Thursday, September 15, 2005

CANADIAN SPRINT CAR NAT'LS: Preview by Tommy Goudge

London, Ontario (September 15, 2005) – When it was announced last December that Ohsweken Speedway’s Canadian Sprint Car Nationals event (formerly Championship) was going to be essentially an open un-sanctioned race, every sprint car fan, team, driver, and owner in the Northeast and surrounding area sat up and took notice. Just with the original relatively modest payout, it still would have been the biggest sprint car event ever held in Ontario. When it was announced in May that Eldorado Logistics had come on board as title sponsor and doubled that purse, including a $5,000 winner’s share, the excitement and anticipation was ratcheted up another level, as we all realized the event was now going to be one of the premiere 360 sprint car events on the continent.

Glenn Styres and Ken and Cheryl Pelkie have done a wonderful job of promoting the event and getting the word out, and it shows. As of this writing, at least 68 drivers and teams from 7 different sanctions/clubs, 9 states/provinces, and 3 countries are pre-entered for the event, which goes Saturday Night, September 17. Incredibly, there may be more who haven’t yet registered who might be planning on showing up the day of the event – most notably some teams from the very competitive United Racing Club (URC) which runs in the New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Eastern New York, and Delaware areas. Four of our area clubs/sanctions have signed on as “affiliate sanctions” for the event. They are the Southern Ontario Sprints (Ontario), Sprints On Dirt (Michigan), Empire Super Sprints (New York), and Patriot Sprint Group (New York) and their four spec right rear tires are the only ones allowed for the event, though it is open to any and all 360 sprint cars, regardless of where they come from.

A stellar group of officials is in place to keep things organized and running smoothly on race day. They include; Sprints on Dirt President and Race Director Jason Fausey as Nationals Race Director, Southern Ontario Sprints Chief Scorer Randa Vandertuin as Nationals Chief Scorer, and former Empire Super Sprints tech inspector Mike Seiver as the lead Nationals tech inspector. Other officials, announcers, and media from a variety of clubs and sanctions will also be in attendance.

Because of the fact that all these groups and officials will be in the same place on the same day, the annual Northeastern 360 Sprint Car Forum, which is normally held at the National Parts Peddler show in Syracuse in November, is going to be held the day of the Nationals (Sept. 17) and hosted by Ohsweken Speedway and the Southern Ontario Sprints. The first part of the meeting is an attempt to bring together the various officials and promoters of winged 360 sprint car racing and have them discuss their club’s plans for the future, while the second part of the meeting will focus on how the clubs can continue to work together to build the Northeast’s sprint car racing events for the future.

As is becoming the norm these days, the world famous Knoxville Raceway will be sending a representative to the event. For this one, it will be Stevie Walsh, who is actually from North Shore City, North Island, New Zealand, if you can believe it. Stevie was the 2004 driver for the Knoxville International Driver Development program, and has continued this season at Knoxville in the 360 division, where he currently sits 15th in points. Stevie is driving for the legendary Bob Trostle, who has fielded cars for some of the best sprint car drivers in the world over the past 30 years or so, as well as all the KIDD program drivers. Ridgetown, Ontario’s Adam West was the 2003 KIDD driver incidentally, and this year he’s leading the Southern Ontario Sprints points standings going into the final event, the SOS Championship Invitational on September 16 at Ohsweken – the night before the Canadian Nationals.

For the drivers and teams, the Canadian Nationals A-Main event is going to be extremely difficult to get into. The pressure will be on right from the beginning of hot laps as only the top 48 cars in time trials will even be guaranteed a spot in a heat race – the rest go into one or two non-qualifiers event(s) (if over 64 cars sign in, there will be 2 non-qualifiers races), which will transfer 4 drivers to the 13th starting spot in the 4 heat races, making it essential to hit the setup early. The fastest cars in time trials will be under just as much pressure, as the top 6 time trialers in each heat will be inverted for the start, but only the top 4 finishers will transfer directly to the A Main. This means that after the heats, only 16 cars will be qualified for the A, which is a fairly low number by 24 car starting field standards.

After the heats, 2 dashes will be run with 8 cars in each – the top 4 finishers from heats 1 and 2 in Dash 1, and top 4 finishers in heats 3 and 4 in Dash 2. Dash 1 will determine the starting order of the inside row of the A Main, while Dash 2 will determine the starting order of the outside row. Finishers 9-13 in the heats will go to the C-Main, which will transfer 4 cars to the back of the B Main. The B will be comprised of finishers 5-8 in the heats and also transfer 4 cars to the A Main, where they will start in positions 16-20. The final 4 starters in the A Main will be “provisionals” – Each affiliate sanction (SOS, SOD, PSG, and ESS) will be given one spot, to be filled by the driver with the highest standing in their respective club’s points who is not already qualified for the feature.

So, all in all this is going to be one exciting and memorable night for everyone, but also pressure packed for the drivers and teams. Now that we know what the drivers and teams are up against, I guess it’s time for me to make some predictions. This is not by any means done scientifically, or even logically, rather these are just my gut instincts and preconcieved notions. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if many of them don’t even make the feature, considering how many cars will be in attendance and how deep the talent pool is for this event. Here are my 24 and their finishes…Let’s see how close I can get:

24th…Jack Pillon. The young driver from Belle River, Ontario has had a difficult year, which has seen him suspended from the Southern Ontario Sprints and racing only part time elsewhere. However, the 2004 SOS Rookie of the Year has great equipment, and he has shown he can be fast at Ohsweken, and elsewhere as well.

23rd…Dick Mahoney. Sitting 3rd in Southern Ontario Sprints points, Dick has a pretty good shot at one of the provisional starting positions if he doesn’t make it in to the feature through his heat or conci. The Newmarket, Ontario driver, like many other SOS drivers, is a veteran of the Can-Am TQ Midget division, and moved up to the sprint car ranks in the early days of the SOS. Dick’s age was sort of a playful secret for a long time, but he celebrated his 60th birthday this summer, has competed in more SOS events than any other driver in the club’s 10 year history, and was the subject of one of Norris McDonald’s columns in the Toronto Star recently.

22nd… Jeff VanDusen. This Empire Super Sprints regular from Otego, NY has had a solid and consistent season on the ESS tour, with 1 feature win to his credit, and sits 2nd in points behind Lance Yonge. This season Jeff failed to finish the ESS feature at Ohsweken due to an accident, but his previous two visits to the Big O have garnered him solid 4th and 6th place finishes.

21st…Kyle Wilson. “The Joyceville Cadet” won the Patriot Sprint Group feature on opening night at Ohsweken this season, passing – and banging wheels with – father Rick, as well as the hard charging Chuck Hebing, for the win.

20th…Warren Mahoney. The 2001 Southern Ontario Sprints champ looked good in his last outing at Ohsweken when he won his heat and finished 12th in the feature during the SOD event. The Lefroy, Ontario native went for a wild end-over-end tumble during the Brighton Speedway Labour Day Classic weekend, but both he and the car escaped relatively unscathed. Demonstrating the spirit of the SOS club, many other crew members and drivers thrashed all day to get Mahoney’s #25 fixed, and Mahoney lent his backup car to Jim Porter that weekend after Porter blew his engine on the first night…

19th…John Reigling. Another darkhorse to some degree, this Chatham, Ontario veteran has been racing most of this season with an ailing power plant, but has shown he can run up front when the car stays together. In the SOD event at Ohsweken last month, John was leading his heat race when something in the drive train failed. The 1997 Southern Ontario Sprints champ has won features at Ohsweken before, most recently a dominating flag-to-flag win there in June of 2004. If John’s mount – numbered 1a because his first car was a former Bobby Allen chassis - is in proper running order, John will certainly be a contender.

18th…Jim Porter. A darkhorse in this event, the Grand Island, NY driver has had a breakout year on the Southern Ontario Sprints circuit, including a feature win at the South Buxton Raceway in July and sits 6th in SOS points. Jim, a driver who does a lot with very little, had his share of bad luck this season, including a blown engine at Brighton on Labour Day weekend, but Tim Phillips – who is well on his way to a full recovery from Prostate Cancer surgery and plans to be back racing next season - has loaned Jim his engine for this weekend. Jim showed he is more than capable of running up front, no matter who the competition is, in the ESS event at Ohsweken in June when he charged from near the rear of the field to a fine 5th place finish. Unfortunately he was disqualified from that 5th place finish on what many would deem to be a silly technicality when he didn’t go directly to the scales after the feature, most likely because he didn’t know he’d finished as high as he had, and nobody thought to tell him. Jim will definitely be going hard all weekend, as he’s still within striking distance of Glenn Styres for the Ohsweken Speedway Sprint Car track championship.

17th…Ben Rutan. Like Dick Mahoney, this SOD regular from Hudson, Michigan has a pretty good shot at getting in the starting field one way or another because he sits 2nd in SOD points behind Tim Norman. Rutan had trouble in his heat race during his last race at Ohsweken in August, and was forced to use a provisional starting spot in the feature, but he made the most of his second chance by racing from 22nd to a 9th place finish that night.

16th…George Suprick. Entered in Chuck Hebing’s second car, the 2004 Patriot Sprint Group champion will be one to watch. The veteran from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania has never won at Ohsweken, but he finished 3rd in the PSG event there back in May, and his reputation and career stats make him a threat wherever he goes.

15th…Adam West. The SOS points leader blew another engine during the Labour Day Classic at Brighton Speedway, but the Ridgetown, Ontario driver has got another engine and he’s proven he knows his way around Ohsweken Speedway, with a feature win there in July, and a 2nd place in last year’s Canadian Sprint Car Championships, along with many top 5’s. Adam has also made trips to the world famous Knoxville Raceway and Eldora Speedway this season, and has shown he can be competitive against the best 360 cars on the continent.

14th…Alain Bergeron. This St. Pie, Quebec native, who is a regular with the Empire Super Sprints, led much of the feature during the ESS feature in June at Ohsweken, but settled for 2nd place behind Dan Kaszubinski after a front wing problem slowed him down. Alain has 2 ESS feature wins this season and sits 5th in tour points.

13th …Nick Mulheim. Last year’s win in the Canadian Sprint Car Championship feature is this regular Sprints on Dirt competitor’s only recent feature win, but the Navarre, Ohio driver is always pretty strong at Ohsweken, and generally runs in the top 10 wherever he goes. He also had an impressive week at the Knoxville Raceway in August during the 360 Nationals and Brodix Tournament of Champions.

12th…Rick Wilson. The Joyceville Jet had a very strong run during the PSG event in May at Ohsweken go bad at the end due to mechanical failure, but this Eastern Ontario driver is always a threat to win anywhere he goes, and he’s one of the hardest chargers and most intense drivers you’re ever likely to see.

11th…Kenny Jacobs. No, this isn’t a misprint, “The Mouse” really is coming to Ohsweken, aboard Mike Woodring’s #19. Some of you may recall that Woodring – The man who brought Erin Crocker up through the sprint car ranks from ESS into the World of Outlaws and now into NASCAR - was dominant whenever he showed up at Ohsweken (he has two Canadian Championships to his credit, and other assorted SOS and ESS features as well), and dominated the ESS tour in general for many years, garnering 59 feature wins and 10 championships which rank him 1st in both categories. Anyone who even has a passing interest in sprint car racing over the past 25 years knows who Jacobs is, so this is going to be a really intriguing team to watch. Jacobs was aboard Chris Shuttleworth’s #11, with Woodring as crew chief, at the Billy Hill Fall Sprint Nationals last weekend and didn’t make it out of the C Main, but this weekend will almost assuredly be a different story given Woodring’s track record at Ohsweken. The World of Outlaws veteran and multi-time All Star Circuit of Champions titlist has announced his retirement from sprint car racing at the end of this season…

10th…Darren Long. This National Racing Alliance regular who also runs some SOD races hasn’t been to Ohsweken in awhile, but he does own a feature win there, and is always a force to be reckoned with wherever he goes. The Elida, Ohio driver finished 3rd in NRA tour points and has two feature wins this season on the NRA circuit. One of those wins came in the Old Spice Sprint Sizzler at the legendary Eldora Speedway last month, which featured NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart, Dave Blaney, and Kasey Kahne.

9th…Tim Allison. Another NRA regular, this Cridersville, Ohio driver has 4 feature wins this season, 3 on the NRA circuit and another in a SOD event, but he’s never been to Ohsweken before. Tim can sometimes be hit or miss, but he has good equipment, and can thoroughly dominate when he hits the setup, as he did at Eldora in July, winning 2 NRA features in one weekend there during the annual King’s Royal events.

8th…Glenn Styres. Nobody will be more pumped up and full of adrenaline on the 17th than the owner and promoter of Ohsweken Speedway. The 2003 SOS champ took 3 feature wins in a row at Ohsweken earlier this season, and has 5 in total on the SOS trail this year.

7th…Lance Yonge. While this Penn Yan, NY native hasn’t exactly set the world on fire at Ohsweken, he has finishes of 8th, 3rd, and 4th in his 3 previous visits to the speedway, and he won the last two full points ESS tour events of this season. Lance has 6 ESS feature wins in total this season and locked up his second consecutive ESS points title this past weekend in the Bully Hill Fall Sprint Nationals at Black Rock Speedway, a race in which he charged from 24th to 7th.

6th …Tim Norman. The Warsaw, Indiana native has one of the strongest 360 cars in the Midwest – The Gaerte Mopar house car – has 3 feature wins on the Sprints on Dirt trail, and has all but clinched the SOD points championship. Tim proved he’s more than capable of running up front at Ohsweken when he had some bad luck in a heat race which forced him to start 21st in the feature, but then charged all the way to 4th place in just 25 laps.

5th…Bryan Howland. One of the hottest 360 drivers in the area right now, this Patriot Sprint Group invader picked up a cool $5,000 for his win in the Full Throttle Nationals at Michigan’s I-96 Speedway in August. The Auburn, NY native also had a very strong run in the SOD event at Ohsweken last month, finishing second to Dustin Daggett after a great battle through lapped traffic in the middle stages of the race, and has 5 feature wins this season.

4th…Chuck Hebing. The hard charging Patriot Sprint Group regular, nicknamed “Cobra”, is always lightning fast anywhere he goes, and Ohsweken is no exception. At the Big O this season, the Ontario, NY native owns a second place finish in the PSG event in May, an SOS feature win, and charged from 17th to 5th in the SOD feature there last month. The Cobra proved he can compete with just about anyone when he brought his 360 to New York’s Fulton Speedway to compete with the 410’s of the World of Outlaws – which is kind of like bringing a knife to a gunfight - and did very well until a mechanical failure sidelined him.

3rd…Kyle Patrick. Along with Bryan Howland, the Tilbury Tornado is one of the hotter 360 drivers in the Northeast right now. In the SOD event at Ohsweken last month, Kyle charged from a 15th place starting spot to 3rd place behind Howland and Dustin Daggett. As a former Southern Ontario Sprints regular (Kyle now runs regularly with SOD and sits 3rd in that club’s point standings), the 2003 SOS rookie of the year has many laps around the Ohsweken oval. It would be a popular win with what is sure to be a partisan Canadian crowd if Kyle could pull off the win…

2nd …Dan Kaszubinski. The Syracuse, NY driver has won the last two events he’s run at Ohsweken, in two different cars no less – one of them his backup car, a former Bobby Allen chassis from 1987 - and finished 7th in his only other appearance at the track. His win this past June in the ESS show at Ohsweken came after he started 21st because of problems before his heat, which forced him to scratch and start last in the B Main. Dan sits 3rd in ESS tour points with 3 feature wins this season and is coming off a fine 2nd place run in the Bully Hill Fall Sprint Nationals last weekend.

1st…Dustin Daggett. The Portland, Michigan native has won 3 of the 4 features he’s contested at Ohsweken, and raced from the back to 4th place in the lone “loss”. Nobody, save perhaps Mike Woodring, has been as consistently fast at Ohsweken as this Sprints on Dirt tour regular. Dustin won the last sprint car feature at Ohsweken on August 26th, a race that was widely considered an accurate preview of what to expect come Nationals time. The ’03 and ’04 SOD champ has run only a partial schedule with the competitive SOD tour this season, but still has 4 feature wins to his credit and sits 8th in points. Unless something unforeseen happens, if Dustin doesn’t at least finish top 5, I’ll eat my hat.

Well, there you have it. I’ll be absolutely amazed if I’m even 50% correct, but at least now you have a pretty good idea of who the “favourites” are, or at least who to watch. This is already pretty much the biggest sprint car event in Canadian history, and it hasn’t even been run yet! Don’t forget about the SOS Championship Invitational and Village Pizza “Ohsweken Shootout” the night before the Nationals, as well as all of Ohsweken’s regular divisions that night, September 16th, which makes for one of the best race weekends of the year in this area. Adam West merely has to take the green flag Friday night to lock up the SOS title, but other positions in the points are still up for grabs, and the Ohsweken Speedway Sprint Car track championship is not yet decided either. As always, I can be reached via e-mail at, or from the link on our website: See you at the track!

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