Archive | by Randy Spencer

Michael Williams Get Elusive CVM Feature Win At Sauble Speedway 

Michael Williams Get Elusive CVM Feature Win At Sauble Speedway 

By Randy Spencer – As many of you racers know, that elusive first feature win is sometimes very hard to get. No matter how talented you are, you need some good luck and help behind the scenes to get there. Well that is exactly what Michael Williams got this past Saturday as he finally got the monkey off his back and picked up his first feature win in the Lucas Oil Canadian Vintage Modified series. I’ve come to get to know Mike and his dad Dave over the past six years and want to say congratulations. There hard work and dedication has finally paid off.

The 33 year old electrician from Tottenham began his racing career running karts at Formula Kartways in Brampton. Mike had always dreamed about driving a real race car but never thought it could be possible. After a test in a car at Flamboro six years ago, Mike and the team were hooked. They bought a CVM and the rest is history. The car he drives now is the car formerly run by Arnold “Doc” Roper, former club president, sponsor and member of the Canadian Vintage Modified Hall of Fame. The past few seasons have been hit and miss for Williams. He took some time off and raced a partial schedule after his marriage to wife Andrea but is now spending some time behind the wheel of the race car again.

Although some of Williams best runs have been this year at Sauble, he told me Delaware Speedway is one of his favorites. “Some of my highlights racing are any time we race at Delaware Speedway. For some reason it doesn’t matter what we do with the setup, the car always seems to be fast there. Every lap around that track is the most fun I get racing especially when the car works on the outside. Our car was owned by the late Doc Roper and I know Delaware was his favourite track so I think that has something to do with it.”

The best Mike has finished to this point is second, several times. “Other than heat wins I haven’t been able to finish better than 2nd up until this past weekend. At the July race in Sauble earlier this summer we had the fastest car in practice but lost a cylinder in the heat race and was unable to start the feature. The closest I came to winning a race was also at Sauble in August 2011. I was leading with 5 laps to go when I developed a push and drove it in too deep and allowed the second place driver to get under me to steal the win.”

Two weeks ago at Flamboro Williams was running well but bad luck once again managed to hit again. “That last wreck at Flamboro was a tough one, probably the worst wreck I have been involved with in terms of damage to the car. We pretty much bent or broke everything in the front end. Fortunately Ron Easton at Oakville Trailers was able to set aside some time away from his Nascar commitments to work on getting our hot rod back together. We worked together with Oakville Trailers this past winter and Ron has helped us make big strides with our racing program. When we had the wreck at Flamboro we knew there was only one place to call to get us back out on the track just as fast as ever.”

When the #7 car found his way to victory lane at Sauble, I asked Mike what the best part of that experience was. “The best part about winning was to be able to celebrate with my dad and crew in victory lane. It was cool to have my buddy Pat there from my main sponsor (Race Mechanical) to enjoy the win with us as well.” Williams almost experienced a little deja vu however. “The race at Sauble felt a lot faster then most because there was only one caution. The last 5 laps did get a little sketchy because I was fighting a bad push into the corners similar to 2011. In the end I was able to hold off a hard charging #00 car who was literally wearing out the back bumper. Once I saw the checkered flag all I could think about was all the people that helped us along the way and how the win is for all of them. It felt great to finally shake the monkey off my back but at the same time I am hungry to do it again.”

Mike has so many people he wanted to thank. “My crew is my family who sacrifices a lot to be with us at the track and in the garage.  The Crew of Dave & Stephen Williams, Brian Henvey, Derek Therrien, Fred Zaffuto and John Donkers has all stuck together with me since the beginning.  For our motor program we take the inline Chevy 6 cylinder to Beatty & Woods in Brampton exclusively. So thanks to Chuck and the boys for filling the car up with all those ponies. We have always had the support of the #00 crew so thanks to Ron, Jeremy and Dave. I would also like to thank my wife Andrea and all off the wives/girlfriends/bosses of my crew who make sacrifices of their own to let us play with our car all summer. Finally I would like to thank all my family and friends for their continued support, especially the ones that were at Flamboro and witnessed that last wreck. As you can imagine I was about as happy as a one armed paper hanger after that wreck.”

In closing Mike wanted to thank all of his sponsors as well and tell me about his future plans in racing. “My main sponsors who have been with us as long as we have had the car is Race Mechanical Systems and Ironwood Construction & Millworking. Over the years we have been blessed with many great sponsors which include HollyParkes.com, Arena Pro Hockey, Burlington Krown & Line-X, Stag Automotive, Oakville Trailers, Terrier Excavating & Landscaping, Diplock Floors LTD, and Kevin Minaker Hutchison & Sons LTD. Without the support of these sponsors none of this would be possible so we are forever grateful. I can’t forget to mention Lucas Oil title sponsor of the Canadian Vintage Modifieds. Lucas Oil helps support the club that makes this all happen.”

And your future plans?  “I’d like to win more races and support the longest active racing organization in Canada, the Lucas Oil Canadian Vintage Modifieds!!” For more information check out http://www.vintagemods.com/

Photos courtesy of T.W. Robarts Photos

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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!!!

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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

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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

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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.

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The Shunamon’s: A Chip Off The Old Block

The Shunamon’s: A Chip Off The Old Block

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – Dale Shunamon is quite literally, “A Chip Off the Old Block.” The 31 year old has been flagging stock car races at tracks around the province since the age of 7, and got his start passing his dad flags at Cayuga Speedway. Dale gets his love of racing because it’s a family affair in the Shunamon household. His dad, Chip Shunamon, is well known to many in the sport as having flagged at tracks like Cayuga, Delaware, Flamboro, and Checkered Flag over the past couple of decades. He also flagged and was on the committee for the Canadian Vintage Modifieds. His mother is Brenda Shunamon, and she has been working as a race scorer/coordinator since the early 1970′s including NASCAR Canada.

Gerald ‘Chip’ Shunamon, was originally known to family and friends as ‘Sonny’. Born and raised in Halifax Nova Scotia, he came to Ontario and first started attending races at Speedway Park in Stoney Creek, a track that now seems a distant memory. It was back in 1963 and Chip would regularly attend the Friday night shows at the 1/3 mile oval and began watching the races and the flagmen. He soon realized the pits were the place to be and before long he was helping Ross and Garry May as well as Bill Watson, just to name a few. He graduated to the Cayuga track clean up crew and eventually was appointed to flag hot laps during warm ups. Brenda started to work as a race scorer in 1971, but just prior to that she attended races to watch her brother Beau who raced in the Mini Stock Division. It was around that time Chip and Brenda met and they were married a few years later. Brenda’s brother introduced her to Chip. “I wasn’t impressed at all, but we kept meeting up, eventually started dating and 38 years later we are still together.”

Chip got his start in flagging when his employer CN was on strike. This was around the time NASCAR Canada was being formed in the late 60′s. Bob Anderson was the head starter and Blaine Book was the assistant starter at Cayuga. They needed a corner flag  man so they put Chip on a perch with a flag. On many occasions he would have to jump and run to get out of the way when cars lost control. He told me about one time at Flamboro, the Assistant starter’s stand was on the back chute and the pit gate was located in the middle of the backstretch wall. Rich Grady lost control of his car coming out of turn two, climbed the wall and took out the stand. He narrowly escaped with his life. Chip moved up to assistant starter when Blaine and his wife moved to Florida. Bob Anderson developed some health issues over the next few year’s and Chip soon found himself as head starter. His favorite racing divisions included Late Models, Modified Sportsman, ASA and the Big Rigs when they ran at Cayuga.

I asked Chip about some of the strange or funny memories he had and he told me a few. He started off, “Best memory was meeting my wife through racing at Cayuga!” We’re all familiar with the Hanley/Biederman feud. Well one night they took each other out, right under the starter’s stand on the front stretch at Flamboro. Helmets came off and fists started flying. “I came down out of the starter’s stand and tried to break it up just as Junior took a tire iron to Biederman but missed.” Another story was while Richard Petty was racing in the NASCAR Canada series at Mosport and Chip was driving the pace car. Hot laps started and he stayed out and passed Petty. He says he still laughs at that one today! Chip is enjoying “retirement” now and hasn’t flagged since Cayuga closed a few years back. Today he attends the races at Flamboro with wife Brenda and whatever track son Dale may be at. He’s a big NASCAR fan as well. You may see him around the track riding in a golf cart marked ‘Geritol Gang’. Oh, and one last thing on Chip, I asked how he got the nickname… Brenda says it’s because he always has a bag of chips in his hand.

As mentioned earlier, Brenda began her career as a race scorer back in 1971. Wayne Conroy, the Cayuga Speedway track manager at the time, came to her and asked if she wanted a summer job. She thought he meant working in the concession. When he told her what the job was, she figured she could learn. She was introduced to Gloria Macy and they developed a friendship and worked together until regular Friday night racing stopped. She also arranged for Brenda to score at Perry and Lancaster Speedways when they were short staffed. Brenda credits Gloria for everything she knows today and also mentioned Bob Slack who was the long time owner of Cayuga who was a great gentleman and did so much for racing in Canada.

After a few years of race scoring at Cayuga, NASCAR Canada gave Brenda perhaps her greatest memory of all her years involved in racing. In 1974, NASCAR Canada sent her to Daytona Beach to meet up with the scoring team to learn a new version of scoring. She told me there was no way she was going alone so arrangements were made for Chip to accompany her for the three week trip. They were put up in an ocean view hotel and had use of a rental car. They were treated very well. The first day there they were taken to Bill France Jr’s office to meet him and his scoring staff. While she was waiting a really good looking man that had “the most beautiful blue eyes,” was sitting across from them. At that moment Bill France Jr. came out of his office and introduced himself and the gentleman as one of the 1974 Daytona celebrities. It was Paul Newman.

Brenda would make her way to the pit scoring office each day and with the scoring technicians while Chip got to enjoy himself at the beach, as well as browsing through the NASCAR garages and chatting with different teams. They had open passes to absolutely everywhere, with one exception. At that time, women were not allowed in the pits or garage and she could only go as far as the fence. Brenda said, “And trust me he had no problem going inside without me.” During race week when all the drivers and teams were around they would get invited to different functions with them. One night it was a dinner/fun night at the Aku Tiki Lounge. Cale Yarborough, who was staying at their Hotel, asked Brenda and Chip to join he and his wife Betty Jo for dinner. They along with Junior Johnson and his wife Flossie, Herb Nab (his crew chief) and his wife Dee and Harold Ballard and his wife Katie all went out together for the evening. “We had such a good time and I realized that all these big gun racers were actually just plain people. The stories Junior Johnson told us about his moonshine days and running the back hills will never be forgotten.” Then race day came and they wandered around the pit areas, talked to the drivers and crews and then were taken to one of the front chute suites to watch the race. The suite was stocked with all the food and drinks you could possibly want. The following week they were called to Bill France’s office for the final wrap up.  Bill said to her, “We could use you on our staff…how would you feel about working for NASCAR?” She was stunned and told him that they would have to think about it. “I was young and very close to my family and was just not ready to leave home. I called him back and thanked him for the offer and turned the job down. I kick myself to this day.”

Brenda, however, kept herself busy back at the local short track scene working Cayuga on Friday nights, Delaware on Saturday nights and Checkered Flag in Windsor on Sundays before sons Dale and Tyler came along. She also worked at the previously mentioned Perry and Lancaster Speedways as well as Heidelberg Speedway in Pennsylvania and Speedway Park in Hamilton. “I remember the scoring booth at Speedway Park. It was a  box built up high and you would have to climb a ladder to get in. Communications to the pits with finishes etc. was done by clipping a piece of paper to a clothesline and sending it across the race track.” When NASCAR Canada was formed Brenda was asked to work for them so she quit her job and went to work full time with NASCAR Canada. The racing series took them on an east coast tour which included Capital City Speedway in Ottawa, Sanair in Quebec, Riverside Speedway in New Brunswick as well as Antigonish and Scotia World Speedways in Nova Scotia. Other tracks she has worked at include the Mosport road course, Peterborough, Humberstone, Ohsweken, Sauble, Sunset, the CNE and the Niagara Falls Convention Centre.

Brenda has been at Flamboro for over 20 years now and has worked with Chip and sons Tyler and Dale at the track. Younger son Tyler worked the scoreboard in 2005 and 2006 and also sold cold drinks throughout the stands. While Tyler doesn’t work at the track currently, older son Dale has made quite a name for himself flagging at tracks all over the province. Starting at Cayuga at age 7 helping dad Chip with the flags, went on to work the scoreboard by age 9 and was a runner for the tower staff. When he was old enough to be allowed on the track he joined the track clean up crew. Today he is the head flagman at Ohsweken Speedway and for the Lucas Oil Can Am Midgets. Travelling with the midgets has taken him to tracks like Flamboro, Cayuga, Sauble, Sunset, Barrie, Peterborough, Grand Bend, South Buxton and Erie Pennsylvania. When watching Dale flag, one word comes to mind… flamboyant. Like Chip he always used the double checkers or the ‘Double Checkered Flying Flag Race Win Dazzle” as described by writer Don Hanley in a story a few years back. Dale quipped, “The starter is not just there to flag, he is part of the show as well.” That he does. I personally remember the first few times I saw Dale flag, I was astonished. I thought to myself, why does he do that? I had never witness such a spectacle. While researching for the story when the Can Am Midgets paid a couple of visits to Flamboro I focused my attention to the crowd. I was amazed at the number of people that watched Dale wave the flags with vigor and are almost awe struck when he signals the half way point of the race or the way he twirls the flags to alert drivers that there was two laps to go. A true showman and professional.

Dale mentioned that he had a few good memories and one bad memory of his days around the track. Getting his start at Cayuga with his dad during the ASA days as well as flagging for the World of Outlaws, a.k.a. ‘The Greatest Show on Dirt’ , are right up there. The memory he would like to forget, but likely never will happened at Ohsweken when Mini Stock driver Art Hill had a violent crash. “I was working the infield at the time and climbed inside the car to try to help save him.” Sadly Art didn’t survive.

Nowadays you can find Dale at Ohsweken on Friday nights and either at South Buxton or wherever the Can Am Midgets are racing on Saturdays. He loves to spend time with his daughter Amelia, a beautiful little girl who is definitely the apple of Grandma and Grandpa’s eyes. As for Dale I asked his future plans in flagging. “Who knows where life will bring you.” As for Chip and Brenda, racing is in their blood and racing at Flamboro wouldn’t be the same without them!

 

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Racing Runs Deep In Schwartzenburg Bloodlines

Racing Runs Deep In Schwartzenburg Bloodlines

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – This racing season was definitely one to remember for Rich Schwartzenburg. Five years ago at the age of 31, Rich  started his racing career. He wanted to “follow in his brothers footsteps” and as a hobby to spend more time with his dad and brother. Ricky, as I know him, told me there is no one he would rather beat than his brother Billy, thirteen years his junior. He told me his goal was to win a race and then “he may retire.” Well on July 2nd, the second Mini Stock heat race of the night at Flamboro Speedway, Ricky succeeded on both counts, beating his brother and winning his first race. And it wasn’t easy, beating some of the top talent in the division, past champions and very experienced drivers. In his first three years, Ricky only made 18 events. His job takes him all over the world on cruise ships so it makes it difficult to race full time.

Ricky and Billy both say they owe a lot to their dad John. The elder Schwartzenburg had a brief racing career. He bought a Chevelle in June of 1989 from Howe Cunningham and raced a few races with his best feature showing of 6th place. His good friend Dave McKay wanted to give it a try and he won a heat and the feature so at that point they decide to rotate from week to week. “By the end of the season Dave was pretty much driving the car full time. I never had the patience to be the driver my son Billy is today.” I asked John who some of the drivers he liked to race with and he mentioned Kelly Williams, Rob Munday, Brad Collison, Don Thomson Jr., Mike Poulton Jr., Darrin Thring, Carol Charron, Steve Perry, Jay Hughes and Bill Darmon among others. The #30 Challenger division car won best appearing in 1990. Ricky was the head crewman on the car that year. John met his wife Jackie at Flamboro and they married a year later. Billy was born in 1993 and they put the racing on the back burner until Billy was old enough to start racing go karts with the Waterloo Regional Kart Club. Billy caught on quick and was a top runner in karts and by age 11 started racing a Mustang in the Mini Stock division at Varney Speedway.

This year Billy started his tenth year in racing, four in karts and his sixth in Mini Stocks. Entering this year, Billy had his race program turned up a notch as he joined the Spira Racing team headed up by Ken and Carol Spira. “It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot. I hope to build on my knowledge by working with Ken and hopefully it will lead to moving up in classes.” Billy told me his goal is to race a Late Model and he got a chance to take Steve Laking’s Late Model out earlier this year in practice and  he said, “it was an unreal experience. I can’t thank Steve enough for the opportunity.” He was turning laps that rank right up there with the regular runners on a Saturday night at Flamboro. The 2007 Flamboro Mini Stock Rookie of the Year is looking to take that next step before long. I asked Billy some of his memorable moments and he mentioned the Rookie of the Year, Most Sportsmanlike and Most Improved driver awards, but oddly he said, “the greatest memory is my roll over a few years ago.”

Ricky however didn’t share the same feeling telling me the worst memories he has had, “Being strapped into the car for both of Billy’s big wrecks and that feeling of helplessness.” Late last year Billy took a hard hit in the left rear causing the fuel cell to puncture. Someone was looking over Billy that day, thankfully as a fire never broke out. Ricky had his best ever finish last year at Flamboro finishing 7th in Mini Stock points and he raced every invitational at Varney and he even tried his hand racing on dirt at Ohsweken. Ricky was starting to feel frustrated looking for that first win last year in the feature at Varney as he led until the final turn of the feature and was edged out at the checkered flag. He said other than the race win this year some other memorable moments were his 4th place finish on his birthday last year at Varney and a second place finish in the Oktoberfest Consi two years ago. I asked him about his number, 72. “The car is 72 of course for Jr. Hanley.”

In closing I asked the guys about what is important to all short track racers, their crew and sponsors. Billy wanted to thank his mom Jackie, dad John, Ricky and Ken Spira as well as his sponsors, Spira Fire Protection, Guelph Wish Fund for Children, Lucas Oil, Pro ThreadZ, Artik Ice, Grant’s Auto Care, Wix Filters, Hydra Air Radiators, Gunk and Dominion Sure Steel. Ricky told me his crew is one main person, Dave Mast. Without him and the help of Mark Mast, Ken Spira, Mark Dennis, Randy Shaw and of course his dad John, racing would be impossible. He says his number one fan is his Aunt, Audrey Mast who faithfully sits in turn four every week regardless of the weather cheering him on. Her house is where Ricky’s race shop is located. His great sponsors include Engines from Hal, Linda Olson Remax, Spira Fire Protection, Audrey Mast, Jas Custom Stone, Majestic Collision and Schwartzenburg Haulage.  One final thought, Ricky was away for most of the summer for work but returned to race September 17th. During warmup brother Billy’s engine burst and Ricky was on his tail and was collected into the turn one wall. Unable to continue, the Spira team with help from some other fine race friends  went to work immediately. They swapped engines, missed the heats but by the time the consi rolled around there was the number 86 car out to take the green. He finished third in the consi and a respectable tenth in the 22 car feature race. Now that’s brotherly love! Ricky has his car up for sale now his racing career perhaps at and end….for now. You know that itch just never goes away Ricky!

 

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A Dream Season For Varney’s Tanya McDougall

A Dream Season For Varney’s Tanya McDougall

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – It wasn’t all that many years ago that women weren’t even allowed in the pit area of a race track let alone in a race car. Exceptions were made for Powder Puff races that were very popular back in the early days of racing. Women have come a long way in a short time. Primarily a sport dominated by the male species, there have been some women that have made there way to the top of the heap and wore the crown as champion at several race tracks.

One such Champion is Tanya (Stewart) McDougall. She races in the Street Stock division at Varney Motor Speedway, the fastest quarter mile track in Southern Ontario, just outside Durham. The final race is this Saturday and Tanya leads the second place car of Bill Keill by just 49 points. Tanya will take the title as the first two heats are points races, there are no points for the feature and since winning the heats are worth 20 points each, that leaves Tanya with at worst a 9 point lead, even if she doesn’t even race.

The 29 year old native of Bellwood Ontario has raced in the Varney Street Stock division for six years. Growing up around race cars all of her life, she felt it was time to give it a try herself. She told me, “The track has always been apart of my family.” Her grandpa Eldred “Stu” Stewart raced a 1935 Ford 4 door at Pinecrest, Teviotdale, Wasaga Beach, Humber Springs and various other tracks. When he hung up the helmet he decided that he would re-build engines for the next 45 years for racers. Tanya’s uncle Rick Woolner also raced for many years starting in 1983 driving an enduro and later in Street Stocks, Late Models and All Pros. He raced at most tracks in Ontario and he also raced at Holland Speedway, New York in the Nascar Sportsman class. His last race was in June 1999 and he passed away in August 1999. At the time of his death, he was leading the Ontario Modified Association Thunder series. Her father Jim Stewart started racing in 1991 in the Street Stock division. He also raced in the Super Street Stocks, enduros and the demolition derbys and raced until 1995. Her brother Jason Stewart also raced at Varney in the Street Stock division for a couple of years.

Three years into her racing career her greatest memory was her first feature win. “It took me three years of racing before I got one, but it happened. The greatest accomplishment is from this year when I got a hat trick.” Her goal at the start of the season was to do well enough to win a feature race again, at some point in the season, so to have won all three races in one night, she was very proud of herself and her crew. “Whenever I finish a race in one piece that is an accomplishment to me.” Family, crew and sponsors are the key to a successful racing career. Some of the people she wanted to thank and that have helped get her to this point over the years  are husband Darryl, son Brayden, her parents Jim and Julia, grandpa Stu, her in-laws Gord and Bonny, and the guys that have helped work on the car like Lance Sullivan, Brian Wilson, and Scott Way. “They are always there when I need a hand and I am very grateful for that.” Some of her sponsors that have helped out this race season are Pryde Truck Service in Fergus, KC Auctions in Orangeville and At A Glance Signs and Screenprinting in Arthur.

For most racers, male or female, when they’re on the track they see each other as just another racer. However, sometimes, egos can get in the way and it’s male vs. female. So I asked Tanya, what she experiences on the track. “Whenever I hop into the race car and strap myself in, I feel like I become one of the guys. What I love about racing is that the guys that I am on the track with don’t treat me like a girl. To them I am an equal, which is what has made me a better racer.” She admitted that in the beginning she had to work hard and prove to some that she was able to play with the guys, and that she did. Tanya told me she loves racing and to be able to show younger girls in the stands that women can do anything that they want to, and that they should never let anybody tell them otherwise, is a source of pride.

Tanya’s immediate plans are to stay at Varney Motor Speedway in the Street Stock division and see what else she can learn and go from there. “Who knows where I will end up in a couple of years. This season has been a great one for me.” Although she didn’t win every race, Tanya was consistent throughout the year and said, “You just have to show up every week and drive to the best of your abilities and it will happen. I never dreamed that I would ever get a hat trick this year, let alone win a points championship for my division.” Tanya feels the most important thing that she has learned is that when she goes out onto the track it has to be fun.  “I have a blast out there and as long as it’s fun for me, and I come off of the track with a smile on my face, I will keep racing.” She is very proud to be among the very few females that have won a points championship at a race track anywhere.  “I just want people to know that us females deserve to be treated equally. You never know what we can accomplish until you give us a chance.”

Congratulations Tanya on a great season! 

Check the Varney Speedway website for more on Tanya and the rest of the racing action at http://www.varneymotorspeedway.com/

Just as a side note, a couple of years ago, I wrote my first story titled, Women in Racing. It looked at sixteen female racers. Please check it out at, http://mostwanted2005.hubpages.com/hub/Women-in-Racing.

Congratulations to Chelsea Pace who won the 2011 KM Construction Stock Fours Championship at Laird Speedway, Brooke Cordick who won the 2011 SFL Metal Works Four for Fun Class Championship at Capital City Speedway, and Nicole Podewils is the current leader in the Mini Stock Points race at Sunset Speedway with the season just about finished. My apologies if I missed anyone.

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‘Alabama Mel’ Makes His Return With Help From Meineke

‘Alabama Mel’ Makes His Return With Help From Meineke

By Randy Spencer – Mention the name “Alabama” Mel to any seasoned race fan and it most surely will stir lots of great memories. Mel Priebe raced for 32 years on oval tracks around Ontario, won back to back Late Model Championships at Varney Motor Speedway in 1979 and 80 and wore the crown at Sauble Speedway in 1980. After a ten year absence, “Alabama” Mel climbed back into the cockpit of a Late Model race car last Saturday night at Sauble Speedway.

Mel got the itch once again and after a fishing trip with friend Dave Wood, the wheels were in motion. Dave and his wife Crystal are owners of 3 Meineke Car Care Centers. Eagle Street in Cambridge opened in 2003, Victoria Street in Kitchener opened in 2006 and a new store soon to be open at the corner of Haddington and Dundas Street in Cambridge. Dave began his career 18 years ago as a mechanic and started working at the Meineke store in Waterloo. When that store was sold, Dave and Crystal went looking for a good location for their own Meineke Car Care Centre. Crystal was involved in recreational leadership/support with seniors and gave up her career to work with future husband at Meineke. In 2009, Dave and Crystal were awarded the International Franchise Association (IFA)  “Franchisees of the Year” for their Meineke stores.

At 64, Mel is virtually a rookie again and I could tell he was chomping at the bit to get back in the car. He had a big smile on his face as he talked about the past as well as the future plans for the new Meineke Car Care Centre Race team. “We’ll take small steps. We haven’t committed to anything, we’ll wait and see how it goes.” Dave told me they hoped the car would have been on the track by now but both are keeping very busy. Mel runs his own business and Dave and Crystal are getting their new store ready to open.  The all yellow Late Model, with a Thunder Car looking body, will sport the #23. They have been out to Sauble lately working the bugs out. “We’ll see how things go and we may do a couple of invitationals, like Oktoberfest and Autumn Colors.”

Back in the Day, Mel was a huge fan favorite. “I was all about the kids.” He would have cartoon characters painted on his car and would let the kids sit in the car. “There were more kids around than you could shake a stick at.” He was a clean racer and on top of his game racing at Sauble. “They treated me well there,” Mel said. He finished first in points once, 5 or 6 times finished second and about 14 times he was third in points. He raced against the big names like Hanley and Biederman and has so many interesting stories to tell about his journey. One he told me that I found was quite interesting was how he introduced John Fitzpatrick to stock car racing. Fitzpatrick, as many of you probably are aware is the father of J.R. Fitzpatrick. It was 1992 and John was very stressed at work and his wife was so happy that Mel got John into racing, it changed his life. Cambridge Rigging sponsored him and Mel was responsible for getting the Home Hardware deal for Fitzpatrick. CASCAR came calling and John took that route, but Mel decided it wasn’t for him. Mel would watch J.R. while at the track and eventually helped him in J-Cars and would get him geared up for practice. I asked how Mel got the “Alabama” tag and it was from his days with Inglis. He went to Tennessee and while there picked up the Southern twang and returned to Ontario for a Saturday race in which he came out victorious. In victory lane he was interviewed by the track announcer and after listening to the twang days before, he picked up the accent and spoke that way himself during the interview. Sounding like a man from the South, the nickname stuck and still does to this day.

Race day had finally arrived and the team was packed and ready to go with tons of anticipation the Meineke Car Care team headed for the beach. Unfortunately, the night didn’t end up the way the team had hoped.  In the first heat, Mel got mixed up with another car tearing the nose and both front fenders from the car. They got the car “cleaned” up and made it out for their next heat. They moved up 4 spots, but had some more difficulties. In the feature, Mel moved up 5 positions, however on lap 12 got mixed up with the same car that he had an incident with in the first heat. The car hit Mel so hard that it tore the steering box right from the frame. To say the least they were far from pleased with how the night turned out. The fiberglass body took quite a beating and they were picking up pieces everywhere. Talking to Dave this week he told me that he purchased a new Impala SS Late Model body, which is much more durable. He also told me the crowd was huge and the track announcer talked up Mel all night. After the races, fans retreated to the pits and there must have been a few hundred people that gathered around to take a look at the car and talk to Mel. He was definitely still a big fan favorite and although they won’t be out this weekend, there planning on getting the car back together and returning to Sauble. If you get a chance make sure you check out the Meineke Car Care Late Model and driver Mel Priebe, a great guy to talk to. Information about racing at Sauble Speedway is located at www.saublespeedway.ca and the Meineke website is located at www.meineke.ca.

 

 

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Exclusive Feature: Keen Picking Up Where He Left Off

Exclusive Feature: Keen Picking Up Where He Left Off

By Randy Spencer – For Jason Keen the 2011 season started the same way it finished. In the final race of 2010, Keen took the checkered flag at Flamboro Speedway narrowly edging the team of Steve Lyons and T.J. Woolsey by a mere two points to take the points title. An exciting win at the opener at Sunset Speedway in Innisfil on May 22nd of this year got the Oakville native off to a better start than last year. A blown engine in the first race and a crash in the second race discouraged the team, but in hindsight it made the eventual Championship that much sweeter.

Jason has been racing for twelve years. His career got started racing a coyote kart with the Waterloo Regional Kart Club. Keen liked it so much he ended up joining the Toronto, Hamilton and Mosport clubs competing in at least one event every weekend. He also participated in the Ron Fellows series. Jason would graduate in to the Cup Lite cars, an American club series that ran mostly in the U.S. except for a couple of races at Mosport. The cars were 3/4 size NASCAR bodies with snowmobile engines and they ran real good times due to the fact they didn’t weigh a lot. The series started to fall apart and car counts dropped off so Jason and his dad went to Flamboro looking for a new class to race in for the upcoming season. Randy knew Ron Easton a little bit and Jason got the opportunity to run Easton’s extra car and his Canadian Vintage Modified (CVM) career was underway. “The CVM group are great fun and made us feel very welcome.” As a traveling series and I asked Jason what kind of  challenges that offers. “Every track has it’s challenges, that’s lots of fun. I would race every weekend if I could at any track. I hate missing out on a chance to race.” The wet weather earlier this season made it very frustrating on Keen as well as the rest of the CVM club.

Jason was brought up around racing and cars for most of his life. His grandfather Bob got started back in 1956 at the CNE Speedway and won the Ontario Amateur Racing Series, also known as the Hobby club championship in his first full year 1957, just as Jason won the championship in his first full year with the club 53 years later. Bob moved on to the Super modified series the following year driving a car he built himself and then drove for Al Sayer, a great car builder Back in the Day. He raced regularly, 3 times a week at the CNE, Bridgeport and Flamboro where he had many victories including the Modified Championship at Bridgeport in it’s final full year of operation in 1962. The following year Bob opened his own engine rebuilding business that still flourishes today under the ownership of his son Randy. Jason works as an Automotive machinist.

Bob still makes it out to support his grandson at every race. Jason started his CVM career racing as number 42 but last season changed the number on the 1931 Chev Coach to 18 in honor of his grandfather. Much of his success can be accredited to his parents and car owners Randy and Kim. I asked Jason who some of the people  are that got him where he is today. “My dad…where a team.” His mom and grandfather are big supporters as are friends Blair Goddard and Robert DiRisio, who help to keep the car in terrific shape and running so well on race day. Winning the championship in 2010 and the first time on an oval in a Cup Lite car are two of his greatest memories thus far in his early career. His sponsors include Oakville Automotive Machine Shop, Nella Travel and Gerry Wheaton & Son. Jason tells me, “I love racing on the ovals. It’s a great hobby and as long as there are cars to race with I’ll keep doing it.  After 5 race events in 2011 Jason Keen has once  again found himself atop the Points ladder with 302 points, seven points up on Adrian Donkers. Good luck to the Keen racing team as the try to make it two in a row. My thanks to Jason, Randy and Bob Keen for there cooperation and hospitality when I met with them recently at Flamboro and with help for the story.

The Canadian Vintage Modified club is the oldest continually active racing organization in Canada with a long and rich history. The club is dedicated to preserving the roots of stock car racing and for more information on the club check them out online at http://www.vintagemods.com/

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Exclusive Feature: Robert Divenanzo Soaring To New Heights

Exclusive Feature: Robert Divenanzo Soaring To New Heights

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – Growing up, many young boys dream of being a pilot or a race car driver. Not everyone gets to fulfill their dreams but Robert Divenanzo was able to accomplish both. Rob grew up around racing and since the age of 4 or 5 would sneak into the pits at Flamboro. He comes from a long line of racers including his grandfather as well as his dad and uncle. His dad Al was “the biggest part of his career. We had fun, at times struggled but always enjoyed each others company.”  At the age of 10, Rob began racing go karts and by 1991 he was racing the big cars at Flamboro. At the age of 13 or so he became very interested in another type of speed, airplanes. Two years later he started taking flying lessons and progressed his way through all of the required licenses and by 1990 he started to fly professionally. He currently is a corporate pilot with Sky service flying a Challenger 604 private jet based out of Toronto.

Rob’s racing career got off to a good start and in 1991 racing in the Challenger division he won the Rookie of the Year honors. Two years later he was winning with regularity and had the honor of taking the most checkered flags with the Challengers, a division many refer to as Street Stocks. With this success Rob decided to take a chance on moving up and joined the CASCAR Late Models series. He admitted to me that, “CASCAR for me was a mistake. We had just come off a great season at Flamboro in the Challengers with 10 plus wins and with a little bit of sponsorship and amazing help from Steve Adams, we built a car. I was so underfunded.” He says he made some bad decisions and let some people down and by 1995 he sold everything. He had nothing but good things to say about CASCAR and how amazing the series was.

He took time off to focus on family and his career and didn’t return to the sport until 2010. He told me he was “on the fence” about returning to racing but his friendship with J.R. Fitzpatrick changed all that. In the latter part of 2009 he struck a deal with J.R. to buy his Can Am Midget car. “I had always been amazed by these cars and when the opportunity presented itself to race in that series, I jumped at it.” Joining the Lucas Oil Can AM Midget series turned out to be a good decision, and 20 years after being named the Challenger Rookie of the Year, Rob was awarded the same honor with the Midget series, an accomplishment he tells me he is very proud of. In racing the support of your family is very important. His wife and crew chief Melanie “works her butt off” and wants to learn as much as possible. His children Paige and Tyler are often seen helping dad out on race days pushing the car around and helping wherever possible.

The Lucas Oil Can Am Midget series is a traveling show that takes them to tracks all around the province as well as an annual trip to Lake Erie Speedway in Pennsylvania. Rob says he loves the travel and getting to race at different tracks. Most importantly however he enjoys the people involved in the series from the officials to the drivers and crews. “Coming into the series last year as a rookie, I never expected to receive the help that I did from everyone….just amazing.” Sponsorship in racing is of utmost importance these days. Rob’s primary sponsor is Mike Westwood Fabrication. “Mike is very knowledgeable and builds incredible equipment. I can’t thank him enough for his guidance and support.” Rob was hoping to make a run at the championship this year but some changes at work has relegated him to a part time schedule for the time being but he says, “I intend on staying with the Midgets and making a full assault on the tour in 2012.” Good luck Rob!!

Make sure you check out the Lucas Oil Can Am Midget series at a track near you. Visit their website at http://www.canammidgets.com/ for more information.

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Exclusive Feature: The Ride Of My Life

Exclusive Feature: The Ride Of My Life

By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com – If you ever get a chance to get behind the wheel of a race car, make sure you take advantage of it. That’s what I did this week and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. John Karley who races a 1934 Studebaker in the Canadian Vintage Modified (CVM) series gave me the ride of my life. He mentioned to me a while back and I couldn’t wait to get in the car. Last week he told me I would get my chance at the Tuesday night Flamboro practice. I was getting butterflies and thinking, I can’t do this. After all I think in my life I’ve been in a go kart twice…that’s my racing experience. I was terrified of wrecking John’s car. Watching racing for most of my life and working at Flamboro I’ve seen it happen. A car would enter the corner and the back end would start to slide and right into the wall..

I arrived at the track and John and Darryl Henwood were shaking the car down and testing and tuning to get the rust off. After all the very wet spring and early summer has allowed the CVM club to only get one race in thus far. I was a bit nervous, not knowing when he would say ok it’s your turn. I watched from a distance as they prepped the car. Darryl took the car out a few times. They bled the brakes, changed tires and did a few other adjustments. I watched as some of the other cars took laps. Several “hobby” cars were there. The “Iron Man” Gary Elliott had his car out. Gary is a great guy, and has been racing over 40 years. He is one of my heroes. Watching him go around the track made me think of some of the other big names to go fast, turn left and have fun over the 50 years that racing action has taken place at Flamboro. Legends and heroes like Jimmy Howard, Glenn Schurr, Don Biederman, Harvey Lennox, Junior Hanley, Jack McCutcheon, Pete Shepherd,  Howie Scannell, Don Thomson Jr., Jim Shampine just to name a few.

John took the car out for some laps and he got out of the car and tossed me the racing suit. I climbed in head first and almost fell in. It was a tight fit. John and Lisa helped buckle me in and put the steering wheel on.  My knees were rubbing on both sides of the steering wheel. The pedals were so close and my size 13′s were covering the clutch and brake. I put the helmet on and racing gloves….I was ready to go. Surprisingly I wasn’t nervous, but had trouble with the clutch but after stalling it a few times got it in reverse and headed for the track. It was amazing, I was doing this. I pulled up to the track entrance and waited while Richard Schurr, son of legend Glen Schurr took some laps in Gary Elliott’s #36.

John gave me a few more pointers, told me where to let off the gas, when to floor it and so on. I remember him telling me how the 2 shifters worked and looking back I think I had the one in the wrong position, but still had a blast. It was my turn and I took off and headed into the first turn and shifted into racing gear. All I wanted to do was make it around with out wiping out….and that I did. What a hoot! As Mark DaSilva, who races a mini stock told me, “You’ll either love it or never or you’ll never do it again.” Well I’m hooked what a feeling. I probably went around 8 or 10 times and could have stayed on all night. I took the car off at turn 2 and managed to keep it in one piece.

When I got back to the pits I asked John, how was my time. He said jokingly, “You don’t want to know.” I thought I was going pretty fast but my last lap was my best, about 23 seconds. The track record of 13.97 seconds still holds!! It was slow, but it felt really fast in  the car. I definitely have a brand new respect for what the men and women do on the track every night. It’s hard to imagine going twice as fast with 20 or 30 cars inches away taking the green and heading into that first turn.. Rob Hoskins told me that’s his favorite part of the race, that rush that keeps him coming back. Well it will keep me coming back, hope I get another opportunity, got that first one out of the way. It’s a piece of cake now!! So if you get the opportunity like I did, don’t let it slip away, you won’t regret it. Once again thanks to John Karley and every one that got the car on the track for me to Live my Dream!!

Photos by Larissa Spencer / Video by Lisa Lott.

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‘The Rabbit’ Rob Hoskins Enjoying The Thrill Of Racing

‘The Rabbit’ Rob Hoskins Enjoying The Thrill Of Racing

By Randy Spencer – He’s been called the “Rabbit” and the “Hero from Harley”. You may know him because he drives the orange Peanut Butter Cups car. Any way you look at it, Rob Hoskins, the #37 Flamboro Speedway Mini Stock driver has developed into a very good racer in a short period of time. 

Rob first attended races when he was about 8 years old. Memories of watching racing at Sauble Speedway where it was standing room only and he cheered for Ken McIlroy because he raced a late 60′s Mustang. He attended big events at Sunset as well as a couple of dirt tracks, Model T and  Jackpot Speedways near Williamsford, long since disappeared. Several years later Rob attended a couple of races and wandered around the pits afterwards. The people were a lot like him and he thought he could do what they do so that winter he purchased a car, turned it into a race car and the following spring he went racing. In his second night of racing, he hit the wall at Ohsweken hard head on, bounced off and sat cross ways on the track watching the field bearing down on him. Luckily, they all got by. Later in the pits he tells me how he stomped around telling anyone who would listen how mad he was. Fellow racer Abel Castelein managed to calm Rob down saying, “Well you’re ok, and the car still fits on the trailer, that’s not a bad night of racing.” Now even after a wreck he tries to stay positive. “A smile and a wave always gets a cheer and keeps the fans coming back.” 

Hoskins admittedly told me he has had no luck figuring out dirt racing and he prefers paved tracks. In 2009, Rob started heading to Flamboro and made an impact almost immediately. I asked him his greatest racing moment thus far, “My first feature win for sure, May 23, 2009. Almost every mini-stock driver came over and congratulated me. That felt pretty special.”  That first year he didn’t make every event but managed to win 12 of the 28 races he appeared in, including four feature wins. Last year Rob made 33 races winning 19 including the most feature wins of any other driver at 6. Over the past few years Rob hasn’t made every event because of a busy schedule. “I have a wife and two teenage daughters that are very supportive of my racing, yet they don’t need me spending every Saturday night at the track.” He also mentioned he doesn’t want to get the least little bored with it. Work keeps him busy, especially in the spring. He runs a Pioneer Seeds Sales  outlet in which he markets corn, soybean, wheat and alfalfa seed to farmers. He also coaches, referees and plays soccer while sitting on the local soccer club executive. “Sometimes it’s just too much to fit it all in.” 

Hoskins, who picked up the nickname the “Rabbit” from Flamboro announcer Josh Paxton because he races a VW Rabbit. He raced it until mid summer last year and switched to the VW Golf after taking a hard hit at an invitational at Sauble Speedway. The Golf is similar in style and motor but it handles a lot better and is more stable. He spent a lot of time researching all facets of mini stock racing from parts to tires to driving methods. It has as good of a power-to-weight ratio as the rules at Flamboro allow. He also gives a lot of the credit for his success to three time Mini Stock champion Dave Bailey who Hoskins learned a ton from listening and observing how Bailey races and prepares for battle. From time to time if you look you’ll see a video camera attached to the roll cage in the #37. If you enjoy watching in car racing action, Rob has some of the best. The sound of the car is what I personally like best. He gets lots of comments on how much the fans  enjoy it. Check out the first YouTube video below. It shows Rob hitting the wall and his hood flying up. What you don’t see is how he climbed the wall rode it for a while and managed not to flip the car and landed on four wheels. (You may even want to check Dave Franks Photos for that date, as Dave caught the wild ride.) The neat part is near the end when he’s towed off to the pits, the cheering crowd is very evident. Rob is definitely one of the most popular racers at Flamboro. “The absolute thrill of going into turn one on the first lap with a whole pack of cars just inches away and hoping you get through ok is like no other feeling. It’s what keeps me coming back. I knew after the first corner of my first race that I would have to keep racing!”

I asked Rob about his paint scheme and the fact it looks like a Reese Peanut Butter Cups on wheels. “Purely coincidence.” The car was red and he wanted to paint it. He had some left over Allis Chalmers orange he purchased at TSC. The yellow and black 37 contrasted well with the orange so he went with it. It wasn’t until the car was finished that fans started to note the resemblance. In 2011, Rob is working on a new car, that is almost ready. He may want to re-think that decision as he has taken the checkered flag in the first three Mini Stock feature races. He also feels he’s fortunate to be able to run without a sponsor. “I don’t find mini-stock racing to be particularly expensive.” But although he didn’t say, I’m sure he wouldn’t turn anyone down. It would be a good investment for somebody. Leading in points and almost always out front and the car is very noticeable. As for what the future holds, his goal is for every night to not end up in a wreck and  especially to not have someone else’s wreck his fault. “My favorite division is the Thunder Cars, I’d love to try one out but I don’t see that in my crystal ball.” You never know!  Good luck to Rob for the remainder of 2011 on his quest for the Mini Stock points championship at Flamboro Speedway!

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No Slowing Down ‘The Ironman’ Gary Elliott

No Slowing Down ‘The Ironman’ Gary Elliott

By Randy Spencer – How does one define an Ironman?  If you look up the definition it says, “A male athlete of remarkable endurance or durability.”  That pretty much sums up the career of Gary Elliott.  Josh Paxton, Flamboro Speedway P.A. announcer tagged Gary with the nickname a few years back and it stuck. Elliott who will enter his 43rd year in racing in 2011 has truly earned his nickname. In the 42 years Gary has had perfect attendance in 35 of them. I asked Gary how many races and wins he has in his career. “I would guess that I have over 2,200 races started and 220 wins taking everything…heats, consi’s, semi’s and features.”

A visit to Gary’s race shop is like entering a museum. As you take the stairs the walls are covered by huge plaques from his years racing the Hobby (Canadian Vintage Modified) series and more. You reach the top of the stairs and a huge collection of trophies, pictures and other hardware and collectibles Gary has picked up over a very distinguished career. I sat with Gary for a couple hours going down memory lane of his career with the hobby cars, racing at Flamboro, the race trips to Michigan and down east, his faith, his family and so many interesting stories. He has a chronology of his amazing career with race reports and notes from every race. The 2010 race season kept Gary very busy. A few nights he raced the Late Model and Hobby car and also raced a thunder car and mini stock.

My story was originally to be a feature for OntarioOval.com called ‘Question Session’. I quickly realized that telling the story of this amazing race car driver couldn’t be summed up in such as short interview. Racing an incredible six decades I asked him how long he planned to continue racing. “Is there a time limit? Just kidding, I would like to make 50 years God willing.”  A race fan all his life Gary had four idols from the age of 5 up to when he began his racing career, Ted Hogan, Glen Schurr, Terry Dickinson and Vic Parsons. Glen had the biggest impact on Gary but so did Terry and Vic. His first time on the track was July 29, 1967 when he entered a Demolition Derby at Flamboro Speedway with 33 other cars and he won the race in his “55 Chev.

His oval track career would begin at Cayuga Speedway in 1969 when he started racing in the Mini Stock class. Gary raced for 3 years in mini stocks and in 1972 he purchased a 1930 Model A 5 window coupe for $1000 and moved to the hobby series where he would spend many years becoming one of the most successful racers in the province. In the early years money was tight, the team didn’t have a proper tow, no spare parts and tools that were carried in a fishing tackle box but Gary still managed to make every race and survived every season.

There were several factors that kept Gary in racing and allowed him to continue for so long. His wife Nonie who he met in 1968, without a doubt has been his biggest supporter and the reason he has raced so long. Both of his children, David and Shirley have also been instrumental through help and encouragement. I asked Gary about some of the other people that have helped over the years. “There are so many, some for a short time, others for much longer. My dad helped me a lot by doing the welding on my cars before and during the season. My mom always cheered me on. Don Roth, Jim Bunting, Ed Hennessey, Fraser Dow and other helped me in my early seasons. My crew members who have been most dedicated to me include Steffon Zoskey pitted with me for 18 seasons. Paul Cornwall from Missouri, he was with me 17 seasons. Jim Hulzinga pitted for me full time in the Late Models as my crew chief, he also made as many races as possible prior to Late Models. Jason Chapman has helped for the past six seasons. Also Roger and Dave Crichton, Dave and Brian Watson Thatcher Krupp, and most recently Marty Hagen, Rob Twitchett, Amy and Sarah Miskiewciz and Gordon Nicholson. I must thank all my sponsor’s especially Quaker State.”

A good sponsor is hard to find and can be the difference between a championship and just competing on a weekly basis. Asked how Quaker State became his sponsor, “Bill Lyons gave me the tip to put in a request to Quaker State in 1974. At that time we received 4 cases of oil and I was so excited to have a big company sponsor me. Over the years Quaker State increased my product but could not give me any financial assistance. In the late 90’s they started to help me financially because they appreciated all that we did for them. When computers progressed to emails and web sites, I was able to keep the marketing people up to date on all we were doing.
When we started Late Models they increased both financial and product support and we also increased our promotion with them. We did more shows and displays and soon became one of their best exposed race teams in Canada. Last year they asked me to do 10 shows on top of our racing schedule. We did 15 and 26 race nights. A few weeks ago Quaker State agreed to sponsor us for the 38th season. I hope we can get some press on that in a local magazine or news paper because that has to be a Guinness record.”

Another key to Gary’s success is his faith in God. At one time he says he was a hypocrite and told jokes about Jesus and made fun of people who went to church. “My faith plays a big role in my racing.  I think part of the reason I stay cool 90% of the time is because I know the most important aspect of racing is the people. Our team prays before every race night to give it to the Lord, but adrenalin and humanity creep in and sometimes get me off focus. It’s very important that when I go on the race track I don’t leave Jesus in the pits. I realize a Christian has Jesus in their heart and it would be impossible to leave him anywhere, however we can decide to race as the world does and put ourselves first instead of others. Many of my fans and my crew get frustrated when I don’t always get the respect I give out. My answer to that frustration and to those who at times want me to retaliate or push harder is to understand that my faith does not allow me to race like that. If I want to have an impact on the fans and racers I need to show my faith always. Sometimes I mess up. This past year things were hectic at our home. Nonie was no longer able to work by mid 2009. Her condition resulted in another spinal operation, her third back since we got married. She had no income at all, then I lost my job. Our church was the most supportive sending us money in late January and praying for her recovery and me to get work. Then things turned around by the spring when I started working where I am now. We got behind in the winter and that affected us in racing for most of 2010, but we never lost sight of our faith, though at times I was less than graceful and didn’t act the way I should have all the time. Some were forgiving, others weren’t, but we have come through it now. I am very thankful that everything I do or will ever do is guided by a loving Savior Jesus Christ.”  Gary’s sportsmanlike style was noticed by others as he won the 2010 Flamboro Speedway Late Model Most Sportsmanlike Driver Award.

David Elliott joined his dad racing a hobby car in the late 80′s and in 1992 daughter Shirley also raced. Asked about what it was like racing against Shirley, “It was fun but very tough. I wanted to give her an opportunity to race. Shirley ran 16 nights, she was the first full time female Hobby driver in the clubs history at that time and she did okay. David had a tough year that season, as did I. We never had new cars, always hand me downs or cars we fixed as we could afford it.  We made every race and ran hard with what we had. Shirley only ran that one year.”

Finally I asked Gary his plans for 2011 and what he still wants to accomplish before he hangs up the helmet. “I will be running our Late Model and Vintage Modified. I want to win both championships, but that may be impossible unless I get another driver to help with one of the series, and that would be the CVM. We had a tough 2010, but hopefully we get off to a good start in 2011 and take a good solid run at the Late Model title. I will make most of the CVM races. I love racing the Coupe, especially with the V8 crate engine. It would be so good to win another CVM title, but I don’t want to be greedy and if I had a choice it would be the Late Model series.

Our team also needs to win a big race. I hope we can pull off a 75 or 100 lap feature win in 2011, but any feature win would stop the drought since July 26th 2008. I also plan to purchase a Mini Stock for our grandson Gehrig. Both our grandchildren race go-karts at Flamboro. I’ve asked Gehrig a number of times if he would race a stock car and he always said no. That changed late this summer when he agreed to try a Mini Stock. He will run the go-karts and run a few shows in the Mini. My plan is to get him a Late Model as soon as I can so we can race together. Then not far down the road I would hope to compete with Gehrig and my son David as well.  Our granddaughter Lauren has also stated that she wants to get into a Mini Stock as well.  Winning a Late Model championship, win a big race and race with my grand children are the three things I want to accomplish.

Here are the highlights of the 2010 season: 
4th in Flamboro Speedway points, 5th at Oktoberfest, 5th in the Grisdale Triple Crown, Most Sportsmanlike Driver, Best Appearing Car, 26 race nights and 15 shows.  Jim Hulzinga and Jason Chapman have announced their retirement from our team. Both Jim and Jason are going onto to new challenges and we thank them for their commitment and dedication while they were with us. We head into 2011 continuing this journey with some new crew members and a new look. Keep checking our site, http://www.elliottracingteam.com/  as we up date changes as they happen..  We want to thank you the fans as well for supporting us.

Some Highlights of Gary Elliott’s career

First Mini Stock win at Acton Speedway 1969
Winning the Pinecrest Speedway Wreck-O-Rama and $500 in 1969
Winning the heat & feature at Cayuga in the Mini Stock 1971
First Hobby win in 1974
First Hobby feature win in 1975
First Hobby Championship in 1989
Raced with son and daughter in 1992
2nd Hobby title in 1999
Winning the feature at Sauble in 2001 with David on my tail
Winning the CVM feature in 2004, last regular night of the year. David won the Late Model feature the same night.
Being President of the Hobby club for 7 years
Winning my first Late Model feature in 2005
Finishing 2nd in the Quaker State 100 in 2008
Winning our 40th Anniversary Night 40 lap feature on July 26th 2008
Wrecking my car, fixing it and getting back out to finish 5th overall in the Oktoberfest classic 2010.
Quaker State staying with me for 38 years…longest relationship ever.

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Racing A Tradition For Collison Family

Racing A Tradition For Collison Family

By Randy Spencer with files from Track Talk with Wendy Roper – Collison….when I hear that name I immediately think of hobby cars, thunder cars and go karts. The Collison name has been synonymous with racing in Ontario for almost 50 years.

It all started with Jim, who in 1962 began his racing career competing in and winning a demolition derby. It paid $50.00 to win and in those days that was more than the average weekly take home pay. So Jim thought racing would be easy and you could make money at it. He took to racing Jalopies at Flamboro Speedway the following year.. Jalopies were the forerunner to the Hobby Cars or Canadian Vintage Modifieds series as they’re known today. Jim would race successfully for 26 years, starting in Jalopies, then raced in the Diamond Series, similar to Street Stocks. But for most of his career he raced in the hobby club and for three years between 1984 and 86 won the Mid Season Championship, Best Appearing Car in 1984, Won the Twin 25′s in 1986 and won the Dave Franks Race of Champions held at Cayuga Speedway in 1988. In 1998, Jim was elected to the Hobby Hall of Fame.

Jim was also very involved in the business end of racing as well. He served as President in the Diamond Series when he raced with them, served as Vice President and Secretary amongst other positions in the Hobby Club and served as President and Vice President for the Waterloo Regional Kart Club (WRKC). He has also been a member of the Motor Lords Car Club since the early 1960′s. Although retired from racing he remains very involved with son Brad’s Thunder Car and with his other son Jake, grandson Justin and granddaughter Ciarra in Karting. Jim’s brother B.J. is involved as well, working for a local parts supply company and has at times raced at Flamboro.

Brad Collison began his racing career at the age of 10 like many other aspiring racers…in Karting, where he competed for 3 years, 1982-84. The next year he would follow in his father’s footsteps and moved up to the Hobby Cars where he won his first heat race in only his fourth night of racing. Two years later in 1987, Brad gave the Enduro class a try at Flamboro Speedway and would sometimes compete with 100+ competitors on the track at once. He gained some valuable experience and after two years graduated to the Challenger series and then on to Street Stocks. Brad partnered with Bob Coyne and they built a Chevelle Street Stock to race at Flamboro. Brad soon would make the weekly trek down the 401 to London and raced the 1/2 mile oval of Delaware Speedway where he raced very consistently finishing in the top 5 every year. In 2004, Brad decided to return to Flamboro when the Challenger and Street Stock series joined to make one class, the Thunder Cars. And it paid dividends immediately as he finished at the top of the Thunder Car Points Championship at years end. Since then Brad has cracked the Top 5 on four more occasions including a very strong season in 2010 where he finished strong and in a very close race finished in third. Flamboro P.A. announcer Josh Paxton tagged Brad with the name the Iceman which stuck and that’s the way I know him.  Brad always has a stoic look on his face at the track, determined and focused on the task at hand. Away from the track it’s a much different story.

As any racer knows, the key to success is as strong support network. Brad receives lot of support from wife Mel, son Justin and dad Jim as well as a very good crew who work tirelessly to make sure the car looks and works at peak performance. Earlier this summer Brad invited me and my daughter Larissa to their shop and we felt at home right away. They showed us around and while Larissa got right in there and helped to touch up the tires, I was really interested in all the pictures on the wall of days gone by.  In racing today another key is to have good sponsors and Brad has been lucky to have several who have been with him for many years. His sponsors this year included, Swimwerx, Mursatt Chemicals, 107.5 Dave FM, Mr. Transmission Cambridge, Robertson Automotive, Collison Electric, Tig Kraft, Grand River Automotive, Cochrane Auto body, CAN Alignment, Advanced Auto Glass, Lucas Oil, Vortex Brake Pads, ProWraps.ca, Parts Source, Sloot Construction, Howie Schmidt Realty, Promotional Graphics and Bennett Chev-Olds.

The Primary Sponsor on the Car is London Recreational, an industry leader in Concrete Pool and Spa Construction by focusing on three key factors: Quality, Creativity and Outstanding Customer Service. During a visit to the shop, I got the pleasure of meeting co-owner Mike Schmidt. You won’t meet a nicer guy. London Recreational and Collison racing share the same goals, Work Hard, Be Prepared, Have Fun and Treat Others Like Family. Mike, Brad, Jim, Mel and the rest of the crew definitely made us feel that way. Brad is big on promoting racing, his team, the sponsors and Flamboro Speedway. Whenever there’s a chance, Brad has his car out. Whether it’s McHappy Day, the Canada Day Parade or a Fan Appreciation Night Brad is there talking racing and promoting his sponsors. Earlier this summer Collison racing and London Recreational hosted over 200 of Brad’s sponsors and guests at a Saturday Night of Racing at Flamboro. It’s a win win situation for everyone and by all accounts was very successful and everyone had a great time.

Brad’s brother Jake has also enjoyed a lot of success. Jake is an expert engine builder and has had a hand in all of Brad’s race cars. Like Brad they’ve both raced about 28 years, but the younger Collison has applied his kraft on a smaller scale and has been dominating for years. His nine year old daughter is following in dad’s footsteps to. They became the first Canadian father-daughter duo to each win a race on the same day. Jake won both days at the prestigious Shannonville Canadian National Championships and Ciarra finished the season first in the WRKC Cadet standings and won convincingly at the season ending Oktoberfest Race held at Flamboro Speedway. Five Collisons’ appear throughout the various classes of WKRC and no doubt they’ll all be successful. Justin who has been very successful in karting will probably be the next one moving up the ladder. Talking to Justin he’s itching to get into a thunder car much sooner than later. Let’s hope we see him battling door to door and bumper to bumper with dad, carrying on the famous racing name into the next 50 years! Just don’t put dad into the wall or it may be a long ride home. Good luck to Brad and the entire team, crew and sponsors at the Frostfest 150, this Saturday, October 30th at Flamboro Speedway. (Files from Track Talk by Wendy Roper)              

For more information check, http://www.flamborospeedway.itgo.com/, http://www.londonrecreational.com/racing and http://www.wrkc.on.ca/home.php

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