INNISFIL, ON- After switching to a backup car during practice, reigning Sunset Speedway champion Dwayne Baker employed a conservative strategy and his knowledge of his hometrack to win the first-ever APC United Late Model Series race, on May 23 at Sunset Speedway.
“We had a bad vibration in the Pro Late Model on Friday night in practice,” said Baker, driver of the No. 48 Zancor / NISCO Ford. “Kyle [Dwayne’s son / crew chief Kyle Baker] made the decision not to chance it – and switch to our Limited Late Model”
The LLM is the team’s regular Saturday night car at the Barrie, Ontario-area oval. The decision prompted a night’s worth of work to swap the ride over from the team’s weekly Sunset setup to one that would be solid in the final laps of the 100 lap feature race.
In the end, it was the right call as Baker cruised comfortably near the front through the first two-thirds of the race, and was untouchable in the final 30-plus laps of the main event.
“We changed basically everything in this car. All the percentages, the lead… everything,” Baker continued. “A lot of guys were complaining about burning up the right-rear [tire] in practice. We figured that with the weight break the Limited Late Models get, we wouldn’t use up our tires nearly as much. It definitely felt like it made a difference late in the race.”
The Stayner, Ontario racer utilized a conservative approach through the early portion of the race, hanging back through the first 60 laps. ‘The Bully’ lurked in the top five throughout the event, before slipping Billy Schwartzenburg and Shawn Chenoweth as they battled for the lead shortly past Lap 70.
Finishing second was Delaware Speedway regular Jamie Cox in the No. 22 APC Dodge.
“The car just did not seem to fall off very badly, and that’s what you need,” said Cox. “The outside was just awesome. I just love running the outside at this track; it’s so fun when you have two grooves like that.”
Ironically, Cox also raced in a backup car after his primary racer developed a pesky oil leak that they couldn’t get a handle on. The result was that the night before the race, after practicing at Sunset, the team bolted back to Dorchester, Ontario – near London – to get their backup.
Luckily for Cox, the car – which he hadn’t touched since last fall – ended up being perfectly suited for Sunset. “Last year, I kind of hit on something here and I left it in this car. It works here and at Flamboro… and I’m not touching it.”
Cox was near the front for much of the race and came home in front of Matt Box (No. 27 Maple City Tire Chevy) and Shawn Chenoweth in the ‘Best Looking Award’ winning No. 89C London Recreational Racing Chevy. Sauble Speedway racer Jason Parker completed the top-five in his No. 8 Prestige Chevrolet.
“We were really happy with the way our car performed tonight,” smiled Box post-race. “Competing here every Saturday definitely helped me learn the line and what setup works the best”
“This is the same Pro Late Model that we’ve been running for seven or eight years,” continued Box. “I’m really comfortable in it. We were able to save our equipment tonight, and the cautions seemed to fall our way. A top-3 is a fantastic way for us to start out the tour”
“I didn’t like getting too far out of the top-five, but the guys at the front were running a little harder than I wanted to at the beginning,” said Baker. “It was tough to get going on a lot of the restarts. We needed the momentum, and the mid-race cautions made it tough.”
The win was Baker’s first checkered flag of the season, but came on the heels of four top-ten finishes in the opening month of weekly NASCAR action at Sunset.
For its first-ever event, the APC Late Model Series came out of the gate in impressive fashion. The event drew a very impressive field of cars, several of which went home after failing to make the 26-car starting field.
There were several cautions during the event, including a stoppage for a heavy hit by Marv Freiburger in Turn 1. Fortunately, he emerged unscathed from the incident.
Baker and the other racers were complimentary in their assessment of how things went for the debut. “This tour is going to be the best racing in Ontario this summer,” said Baker, who has a busy slate planned including Saturday nights at Sunset, fall specials and several NASCAR Canadian Tire Series outings. “If you want to see the best Late Model racing anywhere – this is the tour to follow.”
During qualifying at Sunset, 22 drivers qualified within 5/100ths of a second of each other, giving an indication of how competitive and exciting this new series is, right out of the box.
The series returns to action on June 6 at Flamboro Speedway.
1. #48 Dwayne Baker; 2. #22 Jamie Cox; 3. #27 Matt Box; 4. #89C Shawn Chenoweth; 5. #8 Jason Parker; 6. #86 Billy Schwartzenburg; 7. #83 Dale Shaw; 8. #21 Matt Pritiko; 9. #71 Dan McHattie; 10. #25 Cole Powell; 11. #2 Rick Burbridge; 12. #22M Chris Mitchell; 13. #17 Joshua Stade; 14. #81 Andrew Gresel; 15. #87 Willie Reyns; 16. #23 Shawn McGlynn; 17. #37 Marvin Freiburger; 18. #44 Steve Laking; 19. #10 Tom Gibbons; 20. #3 Mark Waston; 21. #43 Jay Doerr; 22. #99 Linc Brown; 23. #26 Terry Baker; 24. #51 Mike Bentley; 25. #24 Nick Goetz; 26. #9 Brandon Watson
With files from Greg MacPherson and Spencer Lewis