Motorsport is, by definition, automotive competition for the participants, but it is also recognized as an entertainment source for those who gather to watch the spectacle. Competition and entertainment were featured in equal parts last Saturday as the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Speedway hosted the homegrown Lucas Oil Pure Stocks, the Bob’s Towing Thunder Cars, and the Late Models as well as the visiting Ontario Legends Series for over 150 laps of green flag, stock car racing action.
With four previous track championships to his credit, Kyle ‘Wheely’ Donaldson certainly knows his way around the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park half-mile oval. But following an extended sabbatical from this particular track, it has taken the Queensville resident several nights of Late Model racing to re-discover the rhythm of the Speedway. Last Saturday Donaldson returned to winning form, piloting his #53 Custom Steering/ Planet Recovery Chevy to an evening sweep, claiming both of his 10-lap heat sprints and then dominating the field to earn his first feature win of the 2012 campaign.
“It’s been a long time, but it’s good to be back,” proclaimed Donaldson. “This is a fun track, it’s challenging and it’s nice to run on a big track again.”
Taking the green flag for the 20-lap feature from mid-pack, it only took Donaldson three laps to track down the race leading #01 Matco Tools car, piloted this week by Dan ‘Spiderman’ Kimmerly. Stalking the leader for another three tours, on lap six Donaldson used the long, outside line through Turn Three to grab the point, relegating Kimmerly to the runner-up position. A caution period, a result of synchronized slides and spins by John Baker Jr. and Craig Perry, allowed all of the Late Model drivers to catch their breaths, but once again under green, Donaldson asserted his domination, cruising to the victory and taking the checkers three car lengths in front of Kimmerly.
Following a race-long scrap with the Harrington Mobile/ ProTech Custom Exhaust #55 of Darren Kearnan, former track champion Mark Gordon (#52 Boston Pizza/ APX Racewear) muscled into third place with two-to-go to complete the podium positions. Kearnan settled for a disappointing fourth spot, with Ed Beatty (#90), Baker (#23) and Bob Kish (#78) rounding out the lead lap finishers.
Endless hours of off-season re-building, modifying and fine-tuning has made the #63 Marksmen Club of Oshawa/ Baker’s Auto Chevrolet the car to beat this year. And John Baker Jr. needed every minute of that preparation last Saturday as he chased track newcomer Chad Strawn (#77 Walton Restoration/ I&I Construction) in the Thunder Car finale, eventually ousting his young rival from the race lead and edging away to claim his fourth feature win of the season.
Having split the evening’s twin heat races, Baker and Strawn locked horns again in the feature, with Baker using his favoured low line through the third turn to grab the race lead on lap seven. Pacing himself, Baker crossed the stripe with a four car length advantage in the ‘Clean and Green’ run to the checkered flag.
“The car was fabulous tonight. The setup was right on the money. We were fast right out of the box,” stated Baker.
Explained Strawn, “my car was good, but it got really tight towards the end. When the handling went off, I had nothing left to fight with.”
The battle for third place came down to a bumper-to-bumper chase between track veterans Steve Mayhew (#14 Mayhew Auto/ Benson Auto Parts) and Dale Wood (#10). Although the Hastings, Ontario driver hung tough with Mayhew, he could not complete the challenge, Mayhew earning a hard-won third place result.
Stinging from a pair of close, runner-up finishes in the night’s pair of Lucas Oil Pure Stock qualifying dashes, Oshawa’s Willy Howells rebounded in the 20-lap feature contest, going flag-to-flag to claim his second Winner’s Trophy of the year.
Having chased Corey Hayward’s #70 Superior Transmission/ Toronto Body Parts Honda to the checkered flag in both of the qualifying heats, Howells took advantage of his front row starting to position to snatch the early lead, with Hayward’s Prelude firmly attached to his back bumper.
Running in lockstep, the two frontrunners ran out the caution-free race in formation, never separated by more than a car length, and racing at a speed that allowed them to lap all but three of their class competitors.
“The adrenaline was really pumping tonight,” laughed Howells. “We made some setup changes that made a big improvement to the car. That was the edge we needed to beat Corey tonight. It was a good race; Corey ran me clean every lap. It was fun.”
Henk Mulders (#45 Link Greenhouses/ VOS’ Independent) was the sole survivor from a three-car, opening race, opening lap accident, and the Bowmanville-based driver was rewarded with a third place feature result.
The Ontario Legends Series has a reputation of producing a thrilling show, and they lived up to their billing on Saturday night with an action-packed, incident-filled 20-lap feature contest.
Multi-time series champions Andy Warbutton and Adam Cuthbertson set the stage by sharing heat race victories, but their fortunes were markedly different in feature.
The scoring sheets show that Cuthbertson (#79) led every lap to claim the Victor’s Laurels, but what they don’t tell is how the former Uxbridge resident needed to survive six caution period restarts to earn the win, two of those accidents involving the #24 of Warbutton.
Fortunately for the various damaged combatants, the final six laps were run incident-free, with Cuthbertson taking the checkered flag by two cars lengths from the #15N of Nicholas Ladson, Fred Jordan (#70) rounding out the top three survivors.
“There were an awful lot of cautions, it was hard to get into a rhythm,” observed Cuthbertson. “The trick, especially at this track, is not so much to charge out and win, but to try not to lose the race. This track is tricky, it’s bumpy, and Turn Two seems to be especially tough on us.”
In a last lap, side-by-side drag race to the line, Rick Cook (#15) edged the resurging Warbutton, literally by inches, to claim a fourth place result.