After making the decision to move to an OSCAAR Super Late Model last fall, Kevin Cornelius (#17 Halton Stone / Lee Sand and Gravel / Triple Crete / Hanson Pipe / Alliston Transmission Chevrolet) is set for his rookie season.
Cornelius, the 2011 Sunset Speedway Limited Late Model champion, will pilot the first ever Outlaw Super Late Model to come from London, Ont.-based McColl Racing Enterprises. With the season opener just five weeks away on May 19, Cornelius is itching to get his car to the track for testing.
“We’ve talked to Steve Slaughter at Sunset and expressed interest in going to his speedway and doing some testing as soon as the snow is gone,” said Cornelius. “Being down at the Mega Speed show got me the itch a little more. It seems winter is taking forever to go by.”
Cornelius has endured a long off-season, made longer by this week’s winter storm to pass through Southern Ontario, after his final race in late September at Sunset’s Velocity Weekend, and is looking forward to a few events on the 2013 OSCAAR tour.
“I just wish the first one would get here,” laughed Cornelius. “Sauble Speedway is where I kind of got my start so I’m looking forward to going back there and trying to remember how to drive that track.”
“Sunset is where we got our first championship and it’ll always be home.”
A number of factors led Cornelius to leave Sunset for a new home at OSCAAR, but his family was at the forefront of the decision making process after his wife, Robin, gave birth to twins Carter and Avery in November.
“The schedule of 12 to 13 races, instead of 26 to 27 races with the expanded family we have, made it appealing,” said Cornelius.
Now that Cornelius has made the decision, he is looking forward to the added strategy involved in a 50-lap feature, in lieu of the weekly 30-lap show at Sunset.
“The longer races are more appealing to me,” he said. “You can sort of lay back and conserve a bit and race smarter as opposed to the Limited Late where you only have 30 laps and you have to get the front as quick as you can.”
While the two cars have their similarities, Cornelius knows there will be significant differences in the transition to his brand new Super Late Model.
“I’m really interested to see how much different they do handle,” said Cornelius. “Everybody’s telling me they’re quite a different animal. The horsepower is going to be the biggest thing to adjust to along with the tire.”
“The tires are a lot softer. You’re going to have a lot more tire wear over the course of a 50-lap race, as opposed to what we were used to.”
Cornelius will be in tough in his quest for a Rookie-of-the-Year title against strong competitors in Andrew Gresel and J.R. Fitzpatrick, as well as former Mini-stock driver Rob Gibson.
“Against those guys, that would be an accomplishment in itself,” said Cornelius. “That’s a whole lot of talent. At the end of the year, if we come out on top or we don’t, as long as we go out every week and we’ve done our best, than that’s all we can ask for.”
As he prepares for his OSCAAR debut in 37 days, Cornelius has been relying on 2012 OSCAAR Rookie-of-the-Year runner-up and former Sunset competitor Rob Poole for advice during the change.
“I’ve leaned on Rob quite a bit actually. I’m trying to get a handle on what to expect when you get in the car,” said Cornelius. “I think a lot of Rob’s bad luck came from purchasing a car that had sat for a while. He was just working through some of the bugs. I think you’re going to see a lot more consistency and a lot more competitive RPR team this year.”
Cornelius’ KDR Motorsports team had to put their offseason preparations on hold for a couple of weeks in March when his daughter Avery was diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). In the average adult, RSV would be experience like a common cold, but at just four months old, Avery was hospitalized for nine days.
“The process was really slow for getting her better,” said Cornelius, who reassured Avery has since made a full recovery.
The entire OSCAAR Super Late Model tour and its officials wish Kevin and the entire Cornelius family a healthy and successful 2013 race season.
By Clayton Johns (@cjohnsmedia)