To say the least, winter weather can be unpredictable. When Kawartha Speedway officials scheduled the 2012 edition of the Long John 200 Endurance event, there was no way to check the forecast. As the show drew closer, a long range guess for sunny skies and a high temperature near the freezing mark was pinpointed to offer a near perfect day for cold weather racing. Even a light, early morning dusting of snow could keep the hearty souls – numbering more than 400 – from the year’s first taste of action. As expected, many chose to watch the action outside instead of taking advantage of the enclosed grandstand.
Port Hope, Ontario drivers Justin McCauley and Austin King, along with Newtonville’s Greg Dunham occupied the front row for the standing start. The first and second turns were still damp when the pack set-off to complete the opening circuits, making for some white knuckled action as drivers struggled to maintain control.
4 drivers arrived after the registration had closed, but unfortunately none of them were around when the checkered flag was displayed. Kyle Sopaz, a Brighton Speedway regular brought out the day’s first red flag when he coasted to a stop in the first turn. Nathan Mitchell, a veteran of all 3 Long John events battled issues all day before loading his car onto the trailer, while Victor Vowles rolled his battered and bruised #59 car to a stop in the pits. Corey Hayward also struggled, fighting overheating issues on his #70 car. He’d let the engine cool-down while the rest of the field ran about 10 laps, before heading back to action, then repeat the same process. His day ended when a small fire broke-out in the engine compartment.
Hasiuk Trailer and Container Rental Mini Stocker Daryl Fice was off the pace through most of the event. He spun early and he lost several laps in the pits. The day also came to an early end for Kyle Donaldson. After running well early on, he dropped-out near the halfway mark.
Fans were kept on the edge of their seats as the quicker cars fought their way around some slower traffic. Many times, they needed to work past competition on the high and low sides of the spacious 3/8th mile oval. Like he did in 2011, Carleton Place, Ontario’s Todd Musker used the outside line all the way around the track, but brake issues denied the Capital City Speedway regular a trip to the winner’s circle.
Running the 200 lapper took just over 2 hours to complete and when the scoring was checked, then double-checked Trenton’s Brandon Gregory claimed the honours for the 4/6 cylinder division, while Clayton Pedersen – was the first 8 cylinder runner to cross the line. In his first ever Kawartha start, Gregory also claimed the $300.00 bonus as the event’s overall winner.
“I’m used to racing on dirt (at Brighton), so I didn’t have to adjust much when the car slid in the corners,” said Gregory while admiring the coveted long underwear on a hockey stick awarded to the top runner. “I’ve raced endurance events before, but this is a great day. The trophy and the money are nice. It was a little cool out there. The long johns would have helped.”
Long John short shots: 25 drivers signed-in to do battle in the 3rd annual running of the Long John 200. The combined 4/6 cylinder division had 16 competitors…Kawartha Speedway regulars Brad Lavalle, brothers Kyle and Ken Donaldson Jr., Daryl Fice and current Hasiuk Trailer and Container Rental Mini Stock rookie of the year Ryan Oosterholt were all part of the show, while former mini stock racer Dwight Lavoie had a solid showing…Peterborough’s Ashley Brier, who had never driven a race anywhere in anything prior to last year’s edition of the enduro was back for another kick at the can…The next action for Kawartha takes place at the Canadian Motorsports Expo – presented by Inside Track Motorsport News – February 10th, 11th and 12th at the International Centre in Toronto. Look for information at www.CanadianMotorsportsExpo.com…Fans can find the track’s 2012 schedule at www.kawarthaspeedway.com.