OHSWEKEN, ON – The much-anticipated 9th annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals take centre stage at Ohsweken Speedway this weekend, with close to eighty Sprint Car drivers from all over North America expected to compete for the top prize of $12,000. It’s not easy to pick who will make the feature field, let alone who might win it. That said, I’ll still give it my best shot, and try to outline some of the names I think you’ll hear when it’s time to introduce the thirty starters of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals A-Feature on Saturday night.
FAVOURITES: 2m Dustin Daggett (Grand Ledge, Michigan, USA)…The current Sprints On Dirt (SOD) series points leader is the only driver to qualify for all 8 CSCN A-Features. He has finished 4th on Saturday night 3 times, and 5th twice. He is 2nd on the all-time Ohsweken Speedway feature win list with 11, and also leads the all-time SOD feature win list. Dustin started 5th in last year’s CSCN A-Feature, and led laps 16-18 before eventually sliding back to 5th again.
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3g Shane Stewart (Bixby, Oklahoma, USA)…Stewart won his first 2 CSCN starts in 2009 and 2010, and followed that with a 5th place in 2011, and 2nd last year. He has a guaranteed starting spot in Saturday night’s CSCN A-Feature by virtue of winning the Northern Summer Nationals at Ohsweken in July. Stewart won his 5th Knoxville 360 Nationals title last month, and also qualified for the Knoxville Nationals A-Feature with the World of Outlaws the following week. The hired gun for Joe Gaerte Racing has won a heat race in each of his 4 CSCN attempts.
14h Jim Huppunen (Fenwick, Ontario, Canada)…Leading the way for the local Corr/Pak Merchandising Sprint Car contingent is Huppunen, who wrapped up his 2nd track championship in the last 3 years last Friday night. Jim has steadily improved at CSCN each year, and finished 3rd in the A-Feature last season, almost taking 2nd from Shane Stewart. He has also shown an ability to make passes in the CSCN A-Feature, moving from 22nd to 10th in 2011, and 9th to 3rd last year. A heat race win on Saturday night this year could propel Huppunen even higher.
19 Brooke Tatnell (Sans Souci, New South Wales, Australia)…The 8-time champion of Australia’s World Series Sprintcars has also won features in North America with the World of Outlaws, and plenty of other series. He will make his Ohsweken Speedway debut this weekend driving for Mike Woodring, the all-time Empire Super Sprints feature win leader, and winning car owner in the inaugural CSCN with Kenny Jacobs driving in 2005. Among the many accolades for Tatnell is the title of track record holder at the famed Knoxville Raceway, and Jacobs’ Ohsweken track record held up until last year, so Brooke could be a driver to watch in time trials on Saturday.
22h Randy Hannagan (Pittsboro, Indiana, USA)…Formerly of San Jose, California, “The Hurricane” now makes his home in Indiana, and competes in a variety of 360 and 410 Sprint Car events all over North American each season. The former World of Outlaws series regular won 4 National Racing Alliance (NRA) features this season, and heads back to Ohsweken looking for some good luck in CSCN. His best finish in 3 attempts so far is a 7th place in 2011, but the results do not tell the whole story. Hannagan has twice been forced to qualify from the “Little Feature” and start 30th in the A-Feature. In total, Hannagan has passed 40 cars in his 3 CSCN A-Features.
28fm Steve Poirier (Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloeil, Quebec, Canada)… The most successful driver in Nationals history, Poirier has entered the Nationals 7 times, and never finished worse than 7th. He won in his 2006 Nationals debut, then again in 2007, and 2012. Poirier is well on his way to winning his 4th career Empire Super Sprints series championship, and has 8 feature wins this year, including the ESS vs. Corr/Pak event held at Ohsweken in July, and a February win at the Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park in Florida.
77x Wayne Johnson (Knoxville, Iowa, USA)…There isn’t much room for improvement for a driver who has finished 1st, 3rd, and 2nd in his 3 CSCN attempts, but the 2008 Nationals winner returns this year with a couple of changes. Having driven for Glenn Styres or Miles Hill in the past, the Oklahoma-born driver has brought his own equipment and crew to Ohsweken this year, and now has former Southern Ontario Sprints driver Daryl Turford as a member of that crew. Turford went to victory lane with Sam Hafertepe, Jr. in the 2011 CSCN. Johnson heads into the weekend as the most recent Ohsweken feature winner, as he took the Season Championship feature victory last Friday.
CONTENDERS: 0 Glenn Styres (Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada)…The all-time leader on the Ohsweken Speedway feature win list added to his total this season, with 3 feature wins in the first 4 events held here, but he’s lost some momentum since then. Crashes and mechanical problems have made the second half of the season a struggle for Glenn, but he’s definitely capable of being in contention on Saturday night. Styres has qualified for the CSCN A-Feature in 5 of 7 attempts, with a career-best 8th place in 2010.
1z Jessica Zemken (Sprakers, New York, USA)…”JZ” has attempted each CSCN since 2006, and has qualified in all but one of those tries. She started 10th and finished 6th in last year’s A-Feature, and is the only woman to have led a lap at CSCN. Her best career CSCN finish is 4th, which came in 2010 after she started 19th.
5b Justin Barger (Montrose, New York, USA)…The 2012 Northern Summer Nationals series champion didn’t finish last year’s CSCN A-Feature, but finished 9th in 2010, and 6th in 2011. He is knocking on the door for a top 5 finish, and looked good in his most recent Ohsweken start, coming on late in the Southern Ontario Sprints vs. Corr/Pak Sprint Cars feature in August to finish 3rd after starting 9th. Justin is currently 3rd in both the Patriot Sprint Tour America and Canada series standings.
7x Jamie Collard (Burford, Ontario, Canada)…2nd place in points in both the Corr/Pak Sprint Cars and Southern Ontario Sprints championships this year, Collard is the only Ontario driver to have led an A-Feature lap on a Saturday night at CSCN. He finished 3rd in the 2011 edition of CSCN, and 10th last year. He made a late-race pass on Shane Ross to take the Corr/Pak division win at Ohsweken on July 5 this year.
10c Jeff Cook (Antwerp, New York, USA)…A competitor in all but 1 of the previous 8 editions of CSCN, Jeff has qualified for the A-Feature in all of his attempts. He started on the pole last year, but slid to 9th by the end of the race. The long-time Empire Super Sprints regular has scored 3 finishes in the top 10 at CSCN, including a pair of 7th place finishes in 2005, and 2006.
45 Chuck Hebing (Ontario, New York, USA)…A top 5 finisher in 4 of the last 5 CSCN A-Features, “Cobra” raced from 11th to 4th in last year’s event. The regular with the Empire Super Sprints scored a pair of runner-up finishes in 2009, and 2010, and looked poised to win in 2011 when he finally won a heat race…but then fell back to 13th. Hebing is another driver who has qualified for each CSCN A-Feature he has attempted, and has missed only 1 of the 8 events held to date.
51 Bryan Howland (Union Springs, New York, USA)…Another driver who has competed in all but 1 of the 8 previous CSCN events, Howland missed Saturday night in 2010 after suffering an injury in a hard crash in the Night Before the Nationals. He has never finished worse than 13th in any of the 6 A-Features he’s qualified for, and finished 7th last year. His best career CSCN A-Feature finish came in 2008, when he finished 3rd. Howland is a 4 time champion of the Patriot Sprint Tour.
87 Jason Barney (Brewerton, New York, USA)…Jason was not part of the A-Feature last season for the first time in his 7 attempts, and you can bet he won’t want to watch from the stands this year. He has finished 2nd in the CSCN A-Feature twice, and drove from 17th to 1st in the Patriot Sprint Tour vs. Corr/Pak Sprint Cars event at Ohsweken in June. Jason is currently 3rd in the Empire Super Sprints standings, and has an ESS feature win this year to go along with 8 top 5 finishes on that tour. He’s also 2nd in the Patriot Sprint Tour standings for the Canada series, and won a PST/SOS/CAOSS challenge event at Cornwall last month.
DARK HORSES: 00 Ryan Grubaugh (Saint Johns, Michigan, USA)…Yet another driver who has qualified for every CSCN A-Feature he has attempted, Grubaugh returned to Ohsweken last season after sitting out the 2011 event. He finished 20th last year, but did finish 3rd in his first CSCN attempt in 2006. Ryan heads into this weekend 3rd in the Sprints On Dirt series standings.
01 Mikey Kruchka (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)…Mikey has only attempted to run CSCN twice, and didn’t qualify for last year’s feature, but he does have 2 feature wins at Ohsweken this season, including an impressive run from 7th to 1st on in the Southern Ontario Sprints vs. Corr/Pak event on August 16, and a Corr/Pak win from the pole on August 23 which set a new 20 lap track record.
07x Dain Naida (Tecumseh, Michigan, USA)…The lone Michigan driver to run weekly with the Corr/Pak division at Ohsweken this year, Naida’s terrible luck earlier in the season has begun to turn around lately. He has a good history at CSCN, with A-Feature starts in each of 7 attempts, and a 5th place finish in 2007. He has won Saturday night heat races 3 times, 1 of only 4 drivers to win at least that many.
13 Kevin Ward, Jr. (Port Leyden, New York, USA)…Ward was a bit of a surprise in his first CSCN attempt when he finished 14th in 2010, and followed that with 8th place in 2011. He missed the feature last year, but is a steadily-improving driver on the tough Empire Super Sprints circuit. He is currently 6th in the ESS standings, with a feature win and 5 finishes in the top 5.
17 Jared Horstman (Cloverdale, Ohio, USA)…Horstman is another driver who improved at CSCN last year, following up a 19th place in his first try in 2011 by finishing 12th last year. Jared always seems to find his way to victory lane with the National Racing Alliance once or twice each year, and finished 4th in the NRA points standings this season.
17j Lance Yonge (Penn Yan, New York, USA)…Yonge’s first CSCN attempt produced his best finish in the event to date when he took 3rd in 2005. He’s been in the top 10 on 2 other occasions, and has qualified for the A-Feature in each of the last 4 years. He’s one of the most consistent drivers on the Empire Super Sprints tour, and currently sits 5th in the ESS standings on the strength of 13 top 10 finishes.
27h Tom Huppunen (Fenwick, Ontario, Canada)…Luck does not seem to go the way of “The Fenwick Flyer” at CSCN, as he’s qualified for the A-Feature in just 2 of his 8 attempts. He’s a veteran and former Corr/Pak champion, and he’ll have his game face on this Saturday in what will likely be car owner Ray Ballantyne’s last race. Tom is tied for 2nd in all-time feature wins at Ohsweken with 11.
35 Jared Zimbardi (Bradford, Pennsylvania, USA)…”The Juice” has started the A-Feature in 6 of 8 CSCN tries, but he has never finished better than 12th. Jared is currently the Patriot Sprint Tour points leader in the America standings, and 5th in the PST Canada standings. He also has 4 career Ohsweken Speedway feature wins.
49 Todd Hoddick (Cheektowaga, New York, USA)…This former pavement racer has steadily improved each year, and has qualified for each of the last 2 CSCN A-Features. He flirted with a top 5 finish in the Corr/Pak standings this year before settling for 6th, and has a knack for putting down fast laps in time trials. The 2nd generation racer was 5th quick in time trials with a 410 engine under his hood when the World of Outlaws came to town in July.
53 Shawn Donath (South Onondaga, New York, USA)…Also an accomplished engine builder, Shawn’s first two CSCN attempts have produced 15th place in 2011, and 8th place last year. Those finishes came in Doug Emery’s #33 though, while Donath will bring his own #53 this time. He earned a top 6 starting spot in last year’s A-Feature by driving from 6th to 1st in his heat race.
80 Chris Steele (Vineland, Ontario, Canada)…”The Real Deal” lived up to his nickname last year when he broke the 360 Sprint Car time trial record held set by Kenny Jacobs in 2005. That qualifying effort helped Steele to qualify for his first CSCN feature last year, on the heels of winning the Corr/Pak Merchandising Sprint Car division championship. He wasn’t able to recapture the same magic this season, but still finished a solid 4th place in the Corr/Pak standings.
WILD CARDS: 05 Brad Loyet (Sunset Hills, Missouri, USA)…A standout in Midget racing, Loyet has made a smooth transition to racing winged Sprint Cars on the American Sprint Car Series National Tour over the past couple of years. It will be worth keeping an eye on Brad as he visits Ohsweken for the first time in his career this weekend. History has shown that drivers from other parts of North America sometimes take awhile to get accustomed here, while others are fast right away. Brad has 2 feature wins with the world’s premier 360 Sprint Car group this year, and is currently 4th in the ASCS National standings.
10 Mitch Brown (Brantford, Ontario, Canada)…We’re not quite sure if Mitch will be able to race this weekend, as he is also captain of the Caledonia Corvairs of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. Mitch had a strong season behind the wheel of his Sprint Car though, including a Corr/Pak feature win at Ohsweken in July. He qualified for his first CSCN A-Feature last year, and enters this weekend on a high note after a runner-up finish to Wayne Johnson last Friday. If he is at the track, look for his #10 to be in the feature lineup.
16 Ryan Ruhl (Angola, Indiana, USA)…Following a visit in 2007, this Sprints On Dirt series driver didn’t resurface at CSCN until last year, but returned on a strong note by qualifying for the A-Feature and finishing 16th. He put in a strong time trial effort last year as well, despite being in the 5th group, and raced his way into the A-Feature directly from his heat race.
422 Etienne Girard (Saint-Germain, QC)…Yet another Quebec driver who has jumped into the Sprint Car ranks, Girard has been solid as he learns the ropes. He didn’t get to showcase his talents in his first Ohsweken visit back in July, as he had problems in the feature, but he has already shown speed this week in the Thursday night Test & Tune session. He does have a top 5 finish to his credit with the Empire Super Sprints this season.
MISSING IN ACTION: Several familiar faces we’ve seen at CSCN in the past won’t be here this weekend, including Michael Parent, Darren Long, and Adam West.
Michael Parent suffered season-ending back injuries in an ESS event at Canandaigua, New York in August, while Darren Long recently retired from racing after a 15 year career due to a neck injury. Parent has competed in the CSCN each year since 2006, while Long was here in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2010.
Adam West will miss his first CSCN weekend, as he and his wife recently welcomed a new addition to their family, a bit earlier than expected. “Batman” had competed in all but the 2009 CSCN, when he raced in the Night Before the Nationals at Ohsweken before attending to Ontario Dirt Late Model duties at Brighton on the Saturday night.
2013 CANADIAN SPRINT CAR NATIONALS: The Canadian Sprint Car Nationals weekend kicked off with a Test & Tune session on Thursday night, while racing will commence Friday, September 13 with the “Night Before the Nationals” presented by Burger Barn, and the 9th annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals presented by Arrow Express on Saturday, September 14.
This year’s “Night Before the Nationals” includes Twin 15 lap features for the Sprint Cars, plus the TJSlideways.com Ohsweken Shootout, Dave McLeod Memorial “Mr. Sprint Car Challenge” 1 on 1 match races, and the HRW Automotive Mini Stock division with a 20 lap feature. Each Twin 15 winner will be guaranteed starting spot in the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals A-Feature. The TJSlideways.com Ohsweken Shootout features drivers who have qualified from the Empire Super Sprints, Patriot Sprint Tour, and Southern Ontario Sprints challenge events held at Ohsweken in 2013, the Corr/Pak Merchandising Sprint Car feature from August 9, plus the top drivers from Sprints on Dirt and the National Racing Alliance.
The 9th annual Canadian Sprint Car Nationals will include group time trials, 6 heat races, 3 B-Main races, a Dash race for the heat race winners to determine the top 6 starting positions in the A-Feature, the 15 lap “Little Feature”, and the 35 lap A-Feature which will pay the winner $12,000 from the lucrative purse. The Affordable Towing & Recovery Thunder Stocks will be the support division for the Sprint Cars on Saturday, September 14.
To see this release on the Ohsweken site, visit: http://ohswekenspeedway.ca/?p=1634
By Tommy Goudge