By Dave Vokey
Barrie Speedway would see it's 2013 title chase end in thrilling fashion on Sept 14, as cooler temperatures were the order of the evening, with ultra tight point battles in two of the three featured divisions setting the stage for the intense night of racing to come. In the track's premier Wahta Springs Late Model division, 2009 track champ #10 Gord Shepherd of Oro Station need only take green in each leg of twin 50 lap features to secure his second Late Model title, and 4th career at the speedway. The Canestoga Property Maintenance Thunder Cars came into the evening with just 6 points separating a trio of former track champs, as defending champ #10 Rick Walt of Hawkestone held a narrow one point advantage over 2007 titlist #44 Dave "The Deuce" Doucette of Angus, while 2009 track champ #00 Darryl St. Onge of Barrie came in just 6 back of the division lead. Meanwhile in the St. Onge Recreation Pure Stocks, #10 Doug Butler of New Lowell held a scant 5 point advantage over #77 Mike Gettliffe of Orillia, as the two talented wheelman have battled nip and tuck throughout the last month of the season looking to claim their first career Barrie crowns.
In the first Late Model 50 lap affair, it was #74 Roy Manary of Gravenhurst who took the early lead after a solid three lap battle with pole sitter #5 Mike "The Hulkamaniac" Langley from the drop of the green. Also on the move early was a pair of division veterans, as #43 Darin Malcolm of North Bay and #83 Ian Bourque of Newmarket would check into 2nd and 3rd respectively after working past the 5 of Langley. Malcolm, would soon begin his search for the race lead, getting to the inside of Manary midway down the backstretch and taking the lead on lap 5 entering turn three. The race's first caution would fly just a two laps later, when the 83 of Bourque slowed in turn 4 with a cut right front tire, after contact with Manary while dicing for 2nd. With Malcolm and Manary comprising the front row for the restart, the race wouldn't stay green long when 3rd place #69 Al "Red Rocket" Inglis cut a tire of his own and came to rest between turns 3&4 on the very next lap. The benefactor of this turn of events would be #91 Andre Pepin of Midland, as the 2nd year driver followed Malcolm's progression on the ensuing restart to dive down inside of Manary in turn 3 to take over runner up positioning, as Malcolm was now holding a 2 car length lead at the front of the pack. The Pepin move would open up the necessary room for the front running duo of #14 "Hurricane" Thayne Hallyburton of Hillsdale and Shepherd to take over 3rd and 4th respectively one lap later, as the 74 of Manary fought hard to find the preferred inside line in front of a gaggle of oncoming cars.
On lap 13, the best battle on track was taking shape for 7th place, as rookie #24 Leonard "The Bandit" Johnston of Bracebridge and #2 "Hometown" Mike Brown of Hawkestone waged war for that position, with Johnston eventually coming out on top. On lap 16, the pressure was intensifying near the front of the field, as Shepherd would make an inside move on Hallyburton for third on exit of turn 2, but the pass would soon be negated when the race's third caution appeared as #44x Rick Meyer of Orillia, #27 Sam Reckzin of North Bay, and #28 Robin Jongen of Kilworthy collected out of turn 2 just in back of the Shepherd/ Hallyburton dice. Once again the race wouldn't stay green long on the restart, when #57 Ron "The Dominator" Quesnelle would run up over the left rear tire of 4th place Shepherd, sending Quesnelle for a spin in turn 3 and Shepherd pitside to make the necessary body damage repairs. When the race went green, Malcolm would again burst out and take control of the point, with Pepin and Hallyburton now locked in a door to door battle for 2nd, with Hallyburton taking the spot, as Johnston and Brown were now racing tooth and nail behind that duo. At the midway mark the car on the move was once again the 10 of Shepherd, as the driver would land himself in 7th after the earlier misfortune, flying up along the outer groove past the duo of Jongen and Bourque, and finding the back bumper of Manary and executing an inside pass in turn two to claim that position.
Race leader Malcolm was still looking calm and collected at the front of the field however, running laps just a shade over the 15 second mark, and holding both Hallyburton and Pepin at bay, as the #24 of Johnston marginally began to close the distance to the lead trio. The race's fifth and final caution would come about on lap 32, when the 27 of Reckzin slowed in turn 4 with damage to the right front. This turn of events set the stage for the staunch Hallyburton Hillsdale Service Center Monte Carlo SS to challenge Malcolm for the race lead, as Hallyburton took over the point after a fierce 2 lap battle while running the outside line. Hallyburton, was setting a torrid pace once in control, opening up a three car length advantage over Malcolm, as Pepin sat comfortably in third, with Shepherd 4th, and Johnston and Jongen locked in an incredible dice for the final top 5 position. Inside of five laps remaining, the 28 of Jongen would work past Johnston with an inside move in turn two, with leader Hallyburton now increasing his lead over a suddenly forming Malcolm/Pepin duel for 2nd in the running order. It was clear this race would belong to Hallyburton over the late stages, as the 2nd year driver would notch his 8th feature win of the season by five car lengths over Malcolm at the checkered. Pepin, would continue his solid season in coming to the stripe in 3rd, while Shepherd and Jongen would complete the top 5.
The 50 lap finale to the evening would be a much more fluid affair, as the race was slowed by just a single caution on lap 39, as the 57 of Quesnelle would take the lead early and not look back in route to claiming his 4th feature win of 2013. The race would begin with the 74 of Manary taking the lead from outside pole position, as Quesnelle would make an early move underneath the 83 of Bourque to notch 2nd just a couple laps in. Quesnelle, who started 5th in a strong 16 car field would soon find control of the point, when on lap three he dove down inside Manary on the exit of turn 4 to power to the front, with an alert duo of Malcolm and Brown following through to claim 2nd and 3rd respectively, as early race leader Manary was now trapped to the high side, losing a couple more positions in the process. Nearing the ten lap mark, the best battle forming on track was the race for fourth, as Pepin and Hallyburton went wheel to wheel for several laps for that position, with Hallyburton eventually taking the spot with a clean inside pass between turns 1&2 on lap 13. Just outside of the top 5 the action hit a fevered pitch, as the trio of Shepherd, Jongen, and Inglis were racing covered by a blanket and looking to advance further in the running order.
On lap 22, the positions began to change near the front of the pack, as Hallyburton would execute a inside move on Malcolm between turns 3&4 to take over 2nd place, with leader Quesnelle now free and clear by a half straightaway at the front of the pack. Quesnelle, was soldering on with laps in the 15.1 second range, as Hallyburton began to close from 2nd, with Malcolm 3rd, and Shepherd making a move to land in 4th, leading the way for Jongen to enter the final top 5 position. All the while the best battle was taking place for 6th in the running order as the 91 of Pepin and 69 of Inglis waged war for that position, with the talented Pepin eventually coming out on top. On lap 36, Hallyburton would get a nose to the inside of Quesnelle for the race lead, as Quesnelle found the necessary traction on the outside to maintain a slim advantage over his fellow competitor. On lap 39, the duo would run up on the lapped car of #44x Rick Meyer, with Quesnelle using the lapped traffic for a pick and pinning Hallyburton to the inside as the trio raced into corner three. Hallyburton, would run up on and inadvertently tap the 44x of Meyer in turn 3, sending both drivers for a wild spin, as an alert display of racing was turned in by the rest of the field who scrambled to avoid the prone cars.
With a 11 lap shootout now in order, Quesnelle would gain the advantage over Malcolm on the restart, as Shepherd and Jongen waged an impressive battle for 3rd, with Shepherd claiming the spot along the lower groove. Also making his presence felt was the 91 of Pepin, who also found the inside line on Jongen to relieve him of fourth place inside of five laps remaining. It was clear that once out front the stout Quesnelle would be tough to catch let alone work your way past, and this proved to hold true to the checkered, as Quesnelle would claim the final point race of the season by 2 car lengths over Malcolm at the line. Shepherd, would cap off a solid point night and take the 2013 title in finishing 3rd, while Pepin and Jongen would comprise the remainder of the fast five.
In the Canestoga Property Maintenance Thunder Car action, the legions of fans on hand were treated to a whale of a finish, as #44 Dave Doucette would claim his 5th feature win of 2013 in his sleek looking G.D Coates Suzuki Chrysler 300 Z.. Doucette, would have to fend off a late race challenge from defending track champ Walt, as the two drivers locked wheels and fenders out of turn 2 on the race's final lap, drag racing to the checkered in a plume of smoke, with Doucette narrowly taking the win as Walt went spinning towards the infield grass just beyond the flagstand at the race's conclusion. The two drivers would enter the 40 lap feature separated by just three points in the season long standings, and by virtue of Doucette's win and Walt's runner up finish the pair would finish in a dead heat atop the season long standings, with each driver having claimed 5 feature wins which is the first determining tie breaker. Walt, would be crowned the 2013 champ by virtue of more second place feature results, in what turned out to be a battle for the ages the likes of which have not been seen in several seasons at the one third mile tri oval. #00 Darryl St. Onge would finish up the season with a 3rd place finish, clinching 3rd in the standings in the process, while #12 Jim "Polish Prince" Belesky, and #39 Travis "The Enforcer" Hallyburton rounded out the top five.
Heat wins went to Hallyburton with a pair, Doucette, and Walt.
In the St. Onge Recreation Pure Stocks, it was 2010 track champ #15 Will Davies who took the checkered to claim his first feature win of the season in the final point race. The race would get off to a messy start with a series of cautions called before the race was a couple laps old. The worst of the incidents would see a gaggle of cars collect just on the exit of turn two, as 2nd place point man heading into the evening #77 Mike Gettliffe was collected in the affair, sending the TMK Mechanical/TSS Top Shopps Dodge Neon down pit lane. Gettliffe's main competition #10 Doug Butler was able to escape the melee unscathed, as the two drivers now sat nose to tail for the ensuing restart. When the race resumed it was #88 Jeremy McLean who took the point early, as #11 Adam Misner began to work the low side of #71 Pete Gettliffe, eventually taking runner up positioning, as Davies and #18 Tim Gagne rounded out the top 5 early on. On lap 7, Misner would take over at the front of the pack, getting to the inside of McLean in turn 2, as an alert Davies followed that pass to land himself in second place.
After a lap 8 caution, Misner would move out to a single car length lead over Davies, with defending track champ #9 Charlie Smith also in the mix, as the veteran pilot had a couple looks to Davies' inside but was unable to make a pass stick. Also back towards the front was the 77 of Gettliffe, as the former Thunder Car pilot was battling nip and tuck with promising upstart #400 Justin Holmes for 4th place, as the top 7 cars were bunched up and racing wheel to wheel inside of ten laps remaining. On lap 22, Gettliffe would continue his progression towards the front, slipping inside Smith between turns 3&4 to take over 2nd, with Butler soon following to drop Smith back to 4th place. At the front of the pack the Misner/Davies battle was heating up, as Davies car appaeared on rails as the 5th year pilot took over the race lead with a high side pass in turn two. The race's final caution would fly on lap 25, when Holmes looped it on his own accord while racing out of turn 4, as the 3rd year driver had nothing to lose with his push towards the front, having virtually sewed up 3rd place in the season long standings just by taking green. On the restart, Davies would again find the front by a single car length as Gettliffe relieved Misner of 2nd along the inside line, leaving Misner in the clutches of Smith for 3rd, as Bulter frantically searched for racing room behind that pair. On the final lap, just as Butler was beginning to look for a way around the duo of Smith and Misner up high, contact was made with Smith getting into Misner's left rear quarter panel, forcing him high and halting the progression of Butler on the top groove, as #09 Dean Curry alertly filled the hole to take over 4th place. But this was Davies race to lose and the driver wouldn't slip up over the duration taking the win by a single car length over the checkered. Gettliffe, would battle back to finish 2nd, thus clinching the 2013 title by a single marker over the hard charging Butler. #9 Charlie Smith would finish up in 3rd, while Curry and Butler rounded out the fast five.
Earlier heat wins went to Gettliffe with a pair, Curry, and Holmes.
PIT NOTES --------------- Be sure to join us this coming Saturday afternoon Sept 21st, as its the third installment of the Garry Reynolds Memorial Invitational for all three regular divisions. With several top drivers already confirmed from around the province, race fans will see first hand why this race is commonly referred to as the "crown jewel" of the Barrie Speedway race season, as the track prepares to honor its all time feature race victory leader who succumbed to cancer nearly three years ago. The Wahta Springs Late Models would see #23 Rob Black make his return to the track after a near 3 year hiatus from behind the wheel. The likeable Black would turn in an impressive showing, keeping a clean car under him the entire night, finishing on the lead lap in both feature races, with results just outside the top 10 in a deep and talent laden 16 car field. Black, was preparing his ride for the upcoming 100 lap Reynolds race, which will also feature a 60 lap Thunder Car main, with the Pure Stocks doing battle for a 30 lap feature. Pit gates open at 11 am, with spectator gates commencing business at 2pm, and heat races slated to begin just after 4pm.. THIS WILL SURELY PROVE TO BE A CAN'T MISS EVENT THAT YOU SHOULD MAKE PLANS TO ATTEND!!!!!