Murray and Shepherd Land in Victory Lane
By Dave Vokey - Barrie Speedway would kick off the Victoria Day long weekend in fine style, as ideal weather conditions were forcast for the evening's racing card on Sat May 18, at the one third mile tri oval located on the 8th Line of Oro. The fortunate forcast would bring out legions of fans and drivers alike, to see and compete in Central Ontario's hottest on track racing action. The evenings big winners in the tracks featured Wahta Springs Late Model division, were #02 Shawn Murray of Alliston and #10 Gord Shepherd of Oro Station. For Murray, the win would be his first of 2013, after amassing an amazing 4 feature wins in his rookie campaign, while Shepherd continued a very impressive streak of 6 feature races with no worse than a 2nd place result, as the 2013 season approaches month number two at the High Line. Murray, would have to fight off very intense late race challenges from the duo of Shepherd and #57 Ron Quesnelle of Penetang in the first of twin 30 lap features, with the victory propelling the Alliston resident to a spot in the top 5 in the season long points standings. Meanwhile, Shepherd's win would further widen his point lead to 13 over Quesnelle as the first month of the season comes to a conclusion, with just another six points back to third place #14 "Hurricane" Thayne Hallyburton of Hillsdale.
The first 30 lap feature race would see outside pole sitter #74 Roy Manary of Gravenhurst gain the early lead, after getting the jump on #5 Mike Langley of Orr Lake from the drop of the green. Also in the mix early, was the duo of #24 Leonard Johnston of Bracebridge and #83 Ian Bourque of Newmarket, with Johnston snatching second from Langley, with an alert Bourque quick to follow into third. Approaching lap five is when Murray began to make his presence felt, disposing of Bourque for 3rd in the running order, after a hard fought two laps door handle to door handle. After an early caution, Manary would again find the point, this time from the inside line, with a game Johnston trapped to the high side, as the rookie sensation was passed by the stout Murray, who is campaigning an entirely different ride for the 2013 season himself. It would take Murray another two laps to run down leader Manary, with Murray executing a clean inside pass exiting corner 4 to take over the race lead on lap nine. Fast on the move towards the front of the field was the duo of Quesnelle and Shepherd, as the two longtime division veterans hooked up together on the top groove, to land themselves just outside the top 5, after starting 12th and 14th respectively.
Just past the midway point is when former track champs Quesnelle and Shepherd began to make their move, entering the top 5 past Bourque and the #54 Camaro SS of Randy Bull of Haliburton, while a little further up front Johnston would relieve Manary of second, with a clever move to the inside while racing down the backstetch. Manary, would then come under fire from Quesnelle and Shepherd, with Quesnelle's #57 Sunrise Toyota Camry completing an inside pass for 3rd exiting corner 2, with the crafty Shepherd able to follow that move one lap later. At the front of the field, Murray was holding a slim two car length lead in his Lake Simcoe Heating & Air/Flight Path Impala SS, with Johnston now under heavy fire from Quesnelle for 2nd, with the latter taking the spot after a solid 2 lap side by side battle. With the jockeying for positions going on in behind him, Murray was able to open up a 4 car length lead at the front of the pack with laps in the 14.9 second range, as Quesnelle checked comfortably into 2nd, with Shepherd now advancing to 3rd after getting past the 74 of Manary. Over the closing stages, Quesnelle would draw closer to the bumper of Murray, even getting to within a single car length of the leader, with Shepherd now also beginning to mount a challenge to the outside of Quesnelle for second. With 2 laps remaining, Shepherd would pull a nose in front of Quesnelle entering turn 1, setting the stage for a two car drag race towards the finish. As the battle for second raged on in behind him, Murray would again marginally stretch out his lead at the front of the pack, putting on a masterful drive, hitting all his marks along the way to eventually land in victory lane. Shepherd, would just edge Quesnelle at the stripe for 2nd, as rookie contender Johnston would record his 2nd top five of the season in finishing 4th, while Manary would notch a career best fifth place showing.
In the 30 lap finale to the evening it was #43 Darim Malcolm of North Bay who burst out to the early lead, with the fast two car duo of 2010 track champ #69 Al "Red Rocket" Inglis of Orillia and #91 Andre Pepin of Midland closely in tow, after that pair disposed of pole sitter Langley to check into 2nd and 3rd respectively. On lap 5, Inglis would have a look to the low side of leader Malcolm exiting turn 2, but was unable to make a pass stick. A little further in back of that battle, the action was hotly contested in the race for 4th, as the 10 of Shepherd would pass Johnston, with a nice low move along the backstretch. On lap 6, it was Inglis' turn to take over at the front of the field, as the wily veteran dove to the inside of Malcolm in turn 3, exectuing a cunning pass as sophmore sensation Pepin sat just 2 car lengths in behind, running in third place. The early laps along the top groove seemed to take its toll on the 91 of Pepin however, as he would drift high out of turn 4, allowing the 10 of Shepherd to slip past into 3rd, approaching the ten lap mark.
At the front of the field Inglis was firmly in control, holding a 2 car length lead over Malcolm, while a little further in behind there was a three car war for 4th place positioning , with the 57 of Quesnelle and 24 of Johnston locked in a side by side duel for that position, with Hallyburton tucked in behind, looking to enter the top five. Just past the midway mark, Shepherd would execute a bump and run type move on Malcolm out of turn two, taking over 2nd place, with leader Inglis now clear of that battle by five car lengths at the front of the field. The leaders would begin to come into lapped traffic approaching lap 20, with Shepherd pulling alongside leader Inglis and executing a brilliant outside pass on the exit of turn 2 on lap 21.. Once out front of the pack Shepherd's Waste Managment Sloutions/Montana's Cookhouse Fusion began to widen its lead with each passing lap, covering the tri oval in the 14.8 second range, as Inglis sat solidly in 2nd, with Malcolm another 3 lengths behind in 3rd. They would come to the line in this order, with Shepherd taking his third win of 2013. Inglis, would record a season best second place result, while Malcolm fresh of a six year hiatus from the speedway would round out the podium. Rising talent Hallyburton would record solid 4th finish in the caution free affair, whlie 2011 track champ Quesnelle would round out the fast five.
In Canestoga Sprayers and Asphalt Repair Thunder Car action, a familiar face would come home the victor, as #00 Darryl St. Onge of Barrie captured his second feature win in 3 weeks in his Pontiac Grand Prix. The race would begin with #16 Bryan Penny and #21 Bill Walt battling for the first two laps side by side, when Walt would find the point from the outside line, as the duo of #40 Donny Brandon of Barrie and St. Onge were also quick to shoot through along the top side, to check into 2nd and 3rd respectively. On lap 5, Brandon would take over the race lead, with an inside move on Walt in turn 3, also opening up the necessary room for St. Onge to take over runner up positioning. Brandon's time at the front would be short lived however, as St. Onge would power out front on the high side between turns 1&2, with a hard charging #10 Rick Walt also having a brief look at a three wide move past Brandon exiting turn 2. Making a charge towards the front of the pack was last season's rookie of the year #39 Travis Hallyburton of Hillsdale, as the promising upstart would pass Bill Walt for 5th, with a nifty low move in turn 4.
At the front of the field St. Onge appeared to be untouchable, completing laps in the 15.5 sec. range, checking out on Brandon by five car lengths, with the latter still fending off a staunch challenge to the outside from the 10 of Walt. On lap 16, Hallyburton would get under Walt between 3&4 in the race for third place, with Hallyburton finally working his way past entering turn 3 on the next lap. The race's first caution would appear one lap later, when rookie Penny spun in turn four, thus wiping out the large lead St. Onge had built up at the front of the field. Once again, St. Onge would break out on the restart from the 40 of Brandon, pulling out to a 3 car length advantage, while the best battle on track was the race for 5th, as #12 Jim "Polish Prince" Belesky would file past #37 Robbie Sikes to take that position. A late race caution would fly on lap 25, when #44 Dave "The Deuce" Doucette would inadvertantly run up on the 10 of Walt between turns 1&2, with Walt sent for a spin and both drivers summoned to the rear of the field as involved cars. St. Onge, would appear to be a man on mission on this night, with the 2009 track champ proving flawless on restarts, powering past Brandon once again, as Hallyburton would take advantage of St. Onge's momentum to slip into 2nd. Hallyburton, would marginally cut into the St. Onge lead over the duration, but was unable to mount much of a challenge, as St. Onge would cruise to the victory by 3 car lengths at the stripe. Hallyburton, would cap off a solid point night in finishing 2nd, as Doucette, Belesky, and Walt would comprise the remainder of the top 5.
Heat wins went to #55 Shawn Goggins with a pair, Hallyburton, and Belesky.
In the 20 lap St.Onge Recreation Pure Stock Main it was #77 Mike Gettliffe who brought hid SMK Automotive/TSS Top Shopps Dodge Neon to victory lane. Gettliffe, would have to fend off late race challenges from the duo of #10 Doug Butler of New Lowell and defending track champ #9 Charlie Smith of Orillia, as those two drivers waged an all out war for 2nd place in the late going, exchanging that position on sucessive laps at one point. Butler, would eventually nip Smith at the line for 2nd, as Getliffe a former competitor in the Thunder Car ranks drove with materful precision en route to taking his 2nd feature win since his return to the Pure Stock division at the midway point of last season. Butler, would take over the point lead with a workmanlike runner up effort, while Smith #57 Ryan Toon and #09 Dean Curry rounded out the top 5.
Heat race wins went to Butler and Curry with a pair each.
PIT NOTES --------------- A number of few faces continue to appear at the High Line as #27 Sam Reckzin of North Bay would take to the track in the Wahta Springs Late Models. Reckzin, who last competed in 1999 at the now defunct North Bay Speedway finished impressively on the lead lap in both 30 lap feature races, keeping a clean car under him all night long while racing amongst some of the best shoes in the province. The new faces would not end there however, as #2 Tom Woods and #67 Rick Santiago would make there first Barrie starts in the Thunder car ranks, but unfortunately each would encounter mechanical difficulties in heat races, ending any chance at making the start in the 30 lap main. In the Pure Stock division #83 Sean Sikes of Sault Ste. Marie would debut a Ford Probe in the class,with the car being a former Laird Speedway Championship car. It will be interesting to see how it might progress in the coming weeks in the hands of rookie Sikes. Be sure to join us this coming Sat May 25 when all three divisions are back in action. as well as a visit from the Ontario Legends Series who brought 18 cars strong to their opening event