Last Saturday, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Speedway welcomed the 2012 summer season with a little help from the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino. And it was a sure bet that the large crowd gathered at the half-mile oval went home feeling like winners, having been thrilled by the skills and antics of the drivers from the Bob’s Towing Thunder Cars, and the Lucas Oil Canadian Vintage Modifieds and homegrown Pure Stocks.
Having been excluded from Victory Lane in his previous appearance at CTMP Speedway, last Saturday John Baker Jr. rebounded by scoring the Bob’s Towing Thunder Car feature win, and then dedicating his victory to his parents on the night of their 39th wedding anniversary.
Sharing the checkered flags in the evening’s twin heat races with points challenger Chad Strawn (#77 Caliber Environmental Monte Carlo), Baker had his work cut out for him in the 20 lap feature as he was forced to chase, track down and eventually pass race leader Strawn in order to claim his third feature win of the 2012 season.
Starting from the inside of the third row, Baker put his #63 Marksmen Club Chevrolet into full pursuit mode, and by lap three had successfully closed onto Strawn’s back bumper. For six full laps Baker pressured his young rival, making multiple futile passing attempts. Ultimately succumbing to the pressure from behind, Straw slid ever-so-slightly wide in Turn One, opening up a small gap into which Baker poked the nose of his black and orange #63 Chevy. Powering onto the long back straight, ‘JBJ’ edged into the lead, and with a clear track in front of him, pulled away, taking the checkered flag five car lengths in front of Strawn.
“I knew I was about two-tenths a lap quicker than Chad,” said Baker. “Catching him at two-tenths is pretty good, but trying to get around him at just two-tenths is pretty hard work.”
Track rookie Ken Donaldson Jr. (#03 Steelcase Mags and Wheels) spent several laps chasing veteran Steve Mayhew (#14 Mayhew Auto), eventually squirting past on lap six to claim third place, a position he maintained to the checkered flag. Forced to watch his mirrors all race long, Mayhew then spent the remainder of the 20 lap feature defending fourth place from a determined Dale Wood (#10).
The word ‘Invitational’ always seems to raise interest and eyebrows in any racing division, and this was the case last Saturday as the Lucas Oil Pure Stock ranks were swelled with guest drivers and new faces in familiar cars.
The Pure Stock schedule started with four heat sprints, with series rookie Kevin Vandebeek (#54) walking away with two checkered flags, the remaining victories shared between Corey Hayward (#70) and Henk Mulders.
Obviously having never heard the term that the ‘race cannot be won on the opening lap, only lost’, incidents involving several, over-anxious drivers meant that it took three attempts to get a single lap into the record books. However, once underway, the race turned into a high-speed pursuit with all eyes focused on Ryan DiBello in his recently purchased, ex-Kevin Hinds #57 Grand Am.
Leading a four-car breakaway pack, with Vandebeek, Hayward and Kawartha Speedway regular Danny Benedict (#54X) firmly affixed to his tailpipe, DiBello was ousted from his race leading spot by Hayward when the lead group got muddled up while lapping traffic. Reclaiming the point on a lap 23 caution period restart, DiBello once again came under fire and with two-to-go, Hayward worked the highline around Turn Three to wrestle the lead away, holding on for a three car length margin of victory.
“That was hard, hard work,” admitted the driver of the #70 Algonquin Property Services Honda Prelude. “I pretty much burned off a set of tires in that one.”
In a three-wide drag race to the checkered flag, Benedict pipped DiBello by a half car length for the runner-up position, with Vandebeek an equal distance in arrears in fourth place.
Loud, fast and ultra-competitive, The Canadian Vintage Modifieds put on their usual exciting performance for the Speedway faithful last Saturday, proving 25 laps of wheel-to-wheel, green flag feature race action.
Adrian Donkers (#6-1933 Chevrolet) had the honour of claiming the evening’s opening heat dash, while Mike Podd in his #5, 1934 Ford responded with the win in the second of the 10 lap preliminary sprints. Two-time, and defending, series champion Jason Keen (#18-1931 Chevy) closed out the qualifying rounds with a closely fought victory in the consolation race.
While these three drivers shared in racing glory in the early rounds, the 25 lap feature contest belonged to Adrian Donkers, as the driver of the Family Farms Chevy went flag-to-flag to score the well-deserved victory.
Starting from pole position, Donkers, although intensely pressured, was never bested as he held off a three-car train of pursuers for the win, leading the #39-1934 Ford of Shane Stickel, Mike Podd and Jason Keen to the stripe. Previous four-time Speedway victor Phil Shaw (#0-1928 Pontiac) took the checkers in a distant fifth place; having pipped Corey Jones (#82) on the penultimate lap for the top five result.