By Dave Vokey
Bitterly cold temperatures were the order of the day on May 25 at Barrie Speedway, and despite the cold air presence the action on track was scorching, as #83 Ian Bourque of Newmarket and #14 "Hurricane" Thayne Hallyburton of Hillsdale each captured a 30 lap feature victory in the track's premier Wahta Springs Late Model division. The win for Bourque was his first at the track since the 2006 season, with the talented pilot having spent the better part of the last six years touring around the province in his Oscaar Super Late Model. With the win, Bourque has now entered the top 10 in the season long point standings, after some struggles in the opening weeks of the season, while Hallyburton's victory comes just 2 weeks after his first career Late Model feature win, further locking the driver solidly in third place in points, just 26 markers in back of the current leader #10 Gord Shepherd of Oro Station. Speaking of Shepherd, the 2009 track champ would see his impressive streak of 6 feature races with no worse than a second place finish come to an end, as the hard charging wheelman could only manage a 4th place showing in the initial feature, backed up by his fourth runner up result of 2013 in the finale to the evening.
In the first 30, it was Bourque who jetted into the early lead from the outside pole position, after the driver gained the advantage on #74 Roy Manary of Gravenhurst from the drop of the green. Manary, would continue to get shuffled further back in the running order, after getting crooked while racing out of turn two the driver was passed by the duo of #54 Randy Bull of Haliburton and #02 Shawn Murray of Alliston, as that pair checked into 2nd and 3rd respectively. Murray, would be the first of the lead grouping to make a move towards the front, getting down to the inside of Bull entering turn three, and completing the pass as the pair raced into turn 1 on the very next lap. Also putting on a charge towards the front was 2011 track champ #57 Ron "The Dominator" Quesnelle of Penetang, as the longtime division veteran would charge from his 11th place starting spot to land in third, after disposing of Bull just shy of the ten lap mark. At the front of the field, Bourque was now clear of the pack by half a straightaway, as Quesnelle began to dig hard on the 02 of Murray for 2nd in the running order.
Approaching the midway point the man on the move was the #14 of Hallyburton, as the division sophmore would file past Bull and into 4th place, with Bull seemingly having a misfire under hood at this point in the race. On lap 16, Quesnelle found himself welded to the back bumper of Murray in the race for 2nd, looking to the inside of his fellow competitor racing out of turn two, but unable to make the potential pass stick. Perhaps the most impressive drive was being put in by a returning #2 "Hometown" Mike Brown of Hawkestone, as the driver would slip past Hallyburton low in turn two for 5th, after sharting shotgun in the 15 car field. This would come one lap after the 10 of Shepherd also moved past Hallyburton, who clearly had his right front tire going down. With two laps remaining, both Murray and Quesnelle had caught up with the 83 of Bourque and began to pressure him in an attempt to wrestle away the race lead. Bourque, would actually get partially crossways out of turn 2 during this time, with a nice display of sportmanship exhibited by both Murray and Quesnlle as they allowed the leader to gather it up. This turn of events would temporarily halt Murray's momentum on the inside line, allowing Quesnelle to take to the high side to duel with Murray to the checkered. It was apparent this race would belong to Bourque however, with the 3 time track champion taking the win in the caution free affair by 2 car lengths at the finish. Quesnelle, would just edge out Murray for 2nd, as Shepherd and Brown rounded out the top 5.
In the 30 lap nightcap to the evening, it was the 54 of Bull who captured the early lead, after 3 solid laps door handle to door handle with the 74 of Manary. Sitting comfortably in third and looking for racing room was the 14 of Hallyburton, while an impressive dice was taking shape for 4th involving Bourque and #91 Andre Pepin of Midland, as Bourque would eventually come out on top of that side by side battle. On lap 5, Hallyburton would begin his charge to the point, getting under Manary for 2nd and clearly setting his sights on race leader Bull. It was on lap 11, when Hallyburton would power out front for the first time, diving to the inside of Bull in turn two and taking control at the front of the field. At this point in the race, there was contact made midpack as the 02 of Murray and #24 Leonard Johnston of Gravenhurst got together along the backstretch, with both drivers taking a stop down pit road for damage, with both being able to eventually continue but several laps down.
Just past the midway mark, the man to watch was the #69 of 2010 track champ Al "Red Rocket" Inglis of Orillia, as the wily veteran would relieve Manary of 3rd, with a nice clean inside pass between turns 1&2. The Inglis move would lead the way for the 57 of Quesnelle to quickly follow into fourth in the running order, as Quesnelle suddenly began to intensify the pressure on fellow veteran Inglis for 3rd place. On lap 21, Quesnelle would finally sneak past Inglis, with a nifty low move entering turn one. The race's first caution appeared on lap 23, when Brown who was having another strong race, would get crossways out of turn 4, after perhaps a slight tap from the #28 of Robin Jongen of Kilworthy. This would leave the 74 of Manary nowhere to go but hard into Brown's right side door panels, thus ending the night for the stout Brown ride. On the restart, Bull would have a picture perfect restart from the outer groove, powering past Hallyburton to reclaim the race lead. Hallyburton, would look to the inside of Bull between turns 1&2 a couple laps later, marginally gaining the advantage, when the 2nd and final caution appeared for Johnston spinning in turn 2. This would set the stage for a Bull/Hallyburton battle from the front row once again, this time with Bull manning the preferred inside line. This turn of events would not but a damper on the game Hallyburton's search for the race lead, as the Hillsdale Service Center Monte Carlo SS would once again find the point from the outside, leaving Bull to fend off the challenge of the front running 10 of Shepherd, who alertly took 2nd along the outside. Over the closing stages, Shepherd would marginally cut into the Hallyburton lead at the front of the pack, but it wasn't to be, as Hallyburton would parade home to the win by a single car length at the stripe. Shepherd, would cap off a solid point night racing to the line in 2nd, with Quesnelle, Bull, and Inglis comprising the remainder of the fast five.
In Canestoga Sprayers and Asphalt Repair Thunder Car action, it was #00 Darryl St. Onge of Barrie who checked into victory lane for the third time in 4 weeks. Despite the strong start to the season for St. Onge, the real story of the race was the performance of rookie of the year contender #37 Robbie Sikes of Orillia. Sikes, would grab the lead after an early restart on lap 2, and continue on at the point for the next 21 circuits of the one third mile tri oval, despite the presence and challenges of a pair of former track champions #12 Jim "Polish Prince" Belesky and #10 Rick Walt at his back bumper. After a debris caution flew on lap nine, Sikes and Belesky raced tooth and nail for the lead for several laps on the restart, with Sikes finiding the front once again, as Belesky slotted into 2nd, with #40 Donny Brandon of Barrie running 3rd, while St. Onge and #55 Shawn Goggins of Orillia were right in the mix as well, running 4th and 5th respectively.
Sikes, would eventually break out to a five car length lead on Belesky, who was for under heavy fire from both Walt and St. Onge in the battle for podium positioning. On lap 16, Walt would get to the inside of Belesky between turns 1&2 to move to 2nd, with an alert St. Onge quick to claim 3rd in the running order. The best battle on track at this point was the race for fifth, as Brandon and Goggins waged war for that position. A hard fought battle would come to its conclusion on lap 23, when Brandon would make contact with Goggins left rear after that pair were working around the lapped car of #2 Ken Jones. The ensuing result would see Goggins and Brandon both send to the tail of the field as involved cars, with St. Onge now manning the outside line for the restart, presenting a ultra tough challenge ahead for the calm and collected race leader Sikes. St. Onge, would manuver into the race lead with relative ease from the outside line, when the caution again flew on lap 25 for a nasty incident as the 55 of Goggins came to rest on top of the tires at the enterance to pit road. After a lengthy red flag to remove the prone Goggins ride, St. Onge, once again got the jump on Sikes when the race resumed, with Sikes now trapped to the high side as he was shuffled back by the trio of #39 Travis "The Enforcer" Hallyburton, Walt, and #44 Dave "The Deuce" Doucette. The always exciting Doucette would eventually make a pass on Walt for third, with St. Onge now having to fend off the challenge of Hallyburton, who was cutting into the St. Onge lead with each passing lap. Once out front the #00 Ski Doo/Marnoch Electrical/ Young Drivers of Canada Pontiac Grand Prix has proven tough if not impossible to catch, and that was the case here at 2009 track champ St. Onge would take the win by 2 car lengths over an oncoming Hallyburton at the checkered. Doucette, would come to the stripe in 3rd, with Walt and Sikes completing the top 5.
Four different heat race winners came in the form of Hallyburton, Doucette, #40 Donny Brandon, and #55 Shawn Goggins.
In the 20 lap St. Onge Recreation Pure Stock main it was #11 Adam Misener of North Bay who piloted his Nissan 240 into victory lane. The race would begin with #06 Ryan Hardy of Markdale, checking into the initial lead from the outside pole position, with #09 Dean Curry and Misener quick to follow Hardy through along the top side to land in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Just two laps in the 09 of Curry would overcook the enterance to turn one, getting into the back of his teamate Hardy and sending him for a spin, with both drivers summoned arrears deemed invloved cars. This turn of events would hand the lead over to Misener, with #63 Jamie Cairns, #400 Justin Holmes, #57 Ryan Toon, and #18 Tim Gagne comprising the remainder of the fast five in the early going. On the restart Misener would find the point , leading the way for Holmes to claim 2nd as those two drivers began to brack away from the tightly bunched pack racing in behind.
On lap 5, the man on the move was 2010 track champ #15 Will Davies of Orillia, as the promising young upstart would pass Gagne for 5th, leading the way for #77 Mike Gettliffe to follow a short time later. At the front of the field, Holmes was hounding Misener lap after lap for the race lead, looking to the inside of his fellow competitor out of turn 2, but evetually having to back out of the move when he got loose out of the same corner. After a lap 12 restart for an incident involving Curry and Gettliffe came about, the silky smooth Davies would begin to hound Holmes for 2nd along the inner groove, eventually completing a pass as the duo raced out of turn 4. Further in back of that duel, current point leader #10 Doug Butler of New Lowell was fast approaching, passing both Curry and Toon along the outside, to slot himself into 4th place positioning. After a late race caution came about, Misener would again break away from Davies, with 3rd place Holmes now locked in an impressive dice with Butler, with the former Autumn Colors Classic champion Butler taking that spot after two solid laps door to door. The race would belong to the stout Misener ride however, as the division runner up in 2012 would notch his second career feature victory. Davies, would just nip Butler at the line by inches in the battle for second, as Holmes, and Curry rounded out the top 5.
Heat wins were claimed by Misener, Butler, Curry, and #06 Ryan Hardy.