Mohawk International Raceway and 3rd at Cornwall Motor Speedway, Raabe stunned the touring stars by capturing the Seaway Valley quarter-mile’s Super DIRTcar Big Block show in his small block powered TEO Pro Car.

Turning laps at race speed at the New York State Fairgrounds has been known to intimidate even the most experienced drivers, but no one told Brockville, Ontario’s Matt Billings. The year was 2009 and as a fresh faced youngster, Billings captured the Super Dirt Week sportsman modified event on the Moody Mile in his first ever attempt. Fast forward to 2012 and Billings’ 5th place point finish, highlighted by 2 wins at Brockville. There are plans to head back to Syracuse in a couple of weeks, but Matt Billings would love to find victory lane at Brighton with his #74 Bicknell Racing chassis ride.

It was the biggest win of his young career and it just happened to come in front of a capacity crowd at his Saturday night home. St. Catharines, Ontario’s Mike Bowman – a Merrittville Speedway regular – was lucky enough to select a front row starting spot the pre-race draw and turned that good fortune into a thrilling flag-to-flag victory in the 100 lap Super DIRTcar Series big block modified tour event. What made Bowman’s triumph most noteworthy is the fact that he – like Raabe had done at Cornwall – accomplished the feat in a small block powered machine, against a field largely comprised of the more potent big blocks.

The Benson Auto Parts Applefest Shootout, featuring the DIRTcar 358 modifieds – presented by VP Fuels and Imagefactor.ca – takes the green flag Saturday, September 22nd at 6:00 at Brighton Speedway. For a complete schedule of events, see www.brightonspeedway.com, www.imagefactor.ca/applefestshootout
or call 866.681.1102.

Photo attachment: Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications
Napanee, Ontario’s Chris Raabe would love to add an Applefest Shootout win to his already impressive resume. The event takes place Saturday, September 22nd at Brighton Speedway.

Prepared by: Jim Clarke – Clarke Motorsports Communications
clarkemotorsports@hotmail.com
613.968.6410 / 613.922.0654

Posted in by Jim Clarke, Features0 Comments

Canadian Vintage Modifieds: It All Comes Down To This

Canadian Vintage Modifieds: It All Comes Down To This

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – To put it plain and simple, this Saturday’s finale to the Lucas Oil Canadian Vintage Modified race season is the biggest race in the careers of the top three contenders. A mere 3 points separates first from third. You know all three will be gripping that wheel just a little bit tighter than normal comes feature time.

Steve Trendell sits in first place with 549 points, Shane Stickel has 548 while Corey Jones is in third with 547. This is undoubtedly is one of the closest point races, if not the closest in the club’s 46 year history. It could very well come down to the final lap in the feature to decide the outcome. In 1999 going into the final race of the season, Gary Elliott and son David were separated by just one point with Gary eventually winning the title. The only differences, that was a two car race and there were 24 races as opposed to just 11 this year. But that doesn’t diminish in any way the great season the three drivers have put together this year and the magnitude of the Season End Championship race.

Trendell, who is in his 10th year racing with the club is by far the veteran of the three. 2012 has been Steve’s most consistent year with just on DNF. In his rookie season in 2003, Trendell got close but finished about 50 points back of the eventual winner, T.J. Wollsey. Going into the final race at Flamboro, Steve tells me he doesn’t feel any pressure. He came from 15 points back in the last two races to take over the points lead and he’s just going to go out, race his race and whatever happens, happens. Flamboro hasn’t always been good to Steve but this year he admits, he’s become a fan of it. He’s got a lot of experience and dad Dave turning wrenches and setting up the car so Steve will be hard to beat. He’s really come on of late and is on a roll.

The next two racers are in their third seasons with the CVM and are good friends and came up through the go kart ranks together. Shane Stickel and Corey Jones both echoed similar comments regarding each other. Jones told Ontario Oval in an interview earlier this year, “Corey and I started out by racing Karts against each other, and then went on to race Vintage Modifieds at the same time. It was a learning curve for both of us so we definitely helped each other out. No matter where or what we are racing it always seems like we cannot get away from each other on the track. This has made for some great racing between the two of us, but also some quiet rides home.” Shane, who is second in points, feels the pressure is equal on all three drivers. “It’s the biggest race of my career.” He also told me he’ll likely be nervous but he’s confident and it’s anyone’s race. Stickel has been leading the points race most of the season but being in the wrong place at the wrong time in races at Sauble and Varney recently has made the race close. I asked if it comes down to a last lap push, especially against his good buddy Corey, what will he do. “I’m not a dirty driver, I’ll push my limits and throw everything at it.”

Corey Jones has had a break out year after a disastrous 2011 campaign. This year he has a couple of wins including a feature win at Flamboro. He admits he’ll be nervous as well. It would be his first championship of any kind in racing and would mean a lot but whether he finishes first, second or third, it’s still been a great season. Corey feels no pressure however as he sits in third and has nothing to lose. He says it looks like he’ll be starting ahead of Stickel and Trendell so as long as he can keep the two guys behind him, he should be ok.  All three drivers wanted to thank their families, crews and sponsors.

Steve Trendell’s sponsors- Ponderosa Nature Resort, Cambridge Truck and Auto, Oakville Automotive, Mark Simmons Primerica Financial Services and Flamboro Machine Shop.

Shane Stickels’s sponsors- MSD Machine Tools, Shelane Properties, Huron Fasteners, Abtech CAD/CAM, Paragon Collision Center, Creative Edge Signs & Graphics, BkReinhart.com and Speedway Photos.

Corey Jones sponsors- RBC, LaFleche Roofing, MSD Machine Tools, Sweers Custom Painting, 6speed design, Accountable Automotive, Perth Auto Dismantlers, and Creative Edge.

Be part of the action and don’t miss one of the most exciting finale’s in the Lucas Oil Canadian Vintage Modified racing club’s history this Saturday at Flamboro Speedway. Heat races begin at 6:30pm with Feature race action getting underway at 8:00pm. No matter who wins, it will be the first championship for one of these three drivers. Good luck to all and may the best man win!!!

Posted in by Randy Spencer, Exclusive Features, Features0 Comments

Over 60 Years Of Racing And Winning For Burbridge Family

Over 60 Years Of Racing And Winning For Burbridge Family

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – Like many racing families, racing passes down from generation to generation. Some are successful and others just fade away. But in the case of the Burbridge family, it just seems to get better and better. Several words come to mind on the type of season the Mark and Rick Burbridge are putting together in the Thunder Car division at Flamboro Speedway. Remarkable, amazing and astonishing are just a few. On one hand the year was off to a great start with Mark taking the first feature while brother Rick blew an engine the first week then returned only to experience some drive line issues. After his first night victory Mark broke the rear end in his car and missed a week. Since then however they’ve been superlative, between them they have five heat and six feature wins thus far in 2012.

To get a better idea of how these guys tick, I took a look back to see where it all began. Jack Burbridge began racing back in the late 1940′s. He started with backing from Modern Auto Parts in Brantford and raced the #67 “Orange Crate” Super Modified. Jack never owned his own car and was like a hired gun and would always drive for someone else. If nobody had a ride for him he didn’t race. He raced multiple nights every week at tracks like Mohawk Park, Pinecrest, Bridgeport, Ancaster, Guelph, Flamboro, Speedway Park, Merrittville and a number of other tracks. Where ever there was race, he would be there. Jack would give up racing about 1966 to raise his growing family but while his sons were still young they would all pile in the car on weekends and go where ever dad raced. Oldest son John told me he attended his first race before he even turned one in 1952, in his mother’s arms at Mohawk Park in Brantford. In 1957, Jack was the Modified champ at Pinecrest Speedway and always ran consistent no matter where. Rick Burbridge shared a story about his grandpa Jack that I found quite interesting. “There was a fella who was a huge name in racing around here by the name of Ted Hogan. He had a second car and he asked my grandpa Jack to be his driver, on the only condition that if he were first and Hogan were second, he would let him by for the win. Well the very first race my grandpa drove in that car, he said it was the best car he ever drove. He ran it to the front, passed Hogan and won the race. As you might guess, Hogan was none too pleased, and fired my grandpa after the race. They never spoke again…or so the story goes.” Today Jack is 85 and never misses a NASACR race on TV. A strong willed fellow, Jack has survived three bouts with cancer, survived a fall and broken neck and issuing blood infection that nearly took his life three years ago. Without a doubt one of the greatest names in the early history of racing in Ontario, a true pioneer of our sport.

The eldest of four, John was the first of Jack’s sons to get into a race car. He bought a used Super Late Model from Ken Silk in 1975/76 and wanted to race it at Flamboro. He was a rookie so they wouldn’t let him through the gates with it so he got his start at Speedway Park and eventually made his way to Flamboro where he raced until the end of the 1988 season. He won 3 features that first year, his best for sure and won at least one feature between 1983 and 88. He always ran on a shoestring budget, used older tires and if he couldn’t afford to race it he parked it until he could. Every year he took whatever money was left and would put it towards his house or something for his family. John loved to race at Flamboro. There’s been a Burbridge racing at Flamboro since it’s opened for the most part.  “Many drivers say there car got beat up there. The car looked like a bag of walnuts but it was the most profitable place I could race. Racing at Cayuga and Delaware the speeds were faster and the wrecks more often that not bent the frame and was more costly.  In 1983, John broke his arm in an accident but never missed a week of racing. He would bring the car out and put his own hired guns behind the wheel. When some of the Late Model drivers had a broken car he would set them up. Randy Slack, Bill Zardo and Ron Pearn all raced the car at one point that season until John was fit to race it again. He finished the year and actually won the heat, trophy dash and Season end championship feature. In appreciation for letting other drivers race his car he was named Sportsman of the Year that season. In appreciation Slack, Zardo and Pearn presented Burbridge with a trophy that stood almost as tall as he did. A bad wreck at Cayuga just about ended more that his racing career. “I still feel that one today…it was bad,” is how John described it to me. It was the last lap and he was running second down the straight and noticed trouble ahead, backed off on the outside and took a hard hit sending him right over the front end of another car and landed between the pit wall and track. That’s pretty much when his asphalt days came to an end. After some time to think things over he decided to go dirt racing and raced an old Mod. Stock and ran Don Turner’s old car for a few years winning a few heats and came second in the feature a couple of times. Once again he was close to hanging up the helmet but took Charlie McCann’s Sprint car out a few times, had some motor troubles and even went upside down the first night. But he continued on for the love of the sport and John still races occasionally at Ohsweken in the #21j Gales Auto Aftermarket Auto Sales sponsored Sprint car. He’s 60 now and he tells me he’s “Not having fun this year.” He retired from his job at Massey Ferguson and lived for this year. It’s beginning to be a money pit and it sounds like the end may not be too far off for this veteran driver.

John’s son John Jr. also races at Ohsweken in the #31 Gales Auto Aftermarket Auto Sales, RK Automotive sponsored Sprint car. Entering his tenth year of racing he got his start when his dad passed along the old Sportsman car, they put together a motor and has raced at Ohsweken, Merrittville and Humberstone. In 2003 he won the Most Improved driver and his best finish was third at Humberstone one night. He now races the Sprint car and has raced it at all the above tracks as well as South Buxton. He tells me one of his favorite moments was passing dad on the last lap for the Sprint car A main feature at Humberstone. He plans to keep racing as long as he can remain a low budget race team and has recently started a family. He wants to say thanks to all the Burbridge’s for their support as well to Charlie McCann and his sponsors Gales Auto Aftermarket Auto Sales and RK Automotive.

John Sr.’s other three brothers also have raced, but not for as long. Another brother, Rob, never got behind the wheel but was a big help in Dave’s success. After helping on the crew for brother John, Paul built a matching Street Stock with brother Dave and raced Street Stocks at Flamboro for about three years before giving it up. Glen raced for a short time as well, he filled in a few times in the Late Model for brother Dave and never raced on a regular basis. He married Sam Rounce’s daughter Susan. The Rounce name is legendary in these parts around Flamboro teaming up for years with Randy Slack and also in the CASCAR Super Series.

Perhaps the most successful racing brother was Dave. He worked on brother John’s car when still in high school soon got the itch to go racing and built his own Street Stock. His career got started in 1980 and he raced in several divisions at Flamboro including Street Stocks, Super Street Stocks, Sportsman, and late Models until 1995. he occasionally mixed in specials at Cayuga while running Flamboro full time. During the 1995 and 96 season he ran the Flex-Mor Siper Late Model series at Cayuga, Flamboro and Peterborough Speedways. In 1997 he moved into the highly competitive OSCAAR Super Late Model series and toured all around Ontario. That first year he was crowned Points Champion and remained with them until 2001. That championship was probably one of his greatest moments in racing as a driver along with numerous feature wins and multiple Top 5 Point finishes. For his final two years of racing he raced with the OSLR Super Late Models at Mosport, Kawartha and Peterborough. Today he owns Rick’s Thunder Car and helps both sons in whatever they choose to race and whatever it takes to get them out on the track every week. He wanted to thank his wife Debbie for all her support over the years, to brothers John, Paul, Rob and Glen, sons Mark and Rick as well as his longtime car owner Howard Robbins and his team of Floyd Robbins and Jamie Scott.

Mark is the oldest of the two brothers and told me, “We had a go kart when I was a kid and we played around with that a little bit but never gave it the focus we needed to run at the front. When I was 15 my dad got offered a great deal to buy a thunder car, so he jumped on it and my racing career took off from there.” He ran the first three years of his career in Thunder Car division at Flamboro, then eight years in Flamboro Late Models, and now is in his second year back in Thunder Cars. In 2006, he ran in the last race ever of the CASCAR Sportsman series at Cayuga in a car owned by Harold and Doug Brown. Mark said, “We finished 6th in that CASCAR race, which was cool because we had no experience working on or racing that type of car.” He also ran once in a mini stock at Ohsweken, and turned some laps in his Uncle John’s Sprint Car a couple of years ago. Some of his best career highlights, “Would have to be my two Oktoberfest wins in the Late Model. In 2005 we started pole and led about 97 or 98 of the 100 laps to win. In 2007 we qualified pole again, and eventually held off Gary Elliott to lead every lap and win it again. Winning those two races were huge, especially 2005 because the whole family was there with me and that was my first really big win.” He made sure he rubbed Uncle John’s nose in those wins! “I always wanted to win Oktoberfest,” John Sr. told me I always went crazy, blew the engine, hit the wall….” Mark won’t let him forget it.

Racing has kept the Burbridge’s close, especially working on two cars now. Asked who he wanted to thank Mark said, “My mom and dad have to be the two biggest influences. Without my dad I never would have started racing, and he has worked on my cars all through the years. My brother Rick helped out a lot at the track until he started racing himself. Jamie Scott has been an important part of our team too, doing body and paint work, as well as coming to the track almost every week too. In the last two years, I’ve met up with Stacey Fleming, who was my crew chief when I ran the Late Model owned by Robin Horsfall a couple of years ago, and came along with me when I switched over to Thunder Cars. Sponsor’s include Antler’s Services, Hearth and Home Heating and Cooling, Strodes BBQ and Deli and Scott’s Auto Body Repair. “Finally, my wife Erinn is really supportive and helps out at the track too.” Mark married Erinn Bailey this past winter and the racing family extended further. Erinn’s dad Donn and Uncle Brett raced in the Challenger division back in the 1980′s. Erinn was very successful racing karts with over 30 wins and winning several Points and Series championships. She moved into a Mini Stock at Flamboro in 2005 and to a Thunder Car the following year finishing with a win and 12th in points. A big year in 2008 as she won Most Improved and Sportsmanlike driver and won the Memorial Night feature race. After several more race wins and success over the next two years, Erinn stepped aside. She raced the car Paul McIlroy won the Thunder Car championship with in 2005 and now that’s the car husband Mark is having great success with this year.

And last, but certainly not least is Rick. He is fairly new to racing as a driver but like the rest of the family has been around it all his life. He raced a half season in 2009 until a bad wreck prematurely ended their season. He got started in racing when his mom bought dad Dave a partially built Thunder Car for his 50th birthday. At the time, Rick was away at University but Dave proposed they build it and split the driving duties. It took almost two years to build the car as he was away during the winter for school and they worked on Mark’s Late Model during the summers. “Eventually dad decided that he would rather just work on the car and suddenly I was the full time driver of the car.” With 4 heat wins over the first 2 and a half seasons he was still looking for that first feature win. Now with the two feature wins so far this year he finally has that monkey off his back. “My dad and brother are the two biggest influences on my racing. They built my car and my dad still does most of the work on it. Without those two and of course my mom Debbie who bought the car and supports our efforts, we wouldn’t be racing. Jamie Scott sponsors the car, does the paint and body work for us and has been working with my dad since the Late Model days of the mid ’90′s.” Sponsors include West Brant Window World of Brantford and Scott’s Auto Body Repair of Simcoe. In closing I asked Mark his plans for the future, “I think I will be running Thunder Cars at Flamboro for a while. Eventually I would like to move up to Late Models and run Flamboro while I get my feet under me in faster cars and then eventually move into a more selective schedule where we can run big special events at a bunch of different tracks each year.”

I would like to thank all the Burbridge’s for their patience while I wrote this story. All of your information and stories were appreciated and very helpful. Thanks to John Burbridge Sr., great talking with you and to Chris Spencer for information about Mark’s wife Erinn. Make sure you head out to Ohsweken Speedway and watch John Sr. and Jr. race in the Corr/Pak Sprint car division. And don’t miss racing at Flamboro and watching Rick and Mark as they make their way up the points standings as the summer heats up. Follow Mark online at http://www.mb27racing.bravehost.com/ while you can follow Rick online at http://www.2dracing.bravehost.com/ and also at http://www.flamborospeedway.itgo.com/ You can follow John Sr. and John Jr. at the Ohsweken Speedway website, http://www.ohswekenspeedway.com/

Photo Descriptions (by Dave Franks unless otherwise noted)

-Blue Chevelle: Taken in 1985 Dave’s first Street Stock
-Red Nova: Dave’s second Street Stock 1988
-1997 OSCAAR Victory Lane: Dave’s first SLM win
-1997 OSCAAR: Bad wreck at Flamboro, manged to re-build car in 3 weeks and not miss a race and still go onto take the points title
-OSLR Kawartha 2002: #43 Late Model, Dave’s last full season of racing
-#27 Late Model: Victory lane at Flamboro, Mark’s final full season driving his own car.
-#67 Modern Auto Parts Super Modified: One of Jack’s first race cars (from Jim Dunham collection)
-#21j Sprint Car: John Burbridge Sr. 2012 photo by Dale Calnan, Ontario Oval
-#31 Sprint Car: John Burbridge Jr. 2012 photo by Dale Calnan, Ontario Oval
-#72 car driven by John Burbridge Sr. when he raced at Flamboro back in the early 1980′s
-close up photo of Jack Burbridge back in the day, likely late 1950′s or early 60′s (from Jim Dunham collection)
-picture of Mark and inset of his #27 Late Model from the 2007 Flamboro Speedway calendar
-B&W John Burbridge #21 Late Model Flamboro 1983
-Mark’s wife Erinn Bailey Burbridge driving the #02 to the 2008 Memorial Night Thunder Car feature race win
-Mark and Rick’s “hero cards” for the 2012 season

Posted in by Randy Spencer, Exclusive Features, Features0 Comments

The Memory Of Charlie Beck Lives On

The Memory Of Charlie Beck Lives On

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – A visit to Flamboro Speedway this summer may seem to some like you’re taking a trip back in time. The familiar color scheme of Serv-A-Station Maintenance/Claybar Contracting has made a return to the 1/3 mile asphalt oval for 2012. For many years back in the 1980′s and early ’90′s, Charlie Beck drove his 1932 Chevy Coupe sporting the beige and orange colors. This year Bobby Mercer has painted his #7 Thunder Car as a tribute to his good friend.

This past winter we lost Charlie and over 600 people attended his funeral. Mercer was hit hard by the loss as were so many and Bobby wanted to do something in honor of his friend and mentor. He talked to Charlie’s son, Charlie Jr. to get his thoughts and later spoke to Charlie’s wife Georgia to get her thoughts and blessing. The familiar beige color has been around racing scene for years. Back in the 1960′s, SAS and Claybar sponsored the hobby car of Bob Field and has been involved in some capacity ever since. With Field, Bill Grisdale, Mike Bosma, Rich Grady, Pete Shepherd Jr., Charlie and now Bobby, the colors have become familiar to fans and racers alike.

Charlie worked for SAS for 25 years. Mercer has been their for 12 now and said the guys all really respected Charlie a great deal. He was a company man and the young guys looked up to him and enjoyed his quiet and laid back demeanor. Charlie got his start in racing in 1975 in the Limited Sportsman division. In 1979, he put his career on hold and helped fellow SAS sponsored driver Rich Grady and his Late Model for four very successful years. In 1983, the hobby car of Bob Field became available so Charlie decided to jump back behind the wheel. In 1984, he dethroned Harry Nicholson from an 11 year reign as Best Appearing car in the hobby division. Over his career, Charlie was named hobby rookie of the year and won awards like Best Appearing Car, Best Pit Crew, 1986 Gold Cup Points Champion, Most Consistent Competitor, Most Popular Driver and won many features along the way. He also served the club on several committee’s along with wife Georgia. Beck had a successful career and decided to hang up his helmet in 1998 when the hobby club, now known as the Canadian Vintage Modifieds, left Flamboro Speedway to become a touring club. Charlie stayed away from the track for years and when Bobby became involved in 2005, Charlie sold or gave most of his parts and equipment to Bobby to use or trade for stuff he could use for his race car. He was always very supportive of Bobby and did whatever he could do to help.

Bobby wasn’t a stranger to racing from a young age. His mother Melanie wrote for the Flamboro Speedway program, Wheelspin News and Stock Car Racing News and various other outlets from the late 60′s until the mid 80′s. He got into go-karts at age 10 and never looked back. He helped Steve Cashmore and that would end up getting him a deal to take Cashmore’s Street Stock out for some hot laps in practice. In 2004, he teamed up with Rob Disher in the “blue” car and his racing career was underway. In 2005, with help and support from family and a few sponsors Mercer decided to go out on his own and drove the “red” car. It was voted Best Appearing car that year in the Thunder Car division at Flamboro and at the Performance World show in Toronto. He would eventually go back to the familiar blue until just a couple of years ago when he changed things up to look like the old “Smokey Unit” color scheme that his crew chief Dave Clark had liked. Clark as many of you may know was the crew chief on the #5 car of Ross May when he won the Points Championship back in the 70′s.

Three years ago at Oktoberfest, Bobby won the B feature and to that point was one of his greatest racing moments. Mom Melanie couldn’t be there but he made the phone call soon after to tell her the news and fortunately Debbie Jo Zardo got the race on video so Melanie could watch the exciting moment in her son’s career. He has won a feature or two since but the road hasn’t been smooth. Bobby holds a record he’s not at all proud of, winning the Hard Luck award for five straight years. He has has some bad luck and a few bad crashes along the way, one in particular when he had his bell rung in an accident that gave him a concussion and it folded the frame of the car all the way to the back wheels. Persistence and hard work though as seen Bobby finish in the Top 15 in points every year he has raced along with perfect attendance every year. That is a feat in itself.

This year saw Bobby get off to a slow start. Some technical and equipment issues slowed his efforts but the past few weeks the #7 has been climbing the ladder in the feature finishing order. His car wasn’t painted the first few weeks but now looks very similar to the Charlie Beck car. Dennis Thomson of Thomson Signs, who by the way is currently a top the Ontario Pro Challenge points chase, designed and lettered the car and Bobby wanted to say a great big thanks to him. The colors were harder to match than Bobby first thought. The beige is a little darker and the 79 Corvette orange that Charlie used was no longer available. The closest he could get was 79 Corvette flame so he went with that. Either way the car looks great and his year long tribute is under way. Bobby wanted to say thanks to his family and sponsors for support. He mentioned his boss Lou at Claybar and how after 10 years of service to a company many people get a watch in appreciation. Well Bobby doesn’t wear a watch so Lou told him to pick put a good racing helmet. Bobby did and wears it proudly today and it even has a commemorative decal on the back telling of Bobby’s service to the company.

Make sure to get out ot Flamboro Speedway this year and see the #7 Serv-A-Station Maintenance/Claybar Contracting Thunder Car and drop by the pits after the races to say hi to Bobby, a great guy to talk to. And if you want to be a part of the tribute to Charlie Beck, there are still a few spots available on the trunk lid and side panels I believe to have your company name displayed. The Thunder Cars are very popular and Bobby gets around to events in the Hamilton so your name will be seen by race fans and others all summer.  So be a part of this great venture and talk to Bobby to be a part of this great tribute. Thanks to Bobby and his mother Melanie and Georgia Beck for all their help in putting this story together.

Photo by Dave Franks of davefranksphotos.com

Posted in by Randy Spencer, Exclusive Features, Features0 Comments

And The Winner Of The Richard Petty Ride-Along Is…

And The Winner Of The Richard Petty Ride-Along Is…

The Richard Petty Driving Experience is coming back to Canada and will make three stops at Ontario short tracks. Wednesday was the first day of summer and in fitting fashion we drew the winning name in our Richard Petty Driving Experience 2012 Canadian Summer Tour Free Ride-Along prize draw.

Congratulations go out to Sheila Haining of Stroud, Ontario on winning the Free Ride-Along with the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Sheila, a new fan to the sport, made Sunset Int’l Speedway her choice to take this ride of a lifetime in a NASCAR Cup car.

Thank you to all those who participated in the contest and remind you that you can still take part in the Richard Petty Driving Experience 2012 Canadian Summer Tour by visiting http://www.drivepetty.com/can-tour?utm_source=ontariooval&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=canadiansummertour2012

 

RICHARD PETTY DRIVING EXPERIENCE ANNOUNCES “2012 CANADIAN SUMMER TOUR”

1/30/2012

(Concord, N.C.) January 28, 2012 – Richard Petty Driving Experience (RPDE), the North-Carolina-based worldwide leader in NASCAR stock car drive and ride entertainment, announced today that it will be returning north this summer for a second Canadian Summer Tour.

During a series of track dates this July, RPDE will visit three tracks in Ontario and one in Nova Scotia; Kawartha Downs & Speedway (Fraserville, ON), Delaware Speedway (Delaware, ON), Sunset International Speedway (Innisfil, ON) and Riverside International Speedway (Antigonish, NS). These same four venues hosted RPDE’s inaugural trek north in 2011.

“We operate at over 20 track locations annually across the US, but last year we offered driving experiences in Canada for the first time in our history,” said Mike Bartelli, Chief Marketing Officer of Petty Holdings, LLC and Richard Petty Driving Experience. “The enthusiasm of Canadian race fans getting to drive their local short tracks for the first time was every bit the equal of what we see from customers at Daytona, or Indy or anywhere else we go.”

“We’re thrilled to be hosting RPDE again,” said Derek Lynch, Manager/Promoter of Kawartha Speedway. “The thrill of their program is something every race fan should experience.”

The “Richard Petty Driving Experience Canadian Summer Tour” will kick off on July 7th at Delaware and includes ten days on the aforementioned tracks over a two week period, wrapping up at Riverside on July 20th. RPDE will offer a 12-lap Rookie Driving Experience for $399, and a 4-lap High-Speed Ride-Along which simulates a NASCAR qualifying run, for $79. Reservations are required for all driving experiences and can also be made for Ride-Alongs, but are not required.

For reservations or for more information, please call 1.800.237.3889 or visit www.DrivePetty.com/Can-Tour.

About Richard Petty Driving Experience:
RPDE is the worldwide leader in NASCAR stock car drive and ride entertainment, available at more than 20 major speedways in the U.S. It has base locations in Las Vegas, Orlando, Concord N.C. and Kansas City. RPDE also produces and facilitates auto manufacturer drive and ride programs, safe driving programs, mobile marketing events and motorsports-related production services for the television and film industry.

Posted in by Greg Calnan, Exclusive Features, Features0 Comments

Wonderland Speedway Is Open For Business

Wonderland Speedway Is Open For Business

By Tommy Goudge (June 8, 2012) – Rumours of Wonderland Speedway’s demise were greatly exaggerated. That’s the message Norm Brunette and other racers at the 1/6 mile dirt track want to share as they get ready for another season of Friday night Micro Sprint racing.

The Hugh and Terry Smibert-owned track is located south of London near Wonderland Road, and has been open for more than 25 years. It has served as a stepping stone for many area racers, including Mike Ling, D.J. Kennington, Adam West, Ryan Litt, Jesse Costa, Cody Geldart, Mike Ferrell, John Watson, Shane Butler, Chris Durand, Justin Martin, and more. It’s also where you’re likely to find former full-size race car drivers such as Willy Northcott, who raced with the Southern Ontario Sprints in 2004 and 2005.

“We are looking forward to the upcoming season, with the season opener on June 8,” says Brunette. “We race every Friday night – admission is free, (and) it’s great fun for the whole family. We have about 35 to 40 cars, so we have a good field of cars, and make the features really exciting. ”

Two classes compete regularly at Wonderland: Micros and Outlaws. Both classes utilize snowmobile engines, and the Outlaw rules allow for full suspensions with torsion bars or coil over springs.

“These cars are really a handful to drive,” says Brunette, who has been racing at the track for more than a decade. “It’s a fast little bullring with 10 second laps. Things happen really fast. Hugh works this track to perfection every week, and it’s as smooth as glass.”

A dozen race nights are on the 2012 schedule, with memorial events for Bill Davis and Ross Baker, and the traditional “Classic Weekend” to finish the season, including a 200 lap race paying $1,500-to-win.

“We are very excited about the new class of rookies coming up,” says Brunette. “It should be a great year.”

Visit the official Wonderland Speedway website at www.WonderlandSpeedway.com

Posted in Exclusive Features, Wonderland Speedway0 Comments

WIN A Free Richard Petty Driving Experience Ride-Along!

WIN A Free Richard Petty Driving Experience Ride-Along!

The Richard Petty Driving Experience 2012 Canadian Summer Tour and OntarioOval.com are giving you the chance to win a FREE RIDE-ALONG at one of the three participating Ontario tracks of your choice. Only one entry will be accepted per person. The draw winner will be announced on Wednesday, June 20th. Good luck to all participants.

For more information on the Richard Petty Driving Experience or to book a ride or driving package visit www.drivepetty.com/can-tour

BALLOTING IS NOW CLOSED. CHECK BACK TO FIND OUT WHO THE WINNER IS!

Posted in by Greg Calnan, Exclusive Features, Features0 Comments

First Race Car Cruise Night Takes Place In Cambridge

First Race Car Cruise Night Takes Place In Cambridge

By Larissa Spencer – We’ve all heard of the classic cruise nights with all the cool vintage cars. But tonight I attended a cruise night, that was by no means a regular cruise night, this was a race car cruise night.  May 24th 2012 marked the first night of the race car cruise night ran by Full Throttle Marketing and Promotions. This one of a kind promotional race show is set to occur every Thursday night in Cambridge at the Rona located at 66 Pinebush Road. The first cruise night and it was such a different experience than just being at the race track. When you attend the race track it’s hard to talk with the drivers and find out information because they’re always busy working on the car or focusing on the upcoming race. When they are away from the race track setting they are more talkative and easy going. 

We had 7 cars show up for this show, they included: Mike Hooper’s Super Modified, Brad Collison’s Thunder Car, Justin Collison’s WRKC (Waterloo Regional Kart Klub) go kart, Conor Mahoney’s Sprint Car, Adrian Stahle’s Can AM TQ Midget, and the two full throttle cars who are run by Pete and Gord Bennett. Every Tuesday night, and Saturday at intermission the Full Throttle team is running a ride along experience at Flamboro Speedway. It’s a once in a life time chance, and it’s the most exciting thing you will experience.  To help promote this event, the Cambridge Times and Race Time Radio will possibly be in attendance over the next few shows. As well, there are going to be signs up all around Cambridge.  Currently Cambridge is the only location for the race car cruise nights, and if these go well there is a possibility of having them in different cities as well to help promote local short track racing. So if you’re a racer plan to bring your race car or go kart out and put it on display to help promote yourself, your sponsors and either your home track or series. If you’re a fan, come out and get up close with the cars and drivers, get an autograph and sign up to go for a ride along experience in the two seat Late Model race car.

Photos by Larissa Spencer

Posted in By Larissa Spencer, Features0 Comments

‘Never Give Up’ Attitude Pays Off For J.R. Fitzpatrick

‘Never Give Up’ Attitude Pays Off For J.R. Fitzpatrick

By Larissa Spencer (research by Randy Spencer) / OntarioOval.com – “Never give up! There are more downs than ups in racing.” That is the advice that J.R. Fitzpatrick would give to any young aspiring Canadian racer today. The 23 year old native of Cambridge, Ontario has had his share of ups and downs over his career, but his determination, and the fact he never gave up has once again paid off. 2012 has been on the up side for Fitzpatrick so far.

Fitzpatrick Motorsports announced in early January that former teammate and seven time Canadian champion Don Thomson Jr. has retired, and will become full time crew chief for the #84 team. Then news broke earlier this week that the Stacey Compton-owned Turn One Racing team had come to terms with Fitzpatrick on a one year deal to race a full schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series, replacing Cole Whitt, who has moved to the Nationwide Series and the JR Motorsports team.

Understandably, Fitzpatrick is very pumped about this new opportunity. He is no stranger to NASCAR racing south of the border, and was named in January to the list of the top NASCAR drivers age 25 and under to watch for in 2012. Along with racing the Truck series, he is slated to see action in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race on the road course at Watkins Glen, N.Y.  Often seen as a road course expert, J.R. definitely has caught the eye of many – more about that later.

J.R. made his debut in the NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series at the 2007 Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200 in Mexico City, where he finished 33rd due to mechanical issues. Later that season at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Fitzpatrick took the checkered flag in the NASCAR Canadian Tire series race, then jumped behind the wheel of the Busch Series car, but experienced some difficulties and finished 43rd.

Kevin Harvick Inc. put J.R. in the driver’s seat for ten selected NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events in the 2009 season. His first race for that team came at the Daytona International Speedway. It was his first time at the famous track, and he was there for 2 weeks testing an ARCA series car prior to the big event. J.R. led the most laps in the Truck race (17) ,and I asked what it was like leading the race and going almost 200 m.p.h. around the 2.5 mile tri-oval with a hot shoe on your back bumper.

“To have Kyle Busch push me around the place and couldn’t pass me was a little nerve racking,” said J.R. “But at the end of the day, it was just another car with another number. It doesn’t matter who was in the car.”

As the race neared completion, the #7 Mammoet truck pitted, and J.R. told me he felt that if they would have pitted on “the better end of the caution”, they likely would have won the race. Fourth in your first Daytona NASCAR race still isn’t anything to sneeze at.

J.R. also raced twice in the Nationwide Series that season, but Fitzpatrick left K.H.I. in 2010 and signed on with Dale Earnhardt Jr’s JR Motorsports team. He competed in three events for JR, including a race at Road America where he finished 7th.

He left that team at the end of the year however, and teamed up with Steve Meehan, a Toronto financial consultant and founder of the Investment Planning Counsel. Meehan put J.R. in a car for 7 Nationwide races, including a 10th place finish at Road America, and 5th at the Napa Auto Parts 200 in Montreal. Fresh off that finish though, Meehan and Fitzpatrick parted ways, and NASCAR Canadian Tire Series driver Andrew Ranger took over the ride for 2012.

This year is a new beginning for Fitzpatrick, with a full season to prove what he can do, and it should be really exciting!

That being said, there is so much more to J.R., and we recently had a chance to chat and find out what revs this guy’s engine.

John Ryan Fitzpatrick was born on the 9th day of May, 1988 in Cambridge Ontario. His dad – John Sr. – got into racing at age 42 as a hobby at Sauble Speedway, along with friend and Late Model racer Mel Priebe. J.R. started his racing career at the age of 6, driving go-karts and CASCAR Junior Late Models, then graduated to the big cars at age 13.

Think for a minute – How many times have you heard someone say that Stock Car Racing isn’t a sport? They say all you do is go fast and turn left. Well don’t tell J.R. Fitzpatrick that, or you may be in for a debate. While in high school, Fitzpatrick found himself defending himself when a gym teacher echoed the comments of so many.

“If I remember correctly, I think I got suspended for the way I responded to him,” says J.R. “I took that pretty personal and I proved to him that race car drivers are just as athletic or more athletic than hockey players, etc…”

J.R. had the last laugh when he competed against some of the best athletes from other schools. They didn’t think he would last, but he ended up being one of the best from his school. J.R. is used to adversity and challenges, and at age one was diagnosed with a hearing impairment that he effectively deals with today.

Racing his dad’s car in the CASCAR Super Series (now NASCAR Canadian Tire Series) at the age of 16, J.R. finished eleventh in the points standings in his first year, and second in the rookie race to Petey Shepherd. When I asked how he got into his dad’s car, he made it pretty clear that it wasn’t handed to him like some may think.

“Everyone thinks it was handed to me, but that’s not true, I had to earn my way,” said J.R. “I worked on the cars and got them ready. I had to prove myself by beating him in my very first CASCAR race. I got like eleventh, and he ended up spinning out in the dirt.”

At age 17, J.R. had three top five finishes, five top ten’s, and got his first CASCAR win. At age 18, he achieved one of his greatest accomplishments in racing, becoming the youngest driver to win a Canadian Tire Series championship. He raced part time in 2009, but returned to the series full time in 2010, and finished second to D.J. Kennington. Last season he managed to race an entire Canadian Tire Series schedule, while also racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Known as a road course expert, J.R. told me an interesting story:

“When I was younger playing Playstation, I always told myself I’m gonna be the next road course ace, the guy everybody watches and really kicks ass.”

He did say now he wants people to understand that he’s a short track oval guy who grew up at Flamboro, Barrie, and Sunset, but for some reason he adapted well to road courses.

“Most of my wins have come on road courses because we’re more dominant,” he said. “On ovals, we get wrecked, or flat tires, or whatever. Long story short, I guess I don’t mind being called a road course expert, but I don’t like being called a road course ringer, because obviously if I have to pick between a road course or an oval, I’m going to pick oval.”

When I asked J.R. what racing means to him, he simply said, “Like everything, I just can’t get enough.” I asked what he does away from the track and he quickly answered, “Work on cars.” He races whenever he gets a chance, whether it be a Super Stock at Delaware or Flamboro, a Can Am TQ Midget, a Legends car in the Maritimes, or a Mini Stock in eastern Ontario.

Fitzpatrick, on his way down east, stopped by at Capital City Speedway near Ottawa to take in some racing action once. Not wanting J.R. to have to sit on the sidelines and watch, Mini Stock driver Nolan Gould offered up his ride for the evening. It was the first time Fitzpatrick had ever driven a front-wheel drive race car, but it didn’t take him long to get the feel for the car, and in true J.R. fashion, he picked up the feature win.

Of all the short track cars he’s raced, a Super Late Model has to be his favorite.

“They’re piles of fun” he said. “Really fast, and always have lots of grip.”

For all you dirt fans out there, J.R. has raced a dirt Sprint Car once or twice, and he said they’re pretty quick and hectic.

“I was real tight in the feature, and did lots of wheelies.”

Sounds like he prefers racing on asphalt. Racing at so many different tracks, I asked J.R. for some of his favorites.

“Flamboro Speedway is like my home,” he said. “I go on Tuesdays just to mess around. I definitely love that place. My favorite around here, I’m leaning towards Sunset, but overall I’m gonna say Riverside or Saskatoon.”

His favorite big track in the U.S. has to be the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“It’s mental to go around,” he said. “It’s crazy – you hold it wide open at 180 m.p.h. in a truck, and it’s narrow and high-banked.”

Wherever he goes though, you know he has a HUGE target on his bumper. Everyone is always out to knock off the top dog.

We all have our greatest accomplishments and memories, and of course J.R. has his. Winning the CASCAR championship at age 18 was his first. Fourth at Daytona and fifth in the Nationwide series are right up there too, but I was surprised at what he considers perhaps his greatest accomplishment to date:

“Winning the Race of Champions at Flamboro Speedway,” he said. “I took the whole week off work, I love running the Super Stock, and winning against 30 of the best of the best was pretty cool.”

That race was on Canada Day 2011, and former NASCAR stars Kenny Schrader, Jimmy Spencer, and Ernie Irvan were on hand for the big event.

J.R. has some other cool things going on too. On a trip to Florida with some racing friends that included Mike Bentley, Jeff Showler, Darrel Lake, and “Stretch” Cowell, they talked over several ideas, one of which included a reality-type series. For now it’s on the back burner, but is definitely something that could show what it’s like for guys and gals who race for the love of it, and not all of the glamor you may think.

“People don’t see the real inside of it,” he said.

Something J.R. is working on currently, but didn’t elaborate on too much is a charitable foundation that he will be setting up in his name.

Anyone who knows J.R. and sees him around the track may notice he always has a Monster energy drink in his hand.

“Well I’ve been a steady energy drinker for a few years now and a lot of people are drinking Monster now because they have hung with me far too long,” he said. “I like the taste and the look and the meaning of Monster. I have a product sponsor now and they sent me 12 cases the other day, so thank you Monster Energy!!”

We closed out the interview with a few questions about the people he would like to thank, and his future plans. His mom and dad have always been his biggest supporters, and he said without them he wouldn’t be where he is. Jason Sharpe is J.R.’s business manager, and he said that Jason does all the leg work and opens lots of doors.

“He enjoys what he does and we’re good friends,” he said.

He also thanks his family and friends, but the biggest influence on J.R.’s career is his long time friend and mentor Don Thomson Jr. Don was always the crew chief on his late model, and it was the plan to begin with to be where they are today.

“When we took that year apart (2011) it made us stronger in a way,” said J.R. “Our relationship is a lot like brothers. He’s been around since I was eight years old. I grew up with him and he beat the crap out of me like an older brother would.”

At the time we first spoke, J.R. told me that his future goal was to make it into the U.S. as a full time driver. Obviously he’s now a step closer. If that doesn’t work out, he says he’ll “Own a car in a few different divisions around Southern Ontario, and try to help bring new talent into short track racing. And I’ll continue to race where ever and when ever I can.”

A big thanks to J.R. for doing this interview, and for being so open and honest, and thanks to my dad for all the research, help, and editing.

You can follow J.R. Fitzpatrick on Twitter at www.twitter.com/j_r_fitzpatrick.

Photos by ImageFactor.ca Photography / www.imagefactor.smugmug.com

Posted in By Larissa Spencer, Exclusive Features, Features0 Comments

Barrie Speedway’s Shawn Murray Honoured By NASCAR

Barrie Speedway’s Shawn Murray Honoured By NASCAR

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – For Barrie Speedway Pure Stock driver Shawn Murray, the 2011 race season was extraordinary. Not only did he win the Pure Stock championship at Barrie, but he was first overall in NASCAR’s National Division 3. Each track that is NASCAR  affiliated usually has 3 divisions, 1 is Late Model, 2 is Thunder Car and 3 is Mini Stock. He beat out over 1000 Mini Stock drivers from over 100 different tracks from all over North America. He was flown to North Carolina for the NASCAR Whelen Awards Banquet where he was presented with a plaque and trophy among other prizes celebrating his great season. An auspicious season to say the least.

Murray only became involved in racing about ten years ago. He got involved by helping his friend Jim Anderson and within a couple of seasons (2004) he was in his own car. He came into his own by 2006 winning his first Barrie Speedway track championship. In 2007, Shawn wanted to learn more about race cars and setup so he joined the Cascar team of John Gaunt and was on the pit crew for a year. A return in 2008 saw Shawn race a few times in a Thunder Car but he returned to the Mini Stocks where he was comfortable. After racing just a few times in 2010, Murray decided to once again race a full season this past summer and it was a memorable one. Finishing first with 865 points, the #02 Ford Mustang paid a visit to Victory Lane in eight of seventeen races. He managed an amazing fourteen top five finishes and was lucky enough not to be passed all year by any car that started behind him. Points were accumulated over the entire race season based on starting place and finishing order. Each win nets you 44 points, how far out of 24 cars you move up (each car you pass) gets you another 2 points each. When all the numbers were tallied Shawn was number one and crowned Division 3 champion.

In 2012, Shawn isn’t resting on his laurels however. Plans are in place for Shawn to compete in the WAHTA SPRINGS Late Model division at Barrie Speedway where he hopes to build on his successes. His sponsors are back on board for this year and Shawn wanted to thank them for their support and continued support. They include Black Tooth Grin Bike Shop (www.btgbikes.com), Assante Capital Management, Eez Signs, FinancialTransitions.ca and Stumpy’s Stump Removal. But running a Late Model will be a bigger investment so if anyone out there is looking to sponsor a very successful driver you can contact Shawn at shawnandsue22@hotmail.com. In closing Shawn also wanted to thank Apex Motor Sports, the new owners of Barrie Speedway that include Diane, Rick, Doug, Angie and Dave for doing a great job and bringing the track back to where it should be.

Congratulations to Shawn Murray on a very successful 2011 season and the best of luck for an even better 2012.

Action photos by Cable Guy Photos. Presentation photo from NASCAR Whelen Awards Banquet. George Silberman (left) and Bob DeVaul (right) present Shawn Murray with his award.

Posted in Barrie Speedway, by Randy Spencer, Exclusive Features, Features0 Comments

Canadian Plays Leading Role For Tony Stewart Racing

Canadian Plays Leading Role For Tony Stewart Racing

By Tommy Goudge (November 26, 2011) – Perhaps by now you’ve heard about the press conference Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That would be the one in which newly-crowned NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion Tony Stewart said competing in dirt track events helped to get him energized during the long and laborious NASCAR season.

Stewart’s NASCAR effort was not up to his standards for a large portion of this season. It was possible he might not even qualify for the 10 race “Chase” playoff. We know now that he made the cut, and won half of those final races to secure his third Sprint Cup title.

How much did winning his first World of Outlaws Sprint Car feature at Ohsweken Speedway in July affect his late-season NASCAR surge? Who really knows, but we do know he considers it to be one of his most important career accomplishments.

“I don’t know that people really truly understand,” Tony told Ontario Oval after that Outlaw win. “They think just because we got to NASCAR that there’s nothing bigger than that, and it’s not that this (win) is bigger, but this is the best in this field, and to be able to run with these guys and be competitive and have a shot to win the main tonight, that’s more than I dreamed we would have done, this early.”

Much has been made of Stewart’s connection to Canada after his win at Ohsweken, but it’s not his only link to this country: A Canadian has helped to guide Tony Stewart Racing since day one. Jimmy Carr is as quiet and reserved as his boss can be brash and outspoken, which may be partly why many people don’t know who he is. He is now the Race Director at Tony Stewart Racing, and he had a huge hand in what Tony accomplished that night in July at Ohsweken.

Urban sprawl in the Vancouver area has long since swallowed them up, but local short tracks once dotted the countryside in British Columbia. Frank Carr was among those on the local racing circuit in the 1960′s, racing at Haney Speedway until it’s closure in 1965, then moving to Langley Speedway, and other tracks around the province.

Racing is often passed down through generations, and it was no different for the Carr family. Jimmy’s first race car was actually a dragster that he purchased from a neighbour in what is now Maple Ridge at age 16, and raced in Seattle “a few times”, but it wasn’t long before he ended up on the ovals.

“My dad was an oval track guy, and he got on my ass because he didn’t think much of drag racing. So I quickly got rid of that straight-line car and got into oval track racing.”

Jimmy became a contender in the west coast Sprint Car scene quickly, and was busy during his twenties racing on the weekends and working at the family gravel business during the week. Langley Speedway was in decline in the late 70′s and early 80′s, and finally closed in 1984. It was also a paved track, and Jimmy found dirt to his liking, which made for long hours on American highways.

“Everything was at Skagit Speedway or even further south. I spent a lot of time on I-5, racing in Washington, Oregon, and California on the weekends.”

Almost a decade passed with Jimmy racing on weekends and working a day job too. Then he made a decision that changed his life.

“1990 rolled around, and we decided we’d go out on the road and do a little touring around. That worked out really well for me. It did really well and kind of paid it’s own way, so in 1991 I decided I’d run for rookie of the year with the (World of) Outlaws and see how it worked out. Eventually, it was the middle of the season and we were still going, and it was still paying the bills on it’s own, so we went ahead and finished that year. I haven’t had a real job since 1989.”

Jimmy did indeed win the rookie of the year title in 1991, and finished 8th in the World of Outlaws series standings behind champion Steve Kinser. That turned out to be his highest career finish in the World of Outlaws standings. Carr continued as a driver for most of the 1990′s, but racing for a living was becoming increasingly difficult.

“There was a time in Sprint Car racing when weight became a huge adjustment, and it became a huge dollar figure. The motors went from $18,000 to $40,000 basically overnight, because they went from 400 pounds to 280 pounds, and I couldn’t afford to do that on my own budget.”

Jimmy was a mechanic for Danny Lasoski on Dennis Roth’s Beef Packers #83 in the late 90′s, but also continued to dabble with driving too. Jimmy and Danny also befriended then open wheel star Tony Stewart, and a seed was planted.

“I got to know Tony a little bit. I went to the Chili Bowl, and I raced some of the Chili Bowl. Danny Lasoski and I got to know Tony pretty good. That was when Tony was still IRL racing. Tony always wanted to have a World of Outlaws car, and when he first started in NASCAR, he got together with Danny and I, and decided we were going to start a World of Outlaws team.”

They methodically planned and prepared for an Outlaw assault, while Jimmy continued to do some driving. His transition from driver to full-time mechanic had almost arrived though.

“That was in late 1999 we started putting it together, and I did a little bit more racing. In ’99 I raced a few cars out in Pennsylvania (one was the Dyer Masonry “Brickmobile” #461), and a car out of Dallas, Texas, but in 2000 we were full-on building our team for the 2001 start with Tony. Brooke Tatnell got hurt in the Casey’s General Store car, and I filled in for him for probably ten races there, and that’s probably the last car I drove.”

Jimmy and Danny went out on the road with the World of Outlaws full-time in 2001, and immediately found success. They had a very consistent season, won the Knoxville Nationals, 4 World of Outlaws features, and came out on top in one of the most closely contested championships in series history. The final points standings show them ahead of Mark Kinser by just 30 points.

Carr has been involved as either crew chief or in a management role for more than a decade now, accruing countless feature wins, helping to build Tony Stewart Racing into a dominant racing team, and one that produces future driving talent. 2011 NASCAR Nationwide series champion Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is just one of many young drivers who have spent time as a Tony Stewart Racing driver.

2011 was another good season for Tony Stewart Racing. It included another Knoxville Nationals win with Donny Schatz, and USAC National Sprint Car and Silver Crown titles with Levi Jones. Stewart’s first World of Outlaws feature win was probably as big a highlight as any though, and Carr was right in the middle of it as Tony’s personal crew chief for his Sprint Car appearances.

“That’s a huge notch in my belt to put (Tony) in victory lane at an Outlaw race,” Carr told Ontario Oval in July. “That’s probably one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. In all the years I’ve raced, I didn’t get to race in Canada very often, but when we did I never got to win, so this is a first time win for me too. I’ve been behind a desk at the shop for a couple of years, and it’s only when (Tony) races that I get out, so every chance I get it’s really cool.”

Carr estimates he won “60 or 70″ features during his driving career, and there might have been a track championship or two in there as well. He knows his stats as a mechanic and race director better, and they are impressive: He’s had a hand in 7 Knoxville Nationals victories, 3 World of Outlaws championships, and 5 United States Auto Club championships. 

“We won the Knoxville Nationals and the (World of Outlaws) championship in the first year we had our team full going, and now here we are 12 years later. Now we have a huge building in Brownsburg, Indiana, with 5 teams that I look after.”

All of this, and Jimmy is not yet 50 years old. That milestone awaits him in October next year. Brownsburg, Indiana is a long way from the greater Vancouver area, but there is no mistaking his humility, politeness, and quiet demeanor as stereotypically Canadian.

 

Posted in By Tommy Goudge, Exclusive Features, Features0 Comments