BARRIE, ON – The last race weekend of August would produce another night of highly entertaining, fast paced action on Aug 25 At Barrie Speedway, as several drivers appear to be hitting their stride approaching the final weeks of 2012, with the jockeying for position in the season long standings bound to produce some hotly contested on track battles moving forward.
The big winners on Barrie Thunder Classics Car Club Night were Wahta Springs Late Model drivers #10 Gord Shepherd of Oro Station and #48 Dwayne Baker of Stayner, as each driver would capture a feature win in the customary twin 30 lap format. The win for Shepherd, was his first since the opening race of the season, improving the driver to fourth place in the season long standings, while Baker would capture his division leading 13th feature win of the season, to increase his point lead to 99 over the defending track champion #57 Ron “The Dominator” Quesnelle of Penetang. Entering the final month, the best race appears to be the fight for third place, with 2010 track champ #69 Al “Red Rocket” Inglis of Orillia currently holding that spot, with just 7 points further back to Shepherd, while 2008 track champ #19 Keith McLeod of Barrie sits just 11 points back of fellow veteran Inglis.
In the first 30, it was pole sitter #33 Dave Lewis taking the lead from the drop of the green, as the trio of #14 “Hurricane” Thayne Hallyburton, #02 Shawn Murray, and McLeod would slide through along the inside line and pass #74 Roy Manary for position just a couple laps in. The best battle in the early stages was the race for 7th, as Shepherd and #2 “Hometown” Mike Brown waged an impressive dice for that position, with 2009 track champ Shepherd eventually coming out on top. At the front of the field rookie Hallyburton had caught up with veteran Lewis, and began searching high and low for a way past, with the wily Lewis being able to maintain control of the point.
The race’s first caution came about on lap 11, as #92 Dan Dixon went around in turn 2, in his debut in a sleek new ride. With Hallyburton deemed leading at the stripe on the last completed lap prior to the caution, Lewis would once again move out to a marginal lead on the outside groove with laps in the 14.9 second range, as Hallyburton would fall back into the clutches of fellow division rookie Murray, with the latter executing a nifty inside pass in turn two to inheirit the runner up position. Hallyburton, would slot back in line in 3rd place just ahead of the battle that was forming for 4th, with McLeod and Baker involved, as Baker would make a clean pass on the outside of McLeod to take over that position.
The second and final caution appeared on lap 18, when McLeod and Inglis collided in turn 4 while racing for 5th, with McLeod sent spinning towards outside retaining wall, and both drivers summoned arrears as invloved cars. This set the stage for what is becoming a developing rivalry between Lewis and Murray, as those two drivers were set to lead the field to green from the front row. Murray, would power to the point after three solid laps door handle to door handle with Lewis, as Baker would follow the Murray move on the outside to wrestle away 2nd from Lewis one lap later.
Inside of five laps remaining, the man on the move was the 57 of Quesnelle, as the defending champ would run up on the 10 of Shepherd in the battle for 4th, setting up a well-executed pass low in turn 2, to take control of that spot, as Baker was now hounding Murray at the front of the field in an attempt to take the race lead. On lap 28, Baker would make the winning move, passing Murray to the outside of turn two, and from there the 2007 track champ would drive on unchallenged to record the feature win. Murray, would fall just short in his attempt to win the opening feature for the fourth week in succession, coming home a solid 2nd, while Lewis, Quesnelle, and Shepherd rounded out the top 5.
In the 30 lap finale to the evening, it was Inglis moving out front early from the pole position after a tough early duel with the 14 of Hallyburton. By lap 5, Shepherd had worked his way to Hallyburton’s bumper, pulling off a clean low pass on the exit of turn two to take over second in the running order. This turn of events would lead the way for the hard charging Quesnelle to move up to third along the inside of Hallyburton, as Shepherd was now dogging Inglis for the race lead, executing a brilliant inside pass in turn 3 to move out front. The Shepherd pass soon would be negated however, as the caution appeared before lead duo hit the stripe, when Lewis and Murray collected between turns 1&2, with Lewis being shown the black flag for rough driving, bringing his race to an abrupt end. On the restart, Inglis and Shepherd waged side by side war for the race lead, with Shepherd eventually clearing Inglis on the outside, after two solid laps of highly intense action.
Approaching lap 20, the car to watch was once again the 57 of Quesnelle, who had now caught up with Inglis for 2nd, with Quesnelle’s Sunrise Toyota Camry pulling off a clean inside pass between turns 1&2, as the front running Baker was also now at the front of the field, slipping past Inglis for third place at the same point on the racetrack one lap later. At the front of the field, Shepherd had now opened up a 2 car length lead over Quesnelle, running laps in the 14.9 second range covering the one third mile tri oval configuration. Over the duration, Quesnelle would come under heavy fire from Baker for 2nd, with the latter looking both high and low for a way past, with Quesnelle being able to remain calm and collected enough to fend off the Baker challenge. It was clear on this evening nobody was catching the 10 of Shepherd however, as the longtime track staple brough his BFI Canada/Montana’s Cookhouse Ford Fusion to the checkered by three car lengths over Quesnelle at the finish. Baker, would cap off a solid point night with a 3rd place showing, while Inglis and Hallyburton comprised the remainder of the fast five.
The Canestoga Sprayers & Asphalt Repair Thunder Cars would treat the legions of fans in attendance to a whale of a show, running the entire 30 lap main in a caution free manner, as #00 Darryl St. Onge of Barrie brought home his 3rd feature win of the season in his Industrial Commutator/Marnoch Electrial sponsored Pontiac Grand Prix. The race would begin with #20 Luke Gignac taking the initial lead, as #55 Shawn Goggins and #77 Brian Murray slotted themselves into 2nd and 3rd respectively. Murray, would begin to work over Goggins for 2nd, while further in back #21 Desi Walt had entered the top 5, after disposing of #5 Mike “The Hulkamaniac” Langley, with St. Onge following that move to place himself sixth in the early stages.
Murray, would eventually make his way past Goggins for 2nd, and by lap 9 he had run down the leader Gignac, powering up along the outside line in turn one to take over the race lead. Further back in the pack, St. Onge was beginning to make his presence felt, making an outside pass on #80 Doug “Shaky” Shakell to take over 4th place, then eventually landing on the bumper of Gignac and making an outside pass in turn 1 to take over 3rd in the running order on lap 14.
Just past the midway mark, the three car train of Murray, Goggins, and St. Onge had begun to break away from the pack, with Murray holding a slender 2 car length lead over Goggins while running laps right at 16 seconds flat. At this point in the race several of the front runners were still mired mid pack, with #44 Dave “The Deuce” Doucette and the current point leader #10 Rick Walt being the first to break clear of that group, as the duo careened past Gignac and Shakell to enter the top five on lap 20. St. Onge, would continue his charge to the front of the field, working past the 55 of Goggins, and then catching and passing the race leader Murray with an inside move on the exit of turn 4, with just six laps remaining.
St. Onge, would begin to open up a more substantial lead as the laps ticked off, with Goggins now closing in on Murray for runner up positioning, but unable to find his way past. St. Onge, would parade on to take the checkered by 3 car lengths at the checkered, as Murray and Goggins would both have season best finishes in placing 2nd and 3rd respectively, while Doucette and Walt rounded out the top 5. Heat wins went to Doucette with a pair, Murray, and Rick Walt.
In St. Onge Recreation Pure Stock action, the win in the 20 lap main was claimed by sophomore sensation #400 Justin Holmes of Innisfil in his Hwy 400 Transmission sponsored Mustang. The win for young upstart Holmes was his 2nd career Barrie Speedway feature win, as he would charge from the 9th place starting position in the 20 car field to slip past early race leader #09 Dean Curry of Singhampton, with an outside move between turns 3&4 on lap seven. The race would begin with #1 Ralph Sikes moving out front from the 3rd place starting position, executing a 3 wide move on the opening lap, slipping past the duo of #63 Jamie Cairns and #6 Josh Inglis.
On just the second lap, point leader #11 Adam Misener of North Bay would be forced to retire to the infield with mechanical gremlins, with Curry and Holmes now on the move towards the front, checking into 2nd and 3rd respectively. Curry, would eventually slip past Sikes for the race lead, leading the way for an alert Holmes to quickly follow through to snatch 2nd place. On lap 7 Holmes made the winning move on the outside of Curry, and the young upstart began to pull away from Curry’s Dodge Neon with each passing lap, with division front runners #14 Billy Melenhorst, #57 Ryan Toon, and #15 Will Davies also closing in on the 09 of Curry.
Over the closing laps, Holmes was setting a torrid pace at the front of the field, running laps in the 16.6 second range, opening up a full straightaway lead on the side by side duel involving Curry and Melenhorst in behind him. Melenhorst, would make his way past Curry with a clean outside pass in turn one to take over 2nd in the running order, with Davies and Toon doing battle for 4th, as Davies claimed that spot with an inside pass of his fellow competitor in turn 3. After a recent string of hard luck, Holmes would easily take the checkered in the caution free affair putting in his most impressive performance to date, as Melenhorst would edge Curry in the race for 2nd, while Davies and Toon comprised the remainder of the fast five. Heat wins went to Holmes, Davies, #11 Adam Misener, and #9 Charlie Smith.
PIT NOTES: As mentioned earlier #92 Dan Dixon of Parry Sound would debut a new car in the Wahta Springs Late Models. The ride is a Lefthander Chassis and was last campaigned in seasons past by fellow Barrie Late Model driver #74 Roy Manary of Bracebridge. Dixon, would ride out some initial quirks and bugaboos to record 10th and 11th place results in the twin 30 lap feature races, finishing just a single lap down in both races.
On tap this weekend its double header action for all three regular divisions, with Rock 95 Night commencing on Sat Sept 1, with pit gates opening at 3pm, spectator gates open at 5pm, while green flag racing is slated for 7pm sharp. On Sun Sept 2nd the good folks from KICX 106 take over the sponsor deck for an afternoon race to make up for an earlier Aug 11 rainout. For the Sunday affair, the pit gate will be opening at 11am, with spectator gates one hour later at noon, and racing set to begin at 1pm sharp. With several tight points battles still to be decided throughout the standings in all three divisions these are two events you just won’t want to miss!!!
By Dave Vokey / Barrie Speedway