By Greg Calnan – My latest journey ‘On The Road’ took me to the farthest reaches of Southwestern Ontario to a track that I have become very familiar with over the past few years. Just south of Chatham near the small town of Merlin is the South Buxton Raceway. This 3/8 mile D-shaped dirt oval has been a part of my summer travels for the past number of years while I held the duty of Southern Ontario Sprints tour announcer.
Although the SOS did not have a date there this year, Tommy Goudge – my co-announcer at Ohsweken – was asked to fill in for ASCS Sprints On Dirt tour announcer TJ Buffenbarger. TJ was unable to attend the South Buxton show so I tagged along with Tommy to lend a hand with the announcing duties, and spend some time promoting OntarioOval.com.
Our trips to South Buxton are generally a lot of fun. Although the drive from London to Chatham may be the flattest land this side of the prairies, we always manage to turn it into an adventure. Last year we took the scenic tour through Ridgetown and passed by the now defunct Ridge Raceway. Rumours a few years ago had it re-opening, but that never came true. It is a shame because there are so many great race fans and competitors in that region.
This time around Tommy, along with my father Dale and myself were on a mission to track down a restaurant in Blenheim called Home Run. This burger joint is all the talk in Southwestern Ontario so we felt it was a must-visit. After some time driving around town we finally gave up and stopped to ask for directions. The meal lived up to the hype as I got a large double patty cheeseburger, an order of onion rings and a pop for just $7. It is hard to beat that much food for that low of a price. My arteries may not have thought it was a good deal, but my taste buds did.
After our pit stop we headed to the track. You can tell you are getting close to South Buxton by the fans that begin to appear just miles from the track. When I say fans I mean the large wind turbines that now dominate the area. Being so close to the shores of Lake Erie, wind energy harvesting has become a big deal in that area and the number of towers has increased by at least ten-fold over the past year.
When we arrived the real fans were filing in and packing the stands as they do on any given race night. We signed in and made our way to the pit area, and took some time to walk around to every team and introduce them to our website. The response was positive and all the teams were genuinely friendly. Race time was just around the corner though and that friendliness turned into competitiveness. The show moved along very quickly and the racing action was great.
In 2010, track owner Scott Mihalco made the decision to lease the speedway out rather than operate it himself. A pair of familiar faces took over the reigns as Ann Rombouts and Dean Outhouse moved into the promoter’s position. Ann was a former owner of the speedway so it was a turning back of the clock of sorts.
South Buxton Raceway is as unique as it gets in Ontario. Unlike most local D-shaped tracks, the D-bend in the speedway surface is on the front stretch rather than the back. The layout is much like the Richmond Int’l Raceway and it creates a unique view of the race cars from the main grandstand. South Buxton’s top two divisions – the UMP Late Models and UMP Modifieds – are able to pull the left front wheel off the ground down the majority of the frontstretch.
My ‘tip of the cap’ on this night goes to South Buxton Raceway PR Director and Announcer Mike Bennett. When we arrived at the track Mike spotted us in the parking lot and came right to the entry gate to be sure we got signed in. When visiting a track it is always nice to be greeted by a friendly face and Mike made sure we were taken care of from the moment we pulled in.
Dustin Daggett of Portland, Michigan was the big winner on this night capturing the ASCS Sprints On Dirt feature. It was his second win in a row, as he walked away with the Northern Summer Nationals title one night earlier at Ohsweken.
Mike Lewis took his second UMP Late Model win of the season as did C.J. Field in the UMP Modified feature. Also grabbing their second wins of the year were Eric Vanderiviere in the Sport Stock class, and Denis DeSerrano in the Comp 4’s.
After a couple of wrong turns and a few laughs along the way, the OntarioOval.com crew was back on the 401 and on the way home. I don’t think we have ever had a bad trip to South Buxton and this was yet again another fun night. The track officials and competitors are always a pleasure to deal with, and the fans are top notch. Any time I have visited South Buxton, the atmosphere is always energetic, and the crowd is knowledgeable. We look forward to seeing all our friends at South Buxton again in 2011.
THANK YOU: Thanks to Ann Rombouts, and Blake and Dean Outhouse who were very hospitable to us all evening long. Dean and Blake also operate Outhouse Image & Design in Chatham. If you are a racer looking for a race car wrap or any other sign designs check them out at http://www.outhousesigns.ca/.
Again I would like to thank Mike Bennett for taking care of us and sharing the microphone as we announced the sprint car portion of the show. Mike does a tremendous amount of work promoting the speedway and also operates a website called http://www.cksportsonline.com/. The site features amateur sporting news from the Chatham-Kent region, along with special features from the track.
WHO I MET: I have seen Kirk Hooker race a number of times including back in the days that Brighton, The Ridge, South Buxton and Can-Am ran their Late Model Challenge series. Kirk is well known around the province for his accomplishments on both dirt and pavement. It was nice to finally meet him and talk about his season.
I also had the chance to meet Scott McKenzie who drives #28 in the Sport Stock division. Scott is part of FOG Speedway near Windsor. FOG – by the way – stands for Fat Old Guys Racing. Their kart track is a dirt oval that competes every Monday night from May to September. For more information visit www.cyberbiker.ca/fog/.
WHO WAS THERE: Once again I ran into James MacDonald of Apex One Photo. James is the track photographer at South Buxton, so this was his home turf we were invading. James is always great to talk to and share a laugh with. I must apologize for sabotaging his efforts in my last column as I misspelled his website address. You can check out his work at http://www.apexonephoto.com/. Really, this is the correct link this time.
Also in attendance was Dale Shunamon. Dale is well known around the province for his work on the flagstand with both the Can-Am Midgets and weekly at Ohsweken Speedway. As I youngster growing up I wanted to be a flagman, having watched such greats as Andy ‘Rags’ Mahaffey at Can-Am and DIRTcar’s Dave Farney. Dale Shunamon ranks right up with the best of them because of the show he puts on atop the stand, along with his professionalism he holds about his position.
WHO I MISSED: The person I missed on this night was Glenn Styres. Glenn wasn’t able to make the show, but his teammates were in attendance. The reason I missed Glenn being there is because his two-seater sprint car was on hand, but he wasn’t there to drive it. Over the past few weeks Styres Racing has put together a pair of 410 sprint car two-seaters, and have been treating fans to the ride of their lives. Hopefully the extra long #0 and its driver will be in attendance for the second sprint show at South Buxton on August 21st. For fans interested in taking a ride, visit http://www.ohswekenspeedway.com/ for information on weekly opportunities.
We had another fun visit to South Buxton Raceway and had a chance to see much of Southwestern Ontario. Thank you to the track, its fans and its teams for welcoming us on this night. We will definitely be back next season.
That does it for this week’s edition, so until next time I’ll see you “On The Road!”
For more information on South Buxton Raceway visit http://www.southbuxtonraceway.com/.
Greg Calnan – Editor / Columnist for OntarioOval.com. Contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org