ORO, ON – Absolutely ideal weather conditions would welcome back Barrie Speedway fans and drivers alike, as the historic bullring would kick off its 48th season in fine style.
A quartet of former or current track champs would come to victory lane in the feature races as #57 Ron Quesnelle of Penetang and #10 Gord Shepherd of Oro Station would each capture a 30 lap win in the Late Model division, while 2009 track champ #00 Darryl St. Onge of Barrie turned the trick in the Thunder Car class, with defending track champ #9 Charlie Smith of Orillia taking the checkers in the 20 lap Pure Stock main.
Ironically enough in the featured Wahta Springs Late Model division, Quesnelle and Shepherd would take turns chasing each other to the winners circle, as each driver would also record a 2nd place result on the evening, in a strong 16 car field littered with some of the most accomplished drivers anywhere in the province, to lock themselves in a tie atop the point standings entering week two of competition.
In the initial 30 lap segment it was Quesnelle who grabbed the early lead from outside pole positioning, getting the jump on solid rookie contender #24 Leonard Johnston of Bracebridge, with the fast duo of #14 “Hurricane” Thayne Hallyburton and Shepherd shooting through along the inside line to pass #91 Andre Pepin of Midland, checking themselves into 2nd and 3rd respectively just a couple laps in. On lap 5, Shepherd’s charge to the front would continue, as the division veteran would slip past Hallyburton for third with a clean outside pass between turns 1&2.
By lap 10, Quesnelle was starting to look more dominant on the point, opening up a five car length advantage on the now forming battle for the runner up post between Johnston and Shepherd, when the race’s first caution would appear as #92 Dan Dixon of Parry Sound would spin in turn two. On the restart, Quesnelle would again gain the advantage over Johnston, with the latter now under intense pressure from Shepherd, who completed a nifty pass along the inside line. The caution flag would once again be shown on lap 13, when Hallyburton would make contact with #28 Robin Jongen of Kilworthy while racing for 5th, sending Jongen for a loop and to the back of the pack for the ensuing restart.
At the midway mark, Quesnelle had once again moved out to a marginal lead, this time over Shepherd, with Johnston and Hallyburton now locked in an impressive dice for third, a duel eventually won by Johnston. Also putting on a charge towards the front was sophomore sensation #02 Shawn Murray of Alliston, as he would catch up with Hallyburton for 4th, executing a nice inside pass in turns 1&2 on lap 18, a move that was followed by 2010 track champ #69 Al “Red Rocket” Inglis of Orillia one lap later, as the wily veteran would snatch the final top 5 position.
Inglis, was now driving like a man on a mission with five laps remaining, slipping inside of Murray exiting turn two, to advance to 4th in the running order. At the front of the pack Quesnelle was not to be denied on this evening however, cruising to the win by a single car length over Shepherd at the checkered. Johnston, would turn in a silky smooth third place in his first career Late Model start, as Inglis and Murray would complete the fast five.
In the 30 lap finale to the evening, race one winner Quesnelle would pull a 5 for the inversion draw, bringing the duo of Murray and Inglis to the front row for the drop of the green, from which Inglis would power to the point, along the surprisingly fast outer groove. Murray, would begin to battle fast and furious with the 10 of Shepherd for 2nd place positioning, with Hallyburton clamming fourth outside of Johnston on the exit of turn two, with Quesnelle tucked right in the pocket behind that duo.
The caution was quick to appear in this one, as Murray would be forced to pit lane with a cut tire after possible contact with Shepherd while racing for 2nd. On the restart, the first man to make a move was Shepherd, as he powered past Inglis on the outside of turn two on lap 5 for the race lead, with Quesnelle now cranking up the heat on Hallyburton for third. A little further back of that battle, the action was really heating up with the 28 of Jongen and #43 Darin Malcolm of North Bay exchanging 6th place positioning on successive laps.
On lap 9, Inglis would give Shepherd a nudge from behind in an attempt to open up racing room, with a staunch Shepherd able to fend off that challenge, with Quesnelle slipping past Hallyburton for third, and Inglis for 2nd one lap later. The second and final caution would appear on lap 17, with Dixon spinning in turn two just as Hallyburton was working his way around Inglis for 3rd, only to see that pass negated.
On lap 19, the man on the move was the 43 of Malcolm, as the long-time front runner would complete an inside pass of Jongen between turns 1&2 to notch 6th in the running order. With five laps remaining, the best battle on track was the race for ninth involving Pepin and rookie stalwart #44 Mike Meyer, with Pepin eventually claiming that spot with a clean inside move entering turn 3. At the same point in the race, Hallyburton had once again found Inglis’ back bumper, working around the outside of the ever tough Inglis to wrestle away third place.
Over the closing laps the Shepherd/Quesnelle battle hit a fevered pitch for the race lead, with Quesnelle closing to a half a car length approaching the checkered, with an alert Shepherd able to fend off that challenge, taking the win by a slender 3/10ths of a second at the line. Hallyburton, would notch his first podium of 2013 in taking third, as Inglis and Johnston rounded out the top five.
In the Canestoga Sprayers and Asphalt Repair Thunder class, St. Onge would put on a dominant performance from the pole position after being the benefactor of top qualifier on the evening #44 Dave “The Deuce” Doucette pulling a 5 on the inversion draw. Doucette, would eventually finish a strong 2nd in this one despite an early race mishap that saw the 2007 track champ go to the rear of the field just a handful of laps in.
By lap 7, St. Onge had opened up 3 car lengths over 2nd place #40 Donny Brandon of Barrie, with the action heating up for third in behind as #52 Greg Callow would word aroung strong rookie contender #37 Robbie Sikes to take that spot. Approaching the ten lap mark, Doucette had now caught the lead pack, getting inside of Sikes for 4th, then taking third from Callow one lap later with a clean pass midway down the backstretch.
Approaching the midway point, the duo of defending track champ #10 Rick Walt and #39 Travis Hallyburton were both back inside the top 5, after they too were caught up in earlier incidents. Walt and Hallyburton would duel tooth and nail for 4th in the running order, as that pair closed in on Brandon for third, with the latter also having his best run in recent memory.
On lap 24, Hallyburton would take third from Brandon, with an inside pass between 1&2, leading the way for Walt to follow, dropping Brandon back to fifth place, with leader St. Onge now clear of the field by half of the one third mile tri oval configuration. Doucette, lurking in 2nd place in behind the race leader, would not see the late race caution he so desperately needed, with St. Onge cruising to the win by a wide margin at the finish. Doucette, would get his season kick started under solid footing with a second place showing, while Walt, Hallyburton and Brandon comprised the remainder of the top 5. Heat race wins went to Walt and Hallyburton.
In the St. Onge Recreation Pure Stock division, it was the championship winning Dodge Neon of Smith that found victory lane, after charging from 3rd on the grid and surviving an early race 3 way dice with pole sitter #77 Mike Gettliffe of Orillia and #57 Ryan Toon of Stayner. Smith, would eventually slip into the lead on lap 7, after disposing of race leader Gettliffe with an outside pass in turn two.
Also making his presence felt at the front of the field was 2012 division runner up #11 Adam Misener of North Bay, as he too would work over Gettliffe and take 2nd place on the inside line entering turn three. At this point in the race, solidly etched in 4th was 2010 track champ #15 Will Davies, as an impressive duel was forming for 5th involving Toon and #400 Doug Butler. In a true show of class and sportsmanship, provincial heavyweight Butler would change the number on his standard #10 Nissan to run for points for third year driver #400 Justin Holmes who broke in his second heat race.
The race’s only caution flag would fly on lap 15, when #3 Randi Sequin and #63 Jaime Cairns collected in turn 4. This would set the stage for a 5 lap shootout with Smith and Misener from the front row, with Smith able to pull out to a 4 car length over Misener, a lead he would not relinquish in taking his first feature win of 2013. Misener would earn a workmanlike 2nd place showing, while Gettliffe would just nip Davies at the line for 3rd, as Butler rounder out the list of fast 5 finishers. Four different heat race winners came in the form of Misener, Gettliffe, Butler, and Holmes.
PIT NOTES: A couple of familiar faces with links to track titles would make their way to Barrie Speedway with both #83 Ian Bourque of Newmarket and #43 Darin Malcolm of North Bay, making their return to the High Line.
Bourque, is a former three time track champ in the now defunct Sportsman Challenger division and was making his first Barrie start in a Late Model since the 2007 season, after having spent the better part of six season as a competitor on the OSCAAR Super Late Model tour, while Malcolm comes with impressive credentials of his own, and is the son of former 5 time track champ Brian Malcolm.
Be sure to join us next weekend as all three divisions are back in action with a new early 6pm start time for the races the entire month of May, pit gates open at 3pm and spectator gates commence business at 5 p.m.
By: Dave Vokey