By Tommy Goudge (June 6, 2012) – Welcome to the first edition of “Yours To Discover”, a new feature on OntarioOval.com in which we profile Ontario’s short track racing venues. We’re beginning our tour at the east end of Lake Superior, near a city known worldwide simply as “The Soo”.
Laird International Raceway is located on the Laird Fairgrounds, 25 kilometres southwest of Sault, Ste. Marie, Ontario. The track benefits from being within the Sault Ste. Marie & Algoma District, and has a vast area to draw from, without any competing venues.
The majority of Laird’s competitors are from the Sault Ste. Marie area, while some come from further afield, including the Goulais and Manitoulin Island areas. Some also come from Michigan, especially with Kinross Speedpark no longer open.
Laird is the only short track in the province with regular Thursday night racing, and they also run a few special events on holiday Mondays.
“Operating on a weeknight allows LIR drivers, fans, and crew members to enjoy the local facility, while also keeping their weekends free to enjoy with family and friends taking in the summer activities and weather,” says Gerry Liscumb, Jr., Director of Race Day Operations. “While LIR has tried multiple other race days, Thursday has always provided the best fan and driver participation.”
Laird International Raceway was the dream of Donnie Varcoe, Jr., who successfully returned oval racing to the Sault Ste. Marie area for the first time since Northern Raceway (5th Line Speedway) closed in 1987.
The facility at Laird has evolved since opening in 1999, as the corners and backstretch have been widened, and fan amenities have been improved, with more fan-friendly enhancements planned in 2012.
Fans in other parts of Ontario may recognize the names Jerry Artuso and George Wilson, both of whom won championships at Laird in the early years of the facility.
Laird International Raceway features 6 weekly divisions, including Super Late Models, Outlaw Modifieds, LIR Modifieds, Factory Stocks, Xtreme Fours, and Factory Fours.
Laird is the only asphalt track in the province to offer outlaw-type Super Late Models on a weekly basis. The division ran under several different rules packages after merging with the track’s Super Stock division several years ago, but will return to traditional 4-barrell carburetors and 10” tires in 2012.
The track’s Outlaw Modifieds and Xtreme Fours are also unique in Ontario, as the Modifieds are allowed to use sail panels or Sprint Car-style wings, and the Extreme division allows tube frames, and bodies similar to those of the Super Late Model division.
Laird International Raceway was proud to host “Cornfest” in 2011, and they’ll do it again this year. Concerts, vendors, kids fun zones, classic car shows, monster trucks, stock car racing, and – of course – corn combine for one of the highlights of the facility’s season.
Country act Lonestar headlined last year’s event, and plans are well underway for this year’s version, which runs August 9-11.
Did You Know?
– Laird International Raceway is home to Dustin Jackson, the “World’s Youngest Stock Car Driver” according to the Guiness Book of World Records. The 2nd-generation driver was just 10 years old when he competed in his first race last year in the Factory Four division. OSCAAR fans may remember Dustin’s father Brett, who competed in the series when the family lived in Barrie. http://www.saultstar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3394579
– Laird has crowned a female champion in each of the last two seasons. Rebecca Fewchuck won the Factory Fours title in 2010, while Chelsea Pace won it last season.