BARRIE, ON – Yet another gorgeous late summer evening was the backdrop on Aug. 21 at Barrie Speedway. And after losing last week’s card to Mother Nature, the drivers would all come to the track with a little extra ‘pep’ in their step on All Wildlife Removal Night, as the cooler temperatures in the air produced many close finishes throughout all three divisions.
The evening’s biggest winners were #02 Shawn Murray of Alliston and #48 Dwayne Baker of Stayner, as each driver captured 30 lap feature wins in the track’s featured Wahta Springs Late Model division. The win for rookie Murray, marked the third week in succession the talented driver has captured the opening feature race. Baker’s win was the 12th of the season, but would ironically see his points lead narrowed from 44 to 41 over his nearest rival #19 Keith McLeod of Barrie, who ended up with a pair of third place results to show for his evening in the office.
Approaching the final month of the season look for these two provincial heavyweights to battle tooth and nail to see which one will be crowned the 2012 track champion, in what would be a prospective second track championship for both drivers.
In the first 30, it was outside pole sitter #57 Ron “The Dominator” Quesnelle who found the point early, after getting the jump on #74 Roy Manary from the drop of the green. Manary, would soon find the duo of Murray and #33 Dave Lewis nipping at his heels, as that pair was able to slip past Manary’s #74 Pontiac Grand Prix to advance to 2nd and 3rd in the running order, respectively.
Approaching the ten lap mark, Quesnelle was looking strong at the front end, holding Murray at bay by 2 car lengths with laps in the 14.9 second range, as the battle was really heating up for 3rd in behind, as the duo of #69 Al “Red Rocket” Inglis and Baker shot through along the inside line underneath Lewis between turns 1&2 to advance further in the running order, as Lewis was finally able to find the inside lane in order to maintain 5th place.
Nearing the midway point the car on the move was the 48 of Baker, as the 2007 track champ would wrestle away 3rd from Inglis, with a clean inside pass in turn three, with the 19 of McLeod also making his presence felt, as the 2008 track champ maneuvered past Lewis top enter the top 5. Meanwhile, at the front of the field a very game Murray had closed in on leader Quesnelle and was searching to the inside and outside for a way past.
Just past the 20 lap mark, the battles were heating up all over the track, as the duo of #14 Hurricane Thayne Hallyburton and #10 Gord Shepherd began to pressure Lewis for position just outside of the top 5, while at the front of the pack Baker had caught the lead duo, claiming second from Murray with a clean outside pass in turn 3. Hallyburton, would soon find the inside of Lewis between turns 1&2, dragging Shepherd along with him to eventually land the duo in 6th and 7th place respectively.
Over the duration, Baker quickly reeled in the leader Quesnelle and began to pressure him to the high side, looking to make a pass out of turn 4 on successive laps. On lap 28, the unthinkable happened when Baker and Quesnelle would make contact in turn 4 after racing in very tight quarters for several laps prior. The result of the contact, would see Quesnelle sent spinning towards the infield, with both drivers summoned arrears for a green, white, checkered finish.
With pesky rookie Murray and wily veteran Inglis now comprising the front row, the large crowd on hand sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the thrilling finish to come. Murray, would dive down hard to the inside line and into the turn 1 curbing on the restart, kicking him crossways across the track and halting the momentum of Inglis on the outside, as Murray was able out to a marginal lead as a result.
On the last lap, Inglis was driving like a man possessed, again moving alongside Murray on the outside entering turn 1, as the two drivers waged side by side war for the race lead once again. Murray, would see a recent hot streak continue, driving with a calm and collected presence on his way to taking the checkered, just nipping Inglis by inches at the finish. McLeod, would come home a solid 3rd, while Hallyburton and Shepherd rounded out the fast five.
In the 30 lap finale to the evening, it was Baker who moved out to the early advantage from the outside pole, after battling the first two laps door handle to door handle with the 74 of Manary. Quickly moving through along the outside line was the 57 of Quesnelle, as the Penetang resident would relieve Manary of 2nd, as the trio of Hallyburton, Shepherd, and McLeod raced covered by a blanket for fourth, with McLeod eventually coming out on top of that battle.
Manary, would continue to get shuffled further back in the running order, as the trio of McLeod, Hallyburton, and Shepherd all would file past, with Shepherd also slipping to the inside of Hallyburton between turns 3&4 to take away 4th place, after a hard fought battle. At the front of the field, Baker was widening his lead over Quesnelle with laps in the 14.7 second range, now opening up a near half straightaway lead with the race nearing the midway mark.
As the laps began to click off towards the finish, Baker was widening his lead with each passing lap, with the best battle heating up being the race for 5th, as Murray and Inglis were for challenging Hallyburton for that position, with both drivers able to slip past along the inside groove along the backstretch.
Once out front it was clear nobody was catching Baker however, as the driver found redemption from the misfortune in the initial feature, taking the win by a wide margin over Quesnelle at the finish. McLeod, would cap off a solid point night with a tidy 3rd place effort, while Shepherd and Murray completed the top five.
In Canestoga Sprayers and Asphalt Repair Thunder Car action, it was a familiar face returning to victory lane as #44 Dave “The Deuce” Doucette of Angus captured the win in the 30 lap main. The win for Doucette was his first at the Barrie track since the 2009 season, and comes after a recent string of podium finishes, as the G.D Coates Suzuki/Extreme Auto Machine Chysler 300 Z looks to have its early season problems righted moving forward.
With the win Doucette also picked up ground in the season long point standings, moving past the defending track champ #12 Jim “Polish Prince” Belesky into 3rd place, with a scant 12 points now separating the two former track champs for that position as the 2012 season closes out its final month. Doucette, would move out front just past the midway point in this one, disposing of early race leader #77 Biran Murray with a clean inside pass entering turn one on lap 18.
Murray, who was having his best performance in recent memory, would lose 2nd to current point leader #10 Rick Walt of Hawkestone in the late stages, with Walt closing in on the bumper of leader Doucette over the last five laps but unable to find the necessary horsepower to make a pass stick. The trio of Doucette, Walt and Murray would parade to the checkered in nose to tail fashion, with the 2007 tack champ Doucette claiming the win by half a car length at the finish. Walt, would solidify his stature atop the standings with a workmanlike runner up performance, while Murray would have a season best 3rd place, as #24 Leonard Johnston and Belesky rounded out the list of top 5 finishers.
Heat wins went to Doucette, Walt, Murray, and Johnston.
The St. Onge Recreation Pure Stocks would feature a first time winner was crowned in the division as #77 Mike Gettliffe notched the win in his TSS Top Shoppe/ Snapper The Scrapper sponsored Dodge Neon. Gettliffe, would lead flag to flag in this one, after clearing #23 Terry Tompkins from the onset, then having to fend off a late race challenge of perennial front runner #11 Adam Misener of North Bay who eventually finished 2nd.
The most eventful occurance came with a handful of laps remaining, while the top 5 drivers were racing in a tightly packed bunch, as #09 Ben Melenhorst would eventually nudge #400 Justin Holmes while trying to make an inside pass for 3rd place on the exit of turn two. The result would send Holmes for a spin, and both drivers to the rear of the pack deemed involved cars.
It was at this point in the race Gettliffe and Misener battled furiously on the restart for two solid laps door handle to door handle, as former Thunder Car pilot Gettliffe captured his first Barrie feature victory since the 2004 season when he resided in the Thunder Car ranks. Misener, would take over the point lead with a solid 2nd place, while #15 Will Davies, #9 Charlie Smith, and #57 Ryan Toon rounded out the top 5.
Heat wins went to #400 Justin Holmes with a pair, Smith, and #14 Billy Melenhorst.
PIT NOTES: Barrie Speedway was well represented at a recent Sunset Speedway 75 lap Late Model invitational, with #48 Dwayne Baker coming home an impressive 3rd behind provincial front runners Mike Bentley of Sunset and Jonathon Urlin of Delaware, while 2009 Barrie champ #10 Gord Shepherd notched a tidy 8th place showing in the same event.
Speaking of Shepherd, he would be forced into a back up car for the Sat night show at Barrie, after encountering motor issues the previous evening at Kawartha. Shepherd, would still be able to come home with a solid 6th place effort in that race, coming from the back of the pack twice in a deep and talent laden 17 car field at the Fraserville area track.
In other news, 2009 Barrie Pure Stock champ Ben Melenhorst made just his 2nd start of 2012, in the #09 Neon usually campaigned by Dean Curry of Singhampton, with Melenhorst running into some late feature race misfortune ending what was shaping up to be a solid top 5 finish, after running impressively in the earlier heat races.
On tap this week it’s the “Crown Jewel” of the Barrie race season the 100 lap Garry Reynolds Memorial for Late Models, with a 50 lap Thunder Car race also on the docket on Thursday, August 23. With several of the province’s top racers already confirmed to be in attendance, this is an event you just can’t afford to miss.
Pit Gate opens at 2pm, with spectator gates open at 5pm and green flag scheduled for 7:30pm sharp…. On Sat night its back to regular racing for all three divisions for Barrie Thunder Classics Car Club night, with pit gates open at 3pm, spectator gates at 5pm, and green flag set for 7pm.
By Dave Vokey / Barrie Speedway