From the first race at Sunset Speedway to the finale at Peterborough Speedway, a single competitor dominated the headlines with a multitude of trips to victory lane. Although Jessica James won all but a single event, others played a factor throughout the year.
James, though, was in the starring role throughout and that began with the first green flag of the season. A great qualifying effort at Spring Velocity allowed her to start up front, and grab the lead on the opening lap. She then led the rest of the way to win at Sunset Speedway, including a great restart with five laps to go, with Larry Lawson and Jeff Blackburn behind her.
The starting line-up followed a more traditional sense at Peterborough Speedway, with the top qualifier starting mid-pack. Taking the green flag from eighth did not stop James, though, as she broke into the top-five on Lap 5, grabbing the top spot with just 10 laps on the board. The consistency continued for Lawson as he scored another runner-up, with Rob McCall rounding out the podium this time around. For McCall, it marked a great rebound after finishing seventh at Sunset.
The return to Sunset in June was like same song, different verse with James once again taking the win, this time after taking the lead on Lap 6. Dan Bound put together a career-best performance for second, with Mike Bradley capturing his first podium of 2022 following a fifth and eighth.
James carried her momentum to the beach to kick off July, winning both features as part of the Canada Day weekend double at Sauble Speedway. The Bradley brothers continued to play a factor, with Dave Bradley second in feature one in front of McCall. The second verse featured McCall and Blackburn.
The tight confines of Grand Bend Speedway did not slow James down, as she found her way to victory lane for the sixth straight event. Lawson broke his recent string of bad luck for his third runner-up of 2022, while Mike Bradley picked up his fourth straight top-five in third.
The mid-summer appearance saw James overcome issues in the qualifying heats to take the lead on the fifth lap of the feature, pacing the rest of the way en route to another checkered flag. Lawson and Dave Bradley both kept their solid seasons in tact with another round of podium appearances.
James wasted no time when she returned to the beach, taking the lead on the opening lap to pace all 25 laps en route to victory this time around. Rob Harrison put together a career-best performance with a runner-up, followed by a season-best third for Kevin Spiez. It was night for different faces to shine, with Jason Metcalfe scoring his first career top-five in fifth.
The summer stayed hot for James with her ninth straight win at Sunset in August. Dave Bradley kept his string of success rolling with a second, while Jamie Kay made his first podium appearance of 2022 in third.
The return to Sunset a month later, though, saw the script flipped a bit. The early stages of the feature saw everybody vying for positions, close racing throughout the field. James made her move inside the top-five, ready to slip up in front of Lawson for position. Instead, contact was made, resulting in James making contact with the wall and catching air in the process. She was uninjured in the incident, but ultimately saw the win streak end in a dramatic fashion.
The Bradley brothers have been mainstays on the tour for years, and have found themselves on the podium in several different fashions. Each of them have placed second and third to other competitors, sometimes sharing those positions together. Fall Velocity, though, saw them make history as they went one-two with Mike Bradley capturing the checkered flag in front of Dave Bradley. Jason Metcalfe also impressed on this cool night, picking up his first career podium finish with third.
You cannot keep a good racer down for long, and James was an example of that. Her team alongside her went to work and made the necessary repairs to the No. 2 Outlaw Midget, and had it ready to rock ‘n’ roll for Flamboro Speedway a couple weeks later. She wasted no time moving her way to the front, taking the green flag in sixth and grabbing the lead on Lap 2. She led the final 23 laps for victory, with Dave Bradley picking up another second. T.Q. Can-Am Midget regular Cory Whittam impressed in his series debut, picking up a third-place finish.
The season finale at Peterborough was the icing on the cake for James, as she put the perfect climax to what had become a checker or wrecker campaign. After finding herself tipped on her side on Lap 1 following a multi-car incident in turn three, she drove her way through the field to take the lead on Lap 3. She then led the rest of the way, securing her 11thwin in 12 races for 2022. It was a pair of familiar faces alongside her on the podium, thanks to McCall and Mike Bradley.
The year will be remembered by the numbers in the stat book, with James securing those victories on a weekly basis. However, alongside those will be the definition of determination, perseverance, and hard work through everything else that happened.
For more information on the Outlaw Midgets, be sure to check out their website at www.outlawmidgets.ca.
- By Ashley McCubbin