By Dave Vokey
A near capacity crowd was on hand on June 8 at Barrie Speedway, and the legions of fans in attendance were treated to an evening of highly competitive on track action on BFI Canada Night. The evenings big winners were #02 Shawn Murray of Alliston and #10 Gord Shepherd of Oro Station, with each driver capturing a 30 lap feature race win in the track's premier Wahta Springs Late Model division. With the win, current point leader Shepherd extended his point lead from 12 to 20 over second place point man #57 Ron "The Dominator" Quesnelle of Penetang, who continued an impressive string of top 5 finishes, coming to the checkered in 5th place in both features. Meanwhile, division sophomore Murray captured his second feature win of 2013, further cementing the talented driver in fifth place in the season long point standings, just 12 markers back of 2010 track champ #69 Al "Red Rocket" Inglis of Orillia, who ironically enough would finish the runner up in both feature races.
In the initial 30 lap race, it was rookie of the year contender #24 Leonard Johnston of Bracebridge who found the front early, after gaining 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 as he was passed to the inside by the duo of Murray and Inglis just two laps in. On the front end, Johnston was looking stout, running laps just a shade over the 15 second mark, holding a 2 car length lead over Murray, while further back an impressive three way dice was shaping up just outside of the top 5 involving Quesnelle, Shepherd, and #14 "Hurricane" Thayne Hallyburton of Hillsdale. Nearing the ten lap mark, Murray found himself welded to Johnston's back bumper in search of the race lead, which he would later take with a clean inside pass entering turn 1. Once again it was Inglis who was quick to follow the Murray move, diving down inside of Johnston entering turn 3, to inheirit runner up positioning.
On lap 13, the fast duo of Quesnelle and Shepherd had entered the top 5, with both division veterans getting to the inside of Manary to complete the pass exiting turn 4. Just one lap later, Shepherd was really turning up the heat on Quesnelle for 4th, getting to the inside and passing his fellow competitor as the duo exited turn two. At the front of the pack, Murray was looking strong on the point, completing circuits of the one third mile tri oval in 15.1 seconds, all the while having to take to the outer groove as the 2006 Pure Stock track champion was working lapped traffic. Murray, was able to maintain a 2 car length lead over the hard charging Inglis, with Johnston still sitting in 3rd, as Shepherd began to reel him in with each passing lap. At this point in the race, the best battle on track was the race for 10th place, as #83 Ian Bourque of Newmarket and #43 Darin Malcolm of North Bay were waging all out war for that position, with Bourque eventually coming out on top of that duel. On this evening the promising upstart Murray was not to be denied however, taking the win by a slender margin over Inglis at the finish. Shepherd, would just nip the 24 of Johnston at the stripe for 3rd, as 2011 track champ Quesnelle rounded out the fast five.
In the 30 lap finale to the evening, it was #2 "Hometown" Mike Brown who broke out to the early lead from the outside pole position. The field would quickly bunch up in back of leader Brown, with #02 Shawn Murray receiving a tap from behind and getting crossways between turns 3&4. Murray, would eventually pull off a remarkable save and was able to keep his spot in the running order, with a nice show of class exhibited by the field who didn't press the issue in allowing Murray to gather it up. An early caution would fly after the 74 of Manary would lock the brakes entering turn 1, getting crossways as a result, as #5 Mike "The Hulkamaniac" Langley would make contact with the Manary ride, with the incident also collecting Quesnelle, Malcolm, and #44 Rick Meyer. All drivers involved would eventually be able to continue the race. The top five at this point was comprised of leader Brown, Johnston, Murray, #91 Andre Pepin of Midland, and Inglis. On the restart, Brown would again seize the lead, with Johnston battling hard on the outer groove, and being able to slot into 2nd in front of Murray midway down the backstretch. Also on the move towards the front was the 69 of Inglis, as the multi time track champion would pass the 91 of Pepin for 4th entering turn 1, as the ominus 10 of Shepherd was lurking behind that duo.
After a debris caution appeared on lap 7, race one winner Murray would take advantage by getting to the inside of Johnston on the restart to take over 2nd place positioning. Johnston, would soon come under fire from the 10 of Shepherd, with the latter completing a clean inside pass exiting turn 2, to take over third place positioning. Nearing the midway mark, the race's third caution would appear when #4 Glenn Lloyd of Barrie spun in turn 4, just as the 69 of Inglis was beginning to pressure Johnston for 4th, looking to the inside of his fellow competitor on several occasions. On the restart, Brown would jet out to a 2 car length advantage over Shepherd, after the latter slipped past Murray with a nifty low move entering turn 3. Shepherd, would take over at the front of the field as he powered around Brown on the outside after another mid race restart, leaving Brown to fall back into the clutches of Murray in the battle for runner up positioning. On lap 17, the unthinkable happened when the third place car of Murray would turn Brown on the exit of turn 2, with Brown coming to rest against the tire wall on the enterance to pit road. The ensuing result would see Murray sent arrears as an involved car, with Brown receiving the black flag for an ensuing on track melee. This turn of events would totally reshuffle the top 5 which was now made up of Shepherd, Inglis, Johnston, Pepin, and #43 Darin Malcolm. On lap 20, the action was heating up all over the track with Johnston and Pepin locked in a tooth and nail battle for third, with Malcolm and Quesnelle racing fast and furious in behind for the final top 5 position. Malcolm, looked to be gaining the advantage on Quesnelle as the former Autumn Colors Classic winner was quickly reeling in the 4th place car Pepin.
Inside of five laps remaining, Malcolm had closed the distance on Pepin considerably, with division sophomore Pepin not willing to give up the fight just yet, as the talented wheelman was able to maintain fourth in the running order. Perhaps the hard charge to the front was beginning to take its toll on Malcolm's Chevy Camaro SS, as he now found himself locked in a door to door battle with Quesnelle, who was putting in a remarkable drive of his own after the earlier misfortune that brought about a stop on pit road. On the front end, Shepherd was holding a cozy 3 car length advantage over the wily veteran Inglis, with Johnston still solidly in third. As has been proven before on multiple occasions this season, once out front the 10 of Shepherd has been hard if not impossible to catch, and that was the scenario that played out here. The 2009 track champ Shepherd, would parade to his 4th feature win of the season on his main sponsor's night, thus drawing a huge ovation from those in attendance. Inglis, would cap off a solid point night in finishing 2nd, with Johnston, Pepin, and Quesnelle comprising the remainder of the top 5.
In Canestoga Sprayers & Asphalt Repair Thunder Car action it was a familiar face returning to victory lane as #44 Dave "The Deuce" Doucette of Angus captured his first feature win of 2013. Doucette, the victim of some tough luck in the opening weeks would finally receive a break at the midway point of the 30 lap main, when the front running duo of #40 Donny Brandon and #39 Travis "The Enforcer" Hallyburton collided along the backstretch, sending Brandon for a wild spin towards the inside retaining wall and Hallyburton to the rear of the field as an involved car. For the ensuing restart the top 5 would consist of new race leader Doucette, defending track champ #10 Rick Walt, point leader #00 Darryl St. Onge, #12 Jim "Polish Prince" Belesky, and rookie standout #37 Robbie Sikes. Doucette, would power out to a two car length lead over Walt on the restart, with St. Onge third, and the 4th place car of Belesky now trapped on the high line, as the hard charging Sikes passed the former 2 time track champ for that position.
Just outside of the top five the best battle forming on track was the race for 6th, as #20 Luke Gignac and #55 Greg Callow were locked in an impressive door handle to door handle duel for that spot, as the venerable veteran Callow would come out on top. At the front of the field, Doucette was beginning to increase his lead over Walt with laps in the 15.9 second range, as Walt was passed for runner up positioning by St. Onge inside of five laps remaining. Over the closing stages, St. Onge was able to marginally slice into the 3 car length lead Doucette had at the front of the field, but it was not to be on this evening however, as 2007 track champ Doucette would take the victory be a mere 7/10ths of a second at the checkered. St. Onge, would maintain a slender 2 point lead on Doucette heading into this weekend's action, with a solid 2nd place showing, while Walt, Sikes, and Belesky rounded out the top five.
Heat wins went to Walt, Sikes, #39 Travis Hallyburton, and #16 Bryan Penny. The wins were the first ever in a Thunder Car for both Sikes and Penny, as the two rookie stalwarts have proven they belong among the elite Thunder Car pilots in the province throughout the opening weeks of 2013.
In the 20 lap St. Onge Recreation Pure Stock main, it was defending track champion #9 Charlie Smith of Orillia who brought his Dodge Neon to victory lane to claim his 2nd feature win of the season. The race would begin with #83 Sean Sikes getting the initial lead, with #71 Pete Gettliffe having a brief 3 wide look around the duo of #63 Jamie Cairns and #6 Josh Inglis, who were slotted in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Cairns, would inheirit the lead on lap 2, when he passed leader Sikes to the inside of turn two. Also making nice progression through the field was the duo of #09 Dean Curry and Smith, as that duo had now entered the top 3 after working past #06 Ryan Hardy of Markdale, after Hardy had moved past the 2nd place car of Sikes a couple laps earlier. Cairns, was still looking strong on the front end, holding a 2 car length lead on Smith, with Curry in third, and current point leader #10 Doug Butler of New Lowell now in fourth, after disposing of the 06 of Hardy.
Just shy of the 10 lap mark, Smith would take over the race lead, passing Cairns to the outside in turn one. Cairns, would continue to get shuffled further back in the running order, when the duo of Butler and Curry worked their way around just past the midway mark. Curry, would come under heavy fire from the 10 of Butler, as the provincial heavyweight would pass his fellow competitor to take over 2nd place. Butler, would take to the high line in pursuit of leader Smith, quickly finding his back bumper and giving him a nudge entering turn 3, inside of 5 laps remaining. These two drivers would treat the fans to a whale of a show over the duration, drag racing door to door approaching the checkered, as Smith was able to fend off the staunch Butler challenge, taking the win in the caution free affair by a slender 2/10ths of a second at the stripe. Curry, would record a season best 3rd place result, as #77 Mike Gettliffe, and #15 Will Davies filled out the remainder of the top 5
Heat wins went to #06 Ryan Hardy with a pair, Butler, and Curry.
PIT NOTES ----------------------- A number of new faces continue to appear at the High Line as #17 Kevin Reynolds of Warminster would make his first start of the season in the Wahta Springs Late Models, with #8 Paul Bogensberger of North Bay taking to the track for the first time in 2013 in the Thunder Car division, and #31 Gil Brooks, and #38 Dave Rice also making their first starts of the season in the Pure Stock ranks. Be sure to join us this coming Saturday night for the only Barrie appearance of 2013 for the OSCAAR Super Late Models and the OSCAAR Modifieds, as #10 Jesse Kennedy in the Super Lates and #8 Gary McLean in the Modifieds look to defend their Barrie victories of a season ago. Also on hand will be a couple of local favorites as former 2 time Barrie Late Model track champ #22 Glenn Watson and nephew #9 Brandon Watson are expected to be in the Super Late field, as both drivers look for their first career victories at the High Line in the OSCAAR series. Pit gates open at 1pm, with spectator gates commencing business at 5pm, and green flag slated to drop at 6:30pm sharp. This will prove to be a can't miss event !!!