Inside Track short track contributor Spencer Lewis highlights four early season races to watch in 2012, including the OSCAAR opener at Sunset Speedway and more.
OSCAAR Super Late Model & Modified Tours Season Opener (Sunday May 20th):
The OSCAAR Super Late Model and OSCAAR Modified tours will get their much-anticipated 2012 seasons under way in a combination show on Sunday May 20th at Sunset Speedway, as part of the Innisfil, ON facility’s Victoria Day long weekend celebration.
The show will mark the debut of Modified racing at the newly reconfigured speedway, and the first ever event for the upstart OSCAAR-sanctioned Modified tour. Off-season chatter has been at a high, with a rumored 20-plus cars expected to converge on Sunset for the inaugural 30-lap race. Modified standouts Gary McLean, John Saunders and Chris Burrows have already confirmed their intentions to appear, as have rookies Josh Gruntz, Brandon Crumbie and Tim Burke.
The OSCAAR Super Late Models will join the Modified on the double-bill, with championship contenders Rob Clarke, Shawn Chenoweth and George Wilson all looking to utilize an early trip to victory lane to get the jump on 4x defending OSCAAR champion Glenn Watson. Sunset events have been known to draw high car counts, attracting 28 Super Late Models – the largest car count in OSCAAR history – for the 2011 edition of the Velocity 250. OSCAAR officials expect the kickoff to the 2012 season to offer similar attendance.
Sunset Speedway MRE Pro Series, Round #1 (Sunday May 27th)
After the success of stand-alone Pro Late Model invitationals throughout the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Sunset Speedway has announced a 4-race miniseries complete with attractive purses that is expected to draw many of the top PLM drivers from across Ontario.
The McColl Racing Enterprises Pro Series will debut Sunday May 27th, with a 75-lap afternoon event that will also feature a Super Stock and Mini Stock invitational. 28-time champion Stompin’ Tom Walters and Kawartha regular Flyin’ Ryan Kimball earned PLM victories at Sunset in 2011, both are expected to return for the MRE Pro Series events.
The 2012 PLM races have also attracted interest from defending Sunset Limited Late Model champion Kevin Cornelius, 2011 Delaware Speedway champion Andrew Gresel, 2011 Grisdale Triple Crown champion David Elliott and 2009 Barrie Speedway champion Gord ‘The Smoke’ Shepherd among others. All are expected to be in attendance for the inaugural race on May 27th. With all 4 series events scheduled for Sundays or Wednesdays, drivers will be able to contend for points championships at their home-tracks, while still being eligible for the MRE Pro Series crown.
Flamboro Speedway Grisdale Triple Crown, Round #1 (Saturday June 9th)
When it comes to Ontario Pro Late Model competition, few championships have been more hotly contested in recent years than the Grisdale Triple Crown Miniseries. The traditional trio of 75-lap events, with a points fund and title separate from Flamboro’s weekly Late Model division, will return to the Hamilton, ON oval for the 10th season. The extended-distance events averaged well over 20 cars in 2011, with a laundry list of talented drivers including defending Triple Crown champion David Elliott and 2011 Delaware Speedway title contender Matt Pritiko having already confirmed their intentions to compete in the 2012 edition.
Kawartha Speedway 100-lap Late Model Invitational (Friday June 15th)
Boasting one of the strongest weekly Late Model rosters in the country, few tracks present a more difficult path to victory lane than Kawartha Speedway. Divisional heavyweights ‘Old School’ Dan McHattie, ‘Action’ Larry Jackson, Dwight Brown and ‘The Silverback’ Bryan Mercer are just a few of the perennial contenders that have found a recurring home in Kawartha’s winners circle.
And while the speedway’s weekly 30-lap events present some of the most wildly competitive races you’re likely to see anywhere, their thrice-yearly extended distance events have become that of legend. To be within striking distance of the lead on lap-99 requires an incredibly sound strategy and a solid dose of luck, as Kawartha’s unforgiving track conditions and veteran-heavy roster often provide for exciting racing and unpredictable finishes. The speedway’s first 100-lap event of the season takes place on June 15th, and will serve as an unofficial lead-in to Kawartha’s crown jewel, the Summer Sizzler 150, slated for July 6th.
By Spencer Lewis