MILLGROVE, ON (May 4, 2018)- “Under the circumstances, I really couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. Really couldn’t of, eventually I’ll come to closure with the loss of my right hand man, best friend and cousin.” Those were the words of Justin Collison after racing the Flamboro Speedway Enduro 300 on October 21st last fall. As most of us remember, we lost Clay Collison last October 10th as he tragically drowned after an accident. After days of searching and hoping the Collison family and friends had to come to grips with such a sudden and tragic loss of a young life.
Growing up Clay and Justin were very close, more like brothers than cousins. The Collison family have been in stock car racing for seven decades. Clay was more into football than racing at an early age but as he got older his passion for racing grew. That’s when the two became inseparable. The late nights in the shop working on race cars is with out a doubt are some of the greatest memories Justin has of his cousin. Another good memory was the day Clay was tagged with the nickname “Board Slide Bandit”. Racing an Integra at Flamboro, Clay made contact with another car and then the wall. He rode the wall like a skateboarder then over onto the left side of the car and slid down the front stretch. He was ok but from that day on Justin would call his cousin that. After wrecking the car he spent the next day completely stripping the car and fixed it so he could race Full Throttle (Varney) and Sauble in two weeks. He got it together and raced finishing 9th at Varney and 7th at Sauble. Clay really like to race the dirt and did so at Ohsweken. He planned to race a limited schedule and the odd Flamboro race this year. After bending the car after hitting the front straightaway wall in his first ever appearance there he was a bit discouraged but got it back together and started to get a grasp for the dirt scene.
Clay and Justin had planned to race more enduros in 2017 but life at the time got in the way and plans were shelved. With an enduro scheduled to close out 2017 at Flamboro, Justin needed to get back in the car to help get through the pain and knew he needed to do it for Clay. Only about a week after Clay’s passing, with help from many friends and family they got the car together quick as Justin and Clay’s family attended to funeral arrangements. The brakes boiled by lap 50 and the hand brake gave up on lap 180 but he still managed to bring the car home 27th place. Justin said he had a blast, the most fun he has ever had in a race car.
At the start of the race Justin sat in the car at the start/finish line and made the slow ride around in honour of Clay to take up his place in the starting line up. Justin said, “By far the most bone chilling lap I have ever done in my life.” People and drivers that didn’t even know him stood for a moment of silence. Justin said he started to tear up. The enduro was suppose to be the first one he was going to do. At the start of the race a few racers, Doug & Kody Moir along with A.J. Miller helped gather funds by passing the helmet around the pits and grandstands and raised $1285 to go to the family to help with expenses. Justin was brought to the start/finish line at the end of the race where he was presented with the money. “I had know words to say. People that didn’t even know him were donating. I am truly thankful to the Flamboro fans and officials,” Justin said. His mom and dad Bill and Kelly were both humbled and thankful for everyone that donated to their son. He deserved one hell of a send off and with these donations, they were able to help give him that.
As for the 2018 race season, Justin will be racing his Super Stock at Flamboro Speedway. A lot of unexpected circumstances arose that didn’t allow him to race in 2017. Justin felt bad letting down his sponsors and everyone involved with the team but this year, he is committed. As far as Clay’s car goes, it’s getting fixed and put back together. Where it will run hasn’t been decided yet. “Hopefully Bill (Clay’s dad) will drive it a couple times at first and who knows maybe you will see me making a hand full of mini stock appearances as well”, Justin said. “He (Clay) had goals he wanted to accomplish and I (and we – Justin & Bill) plan to let that dream live on and hopefully accomplish those goals for him. I only hope to make him proud and get that 11c in victory lane like he always promised.”