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The Oval Office: Don’t Miss This Tour

The Oval Office: Don’t Miss This Tour

By Greg Calnan / OntarioOval.com – The Richard Petty Driving Experience 2012 Canadian Summer Tour is in full swing after completing a successful weekend of ride-alongs and driving sessions at Delaware Speedway on July 7th and 8th. The tour has returned to Canada for the second year in a row and is again making three stops in Ontario and one in Nova Scotia.

This week the tour will pull into Sunset Speedway in Innisfil, Ontario and unload its NASCAR style Cup cars for racers and fans alike to climb aboard. The first sessions begin at 8am on Thursday, July 12th and run until the final session on Friday, July 13th at 4pm. Although advance reservations are taken for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, you are still able to arrive and be a part of the excitement either day.

A few short weeks ago, OntarioOval.com gave away a free ride-along to Sheila Haining of Innisfil. She will be going for the ride of her life on Thursday at 4pm. As a new fan to racing the experience should be one that lasts a lifetime.

Once both days are completed at Sunset the trailers will pack up and head southeast to the Kawartha Speedway in Fraserville, Ontario for two days of ride-alongs and driving experiences. Starting on Saturday, July 14th and completing on Sunday, July 15th the Canadian Summer Tour will wrap up its 2012 Ontario stops at the fast 3/8 mile oval.

Last year I was able to go for a ride in the two-seater at Kawartha as did my father and uncle. It was a memory that we will never forget. My uncle Dennis did the driving experience the following day and it was certainly a dream come true, one that he never thought he would be able to do, little less so close to home.

With just four dates left on the Richard Petty Driving Experience 2012 Canadian Summer Tour I would highly suggest making the time to head to the track and climbing into one of these high horsepower machines whether it be behind the wheel or in the passengers seat. The price is affordable and the thrill of being in the car is second to none.

For more information or to reserve your seat time call 1-800-237-3889 or visit http://www.drivepetty.com/can-tour

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The Oval Office: Turning Two

The Oval Office: Turning Two

By Greg Calnan / OntarioOval.com – Although it doesn’t seem possible, OntarioOval.com turns two years old today – June 1st, 2012 – and in the fast-paced sport of short track racing, sometimes it’s nice to slow down and remember the important milestones.

With the click of a mouse, OntarioOval.com was launched in 2010 with the goal of promoting grass roots oval racing in the province of Ontario. Although the road hasn’t been easy, I must say I am excited to see how the site has grown. My hope was not just to operate a website that posted releases and general news, but to offer unique content that couldn’t be found anywhere else. While getting things rolling wasn’t simple, I am excited to see the new stories, features, and columns that we have been able to offer our readers over the past year.

From an original volunteer staff of three people, OntarioOval.com has been fortunate to add to its contributor list on a consistent basis. For that I am thankful, and grateful to those who offer their time for the love of the sport.

My father Dale Calnan has shot thousands of photos, and has even started his own column called Behind the Lens. His perspective is always fresh, and gives us insight into moments that most people just glance over.

Tommy Goudge continues to be invaluable to the website with his Open Wheel Report, along with several other feature stories. He has delivered with new weekly content recently, with items such as Twitter Tuesday and Video Vault – both features I personally look forward to viewing each week.

Randy and Larissa Spencer are also major contributors to OntarioOval.com. Randy has taken on the role of historian, and has brought back some great memories to many of us with his column Back In The Day, and his weekly Memory Lane feature. Randy, along with daughter Larissa, have worked hard at driver question and answer stories for Question Session, and have also started spotlighting some of the up and coming stars in Ontario with Fast Futures. Their countless hours, and enthusiastic attitudes towards promoting the website at any chance has been valuable to our growth. Their dedication and passion for the sport is undeniable.

Three new contributors joined us in the past year, including Peter Turford, Rob Hosking, and Eric Uprichard. Peter is the former President of the Southern Ontario Sprints. He and I worked together promoting that series for several years, and bantered back and forth about the sport on so many levels. When Peter asked if I was interested in posting his ‘rants’, I couldn’t resist. His Off The Wall column has been a great success. Agree with him or not, he makes some valid points, and is always entertaining. Sometimes we all need to hear it like it is, and Peter is just the guy to do it. I am thankful that he decided to share his brainstorms with us on a regular basis.

Rob Hosking is the owner of Hosking Racing and High Performance Engines. In late 2011, he offered to submit a monthly column featuring tips and suggestions for racers and their engines. His articles have been a nice addition to our website, and hopefully have helped a few teams out. He would like to move forward by answering questions from our readers in his column, Under The Hood.

Eric Uprichard is a photographer who owns and operates www.SpeedwayPhoto.ca (new website coming soon). He is also the first winner of the OntarioOval.com 200 at the Hamilton Indoor Kart track. We have so many fantastic photographers in Ontario, and to be honest, each and every one has treated us well. Eric has been one that has taken on an extended role by doing brief recaps and photo galleries at races he attends. Having extra writers and photographers to help us produce At The Track is a valuable asset.

Many other contributors send us content on a regular basis, including Craig Revelle, Rick Young, Jim Clarke, and Ashley McCubbin. Without them and the Media Officers and Photographers from each track and series, we wouldn’t be able to offer the content that we do. My heartfelt thanks goes out to each and every person who submits information, news, photos, and more.

Moving forward, our goals are to continue our growth, and add more unique content. Ideas are constantly brewing, and new ways to offer better coverage are always welcome and appreciated. As such, we invite any of our visitors to send us suggestions for what you would like to see on OntarioOval.com, or ideas of how you would like us to deliver the news. Although we are a volunteer team working with limited funds, we also want to be sure we are giving the short track racing fans of this province what they want most. Comments and suggestions can be sent to us though our CONTACT PAGE.

Moving into our third full year of operation, I hope that OntarioOval.com will continue to grow, and be one of your daily spots to visit for all the latest news on the Ontario short track racing scene. Our hope is to secure marketing partners that will better allow us to implement new ideas, and promote the sport – not just to racers, but also the diehard, casual, and new race fans.

Thank you to the many people who make this website possible by visiting daily and contributing. Because of you, we will continue to grow for years to come!

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The Oval Office: The Ontario Oval 200

The Oval Office: The Ontario Oval 200

By Greg Calnan / OntarioOval.com – I booked a fun day of karting at Hamilton Indoor Go Karts as a way to say thank you to the writers and photographers who have helped with OntarioOval.com from the beginning. The plan was to have a friendly morning of racing as a small way of repaying them for their volunteer efforts. Needless to say, it turned into a competitive event that ended up being dubbed the Ontario Oval 200.

When we arrived bright and early to the downtown Hamilton facility, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew the indoor track was a popular spot amongst racers and fans, but had only seen a brief YouTube clip of some of the action. The track is laid out inside an old factory warehouse, and features a large lounge area to sit and tell racing tales between sessions.

Once all of our drivers arrived and we had a preparatory donut and coffee, it was time to hit the track. Each driver was assigned to a kart by the computer scoring system, so we found our spots, got buckled in and were off to the races.

Each session was approximately 8 minutes long, which gave us over 20 laps of competition per race. After the first round was done we headed to the lounge area to check our lap times and see who had the best overall race average. Photographer Eric Uprichard of SpeedwayPhoto.ca paced the way in the opening session, while columnist Peter Turford set fast time.

It took some of the other competitors a couple of races to get the feel of how hard they could push the karts: We were warned before we took to the track that there were two spots where we needed to lift – After more than 200 laps, I never did find those two spots.

We had the track booked for three hours, and we were able to get in a total of 10 sessions for well over 200 laps. Originally, it looked like we would only manage to get in 9 races, and I would have been happy with that as I had posted fast time on the day with a lap of 19.931. It wasn’t meant to be though, as time opened up after lunch for us to compete in one final session.

Open wheel columnist, Tommy Goudge set fast time with a lap of 19.802. In my defence, he does weigh 20lbs less than me, and I had just eaten half a pizza for lunch. Nonetheless, congratulations go to Tommy for being Mr. Quick Time. Only four drivers in total got under the 19 second mark, with Eric Uprichard, and photographer Dale Calnan being the other two.

Because of the way the races were run, each session winner was determined by the overall fastest race average time. To determine a champion for the day we decided to take those averages from each race and figure out who was the best over the 10 races. To eliminate a few variables, we allowed each driver to drop their worst two races.

In the end it was Eric Uprichard taking home the first Ontario Oval Cup, as he was crowned the champion of the Ontario Oval 200 with an overall race average of 22.362 seconds. Peter Turford was second with 22.404, while yours truly finished third by just 2 one thousands of a second with an average time of 22.406. Tommy Goudge and Dale Calnan rounded out the top five.

The entire outing was a blast, and the staff at Hamilton Indoor Go Karts treated us great. We did receive one warning after our third race because we were “starting to get a little aggressive”. I think that was about the point that everyone was comfortable with going full-throttle the full way around, and decided to leave their feet off the brakes.

I know I was guilty of a few spin outs to other drivers, and although the kart was clearly labeled with a sticker that said “NO BUMPING”, I spent most of the day performing the two-car tango with my fellow competitors. It came back to bite me though as an early cage-rattling that I had given to Tommy Goudge was paid back in the second-to-last session.

Our overall experience was incredible, and I would highly suggest Hamilton Indoor Go Karts to anyone who is looking to go out and race a few laps. Their group rates are very affordable, and it makes a great way to just get out and have some fun. The racing tales told in the lounge were priceless, and the memories will last a lifetime. Not a single person went home without a smile on their face, though there were some frowns the following day from the muscle aches caused by three plus hours of racing. Who says racers aren’t athletes?

Needless to say the Ontario Oval Cup will be back on the line in the near future. I am already tentatively planning a fall date for our staff to take to the track and try to dethrone Eric as champion. In the meantime, the rest of us will have to listen to six months of gloating from the man with the hardware, and the man with the fastest lap. All I can say is that with one little tap the next time we are out, that gloating will seem like a distant memory.

I would like to extend a thank you to Trevor Adams at Hamilton Indoor Go Karts for making the experience a great one. I would also like to thank the staff members that were able to attend the event, starting with my father and travel partner Dale Calnan. I know he enjoyed the day thoroughly, even though he needed a few Advil to get through the rest of the day. Also, thank you to my uncle Larry Calnan who has always been a big supporter of my efforts. If he could have only figured out that first turn, he would have kept me behind him most of the day.

I would also like to express my gratitude to Tommy Goudge, Peter Turfurd, and Randy and Larissa Spencer for coming out for the day, and most of all for their quality content that appears on our website. OntarioOval.com wouldn’t be enjoying its current success without their contributions.

Finally to our champion Eric Uprichard, I offer my congratulations and thanks for showing us how to get it done. Eric is one of the finest photographers out there, and I strongly urge everyone to check out his website at www.SpeedwayPhoto.ca.

So that concludes my post-race review of the first ever Ontario Oval 200. Many laps were turned, many drivers were turned, and many stories were told, but most of all much fun was had, and many memories were made. I can see now why racers enjoy going to the track every chance they get! 

For more information on Hamilton Indoor Go Karts visit: http://hamiltonindoorgokarts.com/

Overall Race Average
1. Eric Uprichard  22.362
2. Peter Turford  22.404
3. Greg Calnan  22.406
4. Tommy Goudge  22.525
5. Dale Calnan  22.699
6. Larry Calnan  22.927
7. Randy Spencer  22.977
8. Larissa Spencer  23.420

Fastest Lap Of The Day
1. Tommy Goudge  19.802
2. Greg Calnan  19.931
3. Eric Uprichard  19.977
4. Dale Calnan  19.987
5. Peter Turford  20.053
6. Larry Calnan  20.253
7. Randy Spencer  20.351
8. Larissa Spencer  20.743

Overall Fastest Lap Average
1. Greg Calnan  20.475
2. Peter Turford  20.539
3. Tommy Goudge  20.661
4. Dale Calnan  20.679
5. Eric Uprichard  20.727
6. Larry Calnan  21.054
7. Randy Spencer  21.098
8. Larissa Spencer  21.297

 

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The Oval Office: A New Season Is Now Underway

The Oval Office: A New Season Is Now Underway

By Greg Calnan / OntarioOval.com – The racing season is now officially underway in Ontario – or at least it feels that way – after we attended the Canadian Motorsports Expo (CME) this past weekend. For three straight days, racers, fans and enthusiasts alike made their way to the International Centre in Toronto for this relatively new annual tradition in Canadian racing.

As a first-time exhibitor at the CME, I must admit I was impressed by the variety of people that visited the show. It was great to catch up with many drivers and crew members that we hadn’t seen since the summer, and it was also a treat to meet fans of OntarioOval.com from as far away as Sault Ste. Marie and Quebec. The time I had to stop and talk to everyone made the three days seem like a blur.

Not surprisingly, Saturday was the busiest day of the show as NASCAR star Carl Edwards flew – himself I might add – into Toronto for what seemed like a whirlwind tour. Arriving on stage just past noon, Edwards took part in a question and answer period with the large crowd that was on hand. From there he took the time to sign autographs for the 150 people who were lucky enough to claim a badge early that morning as the Expo ticket gates opened. I’ve seen several autograph signings in the past, and I must say that Carl was genuine, and made sure that each and every fan had a memorable moment with him. In fact, he took so much time interacting that it pushed his schedule to the limit, leaving just enough time for a brief media scrum before heading back to the airport. He certainly made the most of his time, and made several people very happy including a fan of his that he met in the washroom prior to the Q&A. He made mention of the meeting on stage and said that it was probably the most unusual places he had ever autographed a hat.

Other familiar faces at the show included legendary engine builder and former NASCAR team owner Robert Yates, along with multi-time Nationwide series champ Randy Lajoie. Yates was on hand as part of the NASCAR spec engine program. It offered a chance for many teams to talk to the man behind the powerplant, and get valuable first hand knowledge. Randy Lajoie was in attendance as an exhibitor and guest to promote his racing seats through his company The Joie of Seating. Both Yates and Lajoie spent time on stage, and were great story tellers. Those in attendance certainly enjoyed hearing from two of the sport’s greats.

The other celebrity in attendance at the CME was Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe, who has the difficult task of replacing the media juggernaut Danica Patrick for Michael Andretti’s IndyCar team. Although we didn’t have a chance to interview Hinchliffe, I did cross paths with him at one point. On our way out of the show on Saturday night, with our arms filled with equipment to take back to the hotel, he took the time to help us with the door, and was very polite and courteous. In a day and age when most young stars feel they should be catered to, it was refreshing to meet a driver who just seems grateful to be in the position he has in life.

On a local note, it was nice to see a number of short track teams, speedways, and series on hand. Peterborough, Sauble, Sunset, Kawartha, Mosport, Barrie, and Varney Speedway were all in attendance to hand out schedules and promote major events. For Barrie and Varney, it was a chance for the new ownership groups to meet and greet, while Sunset announced an exciting new series presented by McColl Racing Enterprises.

Both the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and OSCAAR had large displays at the show as well. For OSCAAR it was a chance to officially unveil their new Modified tour to the public, with Brad Pearsall’s car on display along with a pair of Super Late Models.

The 2012 edition of the Canadian Motorsports Expo was a great success, and although I have no idea what the total attendance was for the weekend, it is fair to say the show had plenty of traffic over the entire weekend. The chance to meet new fans and mingle with racers and other exhibitors definitely made it feel like the new race season has officially begun.

OntarioOval.com would like to thank Greg, Rob, Mike, Jeff, and James of Inside Track for their hospitality all weekend long. The staff of the CME were helpful and friendly. We would also like to thank everyone who took the time to stop by our booth to get a 2012 calendar. It was great to talk to so many people, and meet some of the many people who visit OntarioOval.com on a daily basis.

While at the show, we were able to interview a number of personalities who crossed our path. We weren’t able to speak with everyone we had intended, but are thankful for those that took the time to answer a few questions. We hope that you will enjoy the videos, along with our photo gallery. We certainly had a fun time at the 2012 Canadian Motorsports Expo, and look forward to a return next year.

 

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The Oval Office: The Racing Season Begins Here

The Oval Office: The Racing Season Begins Here

By Greg Calnan / OntarioOval.com – Although winter thus far in Ontario has felt more like an extended version of fall, it seems like an eternity since the final race of the 2011 season. For OntarioOval.com, our last race of the season was the DIRTcar Northeast Fall Nationals at Brockville on October 16th. Nearly four months later we are finally ready to meet up with many of our racing friends at the Canadian Motorsports Expo. With a new date and a bigger hall, this years edition should be one to remember.

Already in its 6th year, the CME has become an annual tradition. Like the shows slogan says, ‘The Racing Season Begins Here’ and what a way to start it off. Running Friday, February 10th to Sunday, February 12th the CME has something for everyone. Whether you are a short track fanatic like us, a road race enthuisast or someone who likes action in a straight line, the Canadian Motorsports Expo has you covered.

The main attraction this year is NASCAR star Carl Edwards who will be in attendance on Saturday afternoon from noon until 2pm. Fans will have a chance to see ‘Cousin Carl’  up close and a limited number will get the opportunity to meet him and get an autograph. Other big names such as former Nationwide Series champion Randy Lajoie, Engine builder and former NASCAR team owner Robert Yates along with IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe will also be a part of this years show.

A number of seminars and forums will take place throughout the weekend along with a busy schedule on the Mazda Stage. Inside Track Motorsports News will present both their annual Short Track Rankings with Spencer Lewis on Friday night as well as their Readers’ Choice Awards on Saturday. NASCAR Canadian Tire Series drivers will be on hand Sunday along with many prominent names from the past at the CASCAR Reunion.

The Canadian Motorsports Expo isn’t just a place to meet the stars though, it’s also a place to see the cars up close. On hand this year will be Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s #88 Diet Mountain Dew/Amp Energy Impala along with teammate Jeff Gordon’s #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevy. The Racers’ Corral will boast a number of different race cars from Late Models to Sprint Cars. As well, fans of drag racing will want to stop by the Quarter-Mile Corral to see some of the big powerplants on display.

Other attractions include the Canadian Tire display where fans will have a chance to get interactive and maybe even change a tire. The JRP Pavilion will also be a main attraction for those looking for parts and expertise. On top of all that the Honda Indy Toronto booth will be unveiling the new DW12 IndyCar. Many tracks and series will also be in attendance to hand out schedules and other items.

Our Limited Edition 2012 Calendar

OntarioOval.com will have a presence at the show along with our parent company ImageFactor.ca Motorsport Designs. Fans and racers are invited to stop by booth #617 and pick up the limited edition OntarioOval.com 2012 Calendar Poster. We will be busy throughout the weekend meeting with show visitors and interviewing some of the personalities at the show.

If you are a motorsports fan and are itching to beat the winter blues, stop by the Canadian Motorsports Expo this weekend. The gates open Friday afternoon at 1pm until 9pm. Saturday gate times are 10am to 9pm and Sunday from 10am to 5pm.

For more information, discount admission coupons, a complete floor map and an online copy of the show program visit www.canadianmotorsportsexpo.com.

The racing season in Ontario certainly starts here, so we’ll see you at the show!

Photo gallery by Dale Calnan / ImageFactor.ca Photography (The 2011 Canadian Motorsports Expo)

 

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The Oval Office: Most Memorable Moments Of 2011

The Oval Office: Most Memorable Moments Of 2011

By Greg Calnan / OntarioOval.com – When looking back at the 2011 short track racing season in Ontario, it’s hard to remember everything that happened. Although some tracks are struggling with low car counts or poor attendance, there certainly was plenty to be optimistic about throughout the year.

Instead of focusing on the negative, I decided to look back at the past season and recap my Top Ten Most Memorable Moments of 2011. Keep in mind I wasn’t at every race, or every track, and that this list is simply the events that stuck out in my mind the most from my travels around the province.

10. Merrittville Season Opener: The racing season in Ontario officially kicked into high gear in late April at Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Ontario. Although the temperatures were chilly at best, the action on the track was hot from the drop of the first green flag. The 60 lap 358 DIRTcar Modified feature was a memorable one, as early title favourites Pete Bicknell, Mat Williamson, and Mike Bowman all battled frantically for the lead in the first half of the race. Some hair-raising contact down the backstretch between Bicknell and Williamson sent multi-time champ Bicknell to the rear of the field. Williamson and Bowman finished the race first and second, while eastern invader Danny O’Brien had an impressive run up to third place.

9. Garry Reynolds Memorial at Barrie: Barrie Speedway opened its gates on a Thursday night in late August for the Garry Reynolds Memorial for Late Models. A stout field of cars was on hand for the race, including NASCAR Canadian Tire Series star Kerry Micks, who qualified on pole for the 100 lap feature by virtue of his first and second place finishes in the heat races. However, a challenge was placed before Micks which was too good to turn down: If he could start tail on the field and win the race, he would receive an additional $2,000, to be donated to cancer research. Kerry took the challenge, and watching him claw through the field on two occasions – in what was normally a driving experience car – was fun to say the least. Mike Bentley dominated the second half of the race and grabbed a very popular win over home track favourite Al Inglis. Mike is a driver who is very easy to like, so it was great to see him standing in victory lane with such a big smile on his face.

8. The Great Canadian 200 at Delaware: One of the most anticipated Late Model races of the season is always the Great Canadian 200 at Delaware Speedway on Labour Day weekend. The event was moved to Victoria Day weekend in 2011 due to the addition of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racing at the track in September. The result was not positive at first glance, as the change in date affected both the car and spectator count dramatically. As someone who attended this race though, it was by far one of my favourites of the year. The 200 lap affair lacked nothing in drama or action as a handful of drivers flexed their muscle throughout the race. Jonathan Urlin, Matt Pritiko, Jamie Cox, Andrew Gresel, and Jesse Kennedy all ran in and around the top five all day. Teammates Urlin and Pritiko raced hard for every inch, but by the end of the day it was Andrew Gresel getting the upper hand. He was on a mission in the second half of the race, and worked hard to get by the top two. He went on to claim the victory on his way to a stellar year in the FT Garage Late Models, which included the division championship.

7. First visits to Varney and Grand Bend: In the first two seasons of operating OntarioOval.com, I have had the chance to visit a number of tracks for the first time. In 2011 the two that stood out in my mind the most were Varney Motor Speedway in Durham, and Grand Bend Int’l Speedway near the shores of Lake Huron. The racing at both facilities was great and filled with action, however it was the way we were treated at both venues that made the visits memorable. Not knowing anyone from Varney, my father and I made the trip north unsure of what to expect. What we didn’t expect was the treatment we got from the moment we arrived. Track promoters Doug and Rory Townsend were first class in helping us feel welcomed, as were all the staff and race teams. I was even given a few laps around the uniquely shaped and banked racing surface by the rescue crew. The publicity we received over the PA system was great, and the night was a great success. Trips like that are the reason we do what we do. It’s the people that make the experiences great.

We had a similar experience at Grand Bend, and although we knew a number of people at the track that night including the folks from the Hurricane Midgets, it was still something new to take in. We were again treated very well, and any needs we had were met, including being able to shoot photos from the infield, and conduct post-feature interviews. The voice of Grand Bend – as well as one of the voices from Delaware – Jared Doxtator was promoting OntarioOval.com throughout the evening. It was again a successful trip to a track we had never visited. We certainly look forward to returning to both places in 2012.

6. NASCAR Stars at Flamboro: Three NASCAR stars that I grew up watching took to Flamboro Speedway on a hot and sunny Canada Day for the first Race of Champions. Ken Schrader, Jimmy Spencer, and Ernie Irvan strapped into Thunder Cars, and had the daunting task of trying to be competitive against drivers who have much more experience on the tight confines of Flamboro. The result was an entertaining afternoon of racing. The most memorable part of the day was the pre-race press conference, where the three very casually answered questions. Seeing these three talk and have fun was a nice change of pace from the normal run of the mill question periods. Having the chance to see Ernie Irvan drive a race car for one of the first times since retiring was also a treat. He certainly wasn’t challenging or pushing hard, but after all that he has been through, it was nice to just see him enjoying being at the track. To make the day even more fitting, Canada’s own NASCAR star J.R. Fitzpatrick took the win in convincing fashion.

5. Richard Petty Driving Experience comes to Canada: OntarioOval.com was invited to take part in a press conference in downtown Toronto at the end of May to announce that the Richard Petty Driving Experience was coming to Canada. Richard Petty himself came to the ‘Big Smoke’ to launch the four track tour, and it was a day I won’t soon forget. ‘The King’, with his familiar cowboy hat and bright smile, was everything he appears to be on camera – genuine, accommodating and down-to-earth. The opportunity to interview him was a pleasure, and his driving experience was something to remember too. Although I didn’t actually drive one of his cars, I did take part in the Ride-Along at Kawartha Speedway. The ride was a teaser that left you wanting to have the wheel in your hands the next time out. The following day my uncle Dennis did pilot one of the cars, and lived out a life-long dream. If it returns in 2012 I would highly suggest it to anyone who has ever wondered what it is like to sit inside of a NASCAR-style stock car.

4. Sunset Speedway Shootout in July: One of my most memorable trips in 2010 was my first ever visit to Sunset Speedway. The newly renovated track in Innisfil, Ontario is always a pleasure to visit. I attended two events there in 2011. The first was the OSCAAR, Canadian Vintage Modified, and Can-Am Midget show in May, and the second was the July Shootout race. The Shootout night featured some of the best racing I witnessed all season. One night after wrecking his car hard, Stompin’ Tom Walters repaired his familiar #47 and drove through the field to claim the win. The race of the night however came during the 50 lap Thunder Car feature. Young phenom Lane Zardo and veteran Randy Rusnell put on a race to remember. Zardo led much of the opening half of the race until Rusnell snuck by for the lead. The two had an intense battle through traffic, with Zardo putting heavy pressure on the always quick Rusnell. In the end, Rusnell held on for the win over Zardo and Dave Doucette, and proceeded to climb the fence to celebrate his victory. The race was certainly a memorable one, as the future of the sport challenged hard to knock off one of the all-time greats in Ontario Thunder Car racing.

3. Applefest Shootout finish at Brighton: The best race and finish of the year by far was the 50 lap Applefest Shootout for 358 DIRTcar Modifieds at Brighton Speedway in late September. Pete Bicknell had dominated the event every time he unloaded at Brighton, however post-season back surgery kept ‘Mr. Smallblock’ from competing on this night. His absence left the door open for a handful of other drivers to challenge for the win…and a handful were there right down to the wire. Travis Braun led early, until a mechanical failure put him into the pit area. Tim and Danny O’Brien, Mike Bowman, Tommy Flannigan, and Brian McDonald all fought hard for the top spot. The top five were all in contention on the final lap. Tim O’Brien took the win by narrowly beating brother Danny, and Bowman to the line. The finish was one that left you turning to the person next to you and saying “What a race!” When our friend Rick Young of RickAtTheRaces.com – who follows DIRTcar Modified racing all across the northeast – said that it was the best modified finish he had seen in a long time, that meant something. It truly was the best race finish of the year.

2. Kennedy wins on Busch Brothers night at Delaware:  The APC Summer Showdown at Delaware has become one of the premiere events to attend in Ontario all season. Kyle Busch, along with David Reutimann, and Jason Leffler competed in Late Models at the half mile track just outside of London in 2010. Busch won the race, and made plans early to return for 2011. His plans this year included bringing his brother Kurt along to compete against the best of Delaware, and Ontario. The day was one filled with anticipation, as fans arrived early for a chance to get an autograph or even a glimpse of Kyle and Kurt. The two were competitive from the drop of the first green flag; however the night would end early for Kyle, who broke a shock mount at the beginning of the feature event. Kurt also had mechanical problems, and was unable to finish due to a broken clutch. The drive for the win was the story of the night, as Jesse Kennedy came from the B-Main to capture one of the biggest wins of the season in Ontario.

1. Tony Stewart gets first Outlaws win at Ohsweken: Had a script been written for Tony Stewart’s first visit to Ohsweken Speedway, not even George Lucas could have dreamed up the outcome that came from a pair of mid-week shows at the Styres family owned facility. The first of two nights of competition saw Tony quickly getting comfortable on the 3/8 mile clay oval, and driving to a third place finish, placing him on the frontstretch for post-race interviews. One would think that would be the ending of a pretty special night, however Tony went on to announce that he was returning for the following night to compete with the World of Outlaws. Things just got better from there, as Tony did the unthinkable and won his first ever Outlaw race, a victory that he had longed to add to his resume. The end result of two nights of racing seemed complete until mid-November, when Stewart drove to his third NASCAR title, and felt that his Outlaw win helped rejuvenate and excite him about racing. It may be a coincidence, but it’s also hard to explain the tear he went on in the second half of the season, after looking out of place amongst the Chase contenders. Either way, it made the win at Ohsweken seem that much more special. Anyone that attended that race will certainly tell stories about it for years to come. That is why it was by far my most memorable moment of 2012.

As an honourable mention to the list I have to mention the Autumn Colours Classic at Peterborough. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Add to that the packed grandstands and pit areas, and it was once again a weekend we won’t soon forget.

So that was it – my Top Ten Most Memorable Moments from 2011. It was great to meet seven different stars of NASCAR and see some of the best finishes that I have seen in years. I was able to take laps around a couple of tracks, and meet new friends all around the province. It was a long road, and many miles traveled, but the memories will last a lifetime. As fun as it was to look back on the season that was, I am anxious to see what 2012 has in store.

Greg Calnan is the Editor and Owner of OntarioOval.com, as well as the owner of its parent company – ImageFactor.ca Motorsport Designs. Questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns can be sent directly to Greg through our Contact page.
 
 

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The Oval Office: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

The Oval Office: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

By Greg Calnan – With Labour Day Weekend now in the rear view mirror, the 2011 Ontario short track racing season is into the home stretch. Many tracks have crowned their champions or will be in the next couple of weeks. This sets the stage for some of the biggest events, where drivers from across the province will meet in some marquee events.

September 10th Weekend
This coming weekend – Saturday, September 10th – will be the start of six straight weeks of travel for OntarioOval.com as we make our first ever visit to Capital City Speedway near Ottawa.  The 2011 season will wrap up in the nation’s capital with a full day of racing in an event called Summer Slam. It will feature a pair of 25 lap races for Late Models, as well as some Monster Truck action featuring Black Stallion and Higher Education. Former competitor Todd Gow took over the promoting duties at the track this year, and has made positive changes. We are anxious to visit Capital City for the first time for what should be an exciting event.

Barrie Speedway will play host to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series on the same night, with the running of the Wild Wing 300. The race will be a major factor in the championship race as teams will leave Barrie with just two races remaining on the schedule.

September 17th Weekend
We will make our shortest trip of the six week stretch for the 7th annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals at Ohsweken Speedway, but it’s a big weekend with 3 straight nights of racing. The excitement begins on Thursday, September 15th with Fan Appreciation Night, featuring all of the track’s weekly divisions. A number of Sprint Car invaders looking for extra track time will no doubt be on hand for the first night. Friday features the traditional ‘Night Before The Nationals’. This is a fun night as Sprint Car teams race in twin 15 lap features, which reward the winners with guaranteed starting positions in the big race on Saturday. On Saturday, it’s the 7th Annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. This race has grown in epic proportion from its birth in 2005, as the winner this year will take home $11,000. A large crowd is expected to be on hand for this big event, both in the stands and in the camping area.

Another big event happening on Saturday, September 17th is the first ever Great Crate Race at Brighton Speedway for DIRTcar Pro Late Models. With $5,000 on the line for the winner, it is sure to draw a large field of competitors.

September 24th Weekend
The fourth weekend of the month will be the busiest, as five different tracks have major events on their schedules. OntarioOval.com will be traveling to Brighton Speedway for Applefest Weekend. This annual tradition is already into it’s 7th running, and is always a favourite for DIRTcar Modified fans. On Friday night the DIRTcar Sportsman will compete in a 50 lap tour event, while the Small Blocks return Saturday for the Goodyear Automotive Services Applefest Shootout presented by ImageFactor.ca. Late Models, Mod-Lites, Vintage Cars, and more will also be on the card.

On the same weekend, Sunset Speedway in Innisfil, Ontario plays host to its biggest event of the year with the Velocity 250. Three big days of racing will take place, starting Friday with an Open Late Model show. Qualifying will take center stage on Saturday, with an action-packed program on Sunday featuring the OSCAAR Super Late Models, along with Late Models, Super Stocks, and Mini Stocks.

Varney Motor Speedway will run its annual Fall Classic on Saturday with over $15,000 in posted prizes up for grabs in four divisions.

In the south-western part of the province, South Buxton Raceway will once again host its season finale Shootout event for UMP Late Models and UMP Modifieds. The race always draws top competitors from across the border to battle it out with the local favourites.

September 24th is also the final race of the season for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series at Kawartha Speedway. The 2011 season champion will be crowned at one of the circuit’s most exciting tracks.

October 1st Weekend
Oktoberfest Weekend at Flamboro Speedway will be next on the calendar for OntarioOval.com, as teams from across the province converge for this annual tradition. Saturday will be qualifying day for most divisions, while F4 Modifieds, Hurricane Midgets, and Open Wheel Modifieds will run their features. There is also a 100 lap Lucas Oil Sportsman Cup Series race scheduled as the main event. On Sunday it’s do or die time as Last Chance Qualifiers take to the track followed by the main events. Late Models will compete in a pair of 50 lap races, Limited Late Models run 50 laps, Thunder Cars 40 laps and Mini Stocks 30 laps. It is always a fun weekend to watch out-of-town competitors battle it out with the home track regulars in all divisions.

October 8th Weekend
In all our travels, it seems that the most talked about event has been the Autumn Colours Classic. Spending Thanksgiving weekend at Peterborough Speedway has become a regular habit for many fans and race teams, as it marks the end of asphalt racing in Ontario. The racing begins Friday night with qualifying action. Round two of qualifying takes to the track on Saturday, along with B features and the Hurricane Midgets season finale. Sunday truly is “Super Sunday” as feature events take to the track including OSCAAR, Pro Late Models, Limited Late Models, Modifieds, and more. OntarioOval.com will be there again to interview the many competitors, and offer live updates from the track.

October 15th Weekend
The final race weekend of our 2011 travel schedule will come at Brockville Ontario Speedway as part of the DIRTcar Northeast Fall Nationals. In a few short years this event has become a must see for any race fan as nearly every top division on dirt competes over the span of three days. The DIRTcar Pro Stock Series runs its season finale along with Street Stocks on Friday night. Saturday has a doubleheader as both 358 DIRTcar Modifieds and 360 Sprint Cars take to the track for their final races of the year. That all sets the stage for Sunday’s penultimate race on the Super DIRTcar Series trail for the Big Block Modifieds. They will compete in a 100 lap main event, along with the DIRTcar Sportsman in their final 50 lap race of the season. Although the temperatures are usually cool for this big weekend, the action helps heat things up.

Although just six weeks remain on the 2011 racing calendar in Ontario there is still plenty of action across the province. If you are a race fan, there are plenty of options to choose from whether it be on asphalt or dirt. After what has been one of the most memorable summers for racing in Ontario in many years, the last few weeks should be a continuation of that excitement. I highly suggest taking in any of these events if the opportunity presents itself. If not, stay tuned to OntarioOval.com for all the latest news, interviews, and of course live updates from the track.

As someone who enjoys the fall racing schedule, I am truly looking forward to what will be our busiest stretch of the season. Christmas isn’t too far off, but to me this definitely is the most wonderful time of the year!
 

Greg Calnan is the Editor and Owner of OntarioOval.com, as well as the owner of its parent company – ImageFactor.ca Motorsport Designs. Questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns can be sent directly to Greg through our Contact page.

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The Oval Office: Happy 1st Birthday Ontario Oval

The Oval Office: Happy 1st Birthday Ontario Oval

By Greg Calnan – I officially launched OntarioOval.com on Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 with the hopes of growing it into an informative and useful website for short track race fans across the province. I knew it would take plenty of hours, kilometres, and dollars to make my vision come true – what I didn’t know , or could have imagined, is just how quickly it would grow.

As I sit and reflect on the past year, it amazes me how many great people we met in just 365 days. It’s fitting that my final interview on the final day of our first official year would be the ‘King’ of stock car racing himself, Richard Petty. It made a tidy bookend to a fantastic first year.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially having come primarily from the dirt track scene. Having been on the microphone at nearly every dirt track in the province – Merrittville is yet to come – I was confident in my friendships and connections on that front. I was uneasy, though, about how our staff would be received at the paved tracks in Ontario. Would they want us around? Would they label us as ‘those dirt guys’? Or would people be welcoming to our desire to promote the sport we are all so passionate about? Thankfully, we’ve been welcomed by every person at every track we’ve visited. The greatest thing that I’ve learned is that racers are the same, no matter what type of surface, which division they run, or which track they are at – they just love the sport.

Looking back over the past year, there were many memorable moments. Having visited several tracks for the first time, it is hard to remember what stands out the most. Obviously seeing the improvements at Sunset was near the top of the list. Having a chance to visit Delaware, Barrie, Peterborough, and Tillsonburg for the first time was also great. Anytime you can visit a track for the first time, it always leaves a lasting memory. I got to see the Autumn Colours Classic for the first time, as well as my first NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event since their move from CASCAR. I also enjoyed seeing my first OSCAAR, Hurricane Midgets, Can-Am Midgets, Canadian Vintage Modified, and Ontario Legends Series races. All were great, and are again on our schedule this year.

For me personally though, the memories I will take from our first year will be the time my father and I spent on the road heading to each different track, and then the fun we had once we got there. My father is Dale Calnan. He is OntarioOval.com’s lead photographer, and operates ImageFactor.ca Photography. He does what he does for the love of being at the track – he must because I never pay him.

My grandfather Harvard was a race fan, and he passed it on to my father, just as my father passed it on to me. I’ve learned that racing is like no other sport, because it brings generations together. It’s family oriented and that’s what makes it great. Had I driven those thousands of kilometres alone all summer, it wouldn’t have been half as much fun. Sure there were a few meals we ate along the way that were sketchy to say the least, but we survived and moved on. Now you’ll notice we bring a cooler bag to the track with us.

Going forward, we hope to get to even more tracks in 2011. Flamboro, Sauble, Varney, and Capital City are all definite first-time stops as the summer months approach. We plan to continue our live updates, video interviews, and special features on the website as we grow. We’ve tried our best to provide fresh and unique content to compliment the many track and team releases that are posted on our website. It hasn’t been easy, as our writers are volunteering their time and efforts to our cause. We appreciate their support and look forward to growing with them.

I’d like to personally thank all of our contributors and photographers. Many people have helped us out along the way, and we are grateful. A special thank you goes to my father Dale for his photography and support, Tommy Goudge for his tremendous help with writing, editing, and interviewing. I would also like to thank Randy Spencer for his desire to contribute to the website in any way I have asked. When we first launched, Rob Howden – along with Randy – launched a very similar website to OntarioOval.com, and it was a shock. Rob graciously stepped aside from his efforts, and we have been happy to have Randy on board ever since. Craig Revelle, Peter Turford, Jim Clarke, Rick Young and Anthony Leek have also been valuable contributors in offering unique content on our website. Without them, we couldn’t do what we do.

As with anything in racing, we also couldn’t do this without the support of our great advertising partners. Klotz Canada, Ohsweken Speedway, Peterborough Speedway, Phantom Race Products, and Weekend Motorsports have all invested in OntarioOval.com, and we very much appreciate it. As we continue to grow, we look forward to adding new supporters, and offering many unique and creative ways to market each company’s product. Anyone wishing to help our website grow is encouraged to contact me directly at any time.

Finally, I can’t thank the fans, competitors, and people in the industry enough for their support of our first full season online. We look forward to getting to every track we possibly can this year, and interviewing as many different drivers and personalities as possible. At the same time, we are always welcome to ideas and suggestions. If there is something you would like to see covered on OntarioOval.com, or have a feature or column suggestion, please feel free to contact us with your ideas. Feedback is the only way we can help improve in the areas that you, the readers and viewers, want us to improve. Keep in mind that we might not be able to accommodate all requests due to our very small staff, however all ideas will be taken into consideration.

The first change for year number two is a change in focus on my own column. Last year I started a column called ‘On The Road’, and I may revisit that from time to time, but for 2011 I will be focusing on my new column titled ‘The Oval Office’. We also have some other exciting plans for the new year, including year-end awards called ‘The Ovies’, so stay tuned for more on that.

Once again, thank you for supporting OntarioOval.com on and off the track. We look forward to covering short track racing in the province to the best of our ability. Make sure to check back often for the latest news, interviews, and stories from the Ontario short track scene.

Greg Calnan is the Editor and Owner of OntarioOval.com, as well as the owner of its parent company – ImageFactor.ca Motorsport Designs. Questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns can be sent directly to Greg through our Contact page.

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