BARRIE, ON – Two races in to the inaugural OSCAAR Modified tour and Gary McLean has scored two consecutive feature victories after starting on the pole. McLean put on a dominating performance as he led all 30 laps of the A-main at the 1/3-mile Barrie Speedway. After winning both of his qualifying heat races, McLean was the top qualifier and completed the first-ever OSCAAR Modified ‘hat-trick’. None of the other 14 drivers in the field were able to challenge McLean for the lead, a result of a handful of accidents throughout the race.
“It’s kind of a shame some of the best cars got taken out there in a couple of wrecks. I was really looking forward to racing with my cousin [Brent McLean]. The guy had a great car tonight,” said McLean. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. We had an easy night tonight, it was good.”
McLean explained he was never worried about the preparation of his car heading in to Saturday night’s event, despite not having raced on the reconfigured Barrie Speedway.
“When you have a guy like Greg (Gibson) working on the car every day, you just show up to the racetrack fast and ready to go. We didn’t even hardly practice the thing,” explained McLean.
It took two attempts to get the race up to speed as David Burrows stalled when the field exited turn two, causing five cars to stack up behind and a complete restart. Fortunately, most of the damage was cosmetic and all involved cars were able to continue.
The race ran green for nine laps before a handling issue on the #22 of Rob Fennema caused him to swerve to the high-side of the racetrack exiting turn four and collect the #7 of Brent McLean and #98 of Steve Smith, who were running second and third, respectively, at the time. Both Brent McLean and Fennema were unable to continue, suffering their first DNFs of the season. The red flag was displayed after the caution came out due to a medical emergency in the outside pit area. The race was red flagged for nearly 45 minutes as outside medical assistance arrived to relieve track paramedics.
A strong ten lap run on a very tight and narrow surface when racing resumed saw Brandon Crumbie jump in to the top-five before moving up to challenge Matt Barton for the second position. Crumbie battled through transmission and rear-end problems in practice as well as being collected in the lap one incident to finish the race on the podium.
Lap 19 saw the third caution of the race when Dave Terry’s #14 Camry went around out of turn two off the bumper of Tim Burke’s #99x. As Terry went around Bill Burrows wasn’t able to avoid the #14, who was against the inside retaining wall. Terry suffered a hard hit to his right door, ending the night of both drivers.
“I’m just glad that Bill was okay, he t-boned me pretty hard. The car’s pretty bent up. It’s just disappointing for the whole Wasteco Team because the car was rocket fast today,” said Terry regarding the incident.
On the ensuing restart, Gary McLean pulled away from the rest of the field despite Matt Barton trying to hang tough on the outside of the #8. Josh Gruntz used the restart to jump past Brandon Crumbie on the high side. Five laps later, Gruntz moved up to the second spot after Matt Barton lost traction and fell back to the fifth spot.
“As fast as it came it went away. I guess that’s the evil of these tires, they’re gone. (The crew’s) saying I got up in the marbles going in to (turn) three once, maybe off of [turn] four,” said Barton.
With Gary McLean checked out on the final lap, Crumbie moved to the high side of Josh Gruntz. The two ran side-by-side down the back stretch before Crumbie got the edge heading in to turn three and beat Gruntz off of turn four to claim the second spot.
“I think something must have happened to [Gruntz] because I didn’t think I had anything for him to be honest,” said Crumbie of the last lap pass. “It was definitely a good night. I couldn’t have done it without the crew.”
Like Crumbie, Gruntz battled back from an accident in an afternoon practice session that caused some cosmetic damage to the front of the #31. The crew thrashed to have the car ready for the heat races, where they finished second and fourth.
“The last three or four laps … I got excited because I was in second and thought ‘oh I’m going to catch this Gary McLean guy’,” said an excited Gruntz, who earned his first OSCAAR podium finish. “It was pushing bad and I was driving too deep for the time of the race. Hopefully we’ll learn and I’ll try some different things at the end of the race.”
Feature winner Gary McLean swept his pair of heats and says he has no plans to stop at just two OSCAAR feature wins.
“If we just keep winning, it’ll keep getting better,” said McLean.
Brent McLean and Matt Barton each won their first OSCAAR Modified qualifying heats earlier in the evening.
“That heat race win, that’s a big deal for us. To come here and run with OSCAAR and say we got a heat win in this series, it feels pretty good,” said Barton.
The series now shifts to Peterborough Speedway on Canada Day, July 1, for the Chase for the Colours, and the first extended feature of the year, a 40-lap A-Main.
From Clayton Johns / OSCAAR