As the days continue to countdown heading into Sunset Speedway’s Spring Derby 100 presented by Great Lakes Concrete, the anticipation is high heading into the season. One of the most highly anticipated divisions is the Limited Late Models due to the caliber of drivers registered this year and the fact that the season will kick off with a 100 lap feature on Saturday May 3rd (rain-date May 4th).
Defending series champion Mike Bentley is not registered yet per Sunset Speedway’s website, however was at the track on Sunday practice. Bentley won the championship last year with two feature wins and 13 top 10s over the course of the season. Certainly if Bentley returns, he will be one of the drivers to watch when it comes to the action on track.
Everybody will have their eyes on Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame member Tom Walters. Walters has 30 championships at the short track level and is always in contention to win every year. Who can forget his performance at the 2013 Velocity 250 where he won the 75 lap feature after having to run the b-main due to missing qualifying? Certainly adding his three feature wins from last year to the equation also easily explain why you can never count him out.
Another driver to watch is Dwayne Baker as Baker is another driver that always runs upfront on a weekly basis. Baker had a solid season last year at Sunset with a feature win and four heat wins on his way to finishing top-five points. Baker won the Barrie Speedway Championship two years ago and is hoping to win at Sunset Speedway title to be one of a few that has a title at both tracks in northern Ontario.
There is also no way that you can keep Billy Zardo out of this discussion. The third generation driver had a break-out season last year with a pair of feature wins, including his first after a thrilling duel with Mike Bentley in the final laps. Known as a consistent driver, look for Zardo to be consistent throughout the year and possibly score his first championship in his third late model season.
Speaking of race winners from last season, it was Jason Witty that took home the most feature checkered flags last year with a total of five. However, three wrecks and two nights with motor problems resulted in Witty not having the best finish overall in points. If Witty can avoid the bad luck, he certainly has the speed to perform up front throughout the whole season.
Last year, Sunset Speedway featured seven different Late model feature winners over the season in the 15 events. Even though there’s only 12 scheduled events this year, the number could be matched or even topped simply by who is on the entry list for the season.
A pair of Sunset regulars didn’t win races last season and there’s no doubt they’re both are chomping at the bit to get back to victory lane – Chris Morrow and Taylor Holdaway. Morrow had the worst luck, perhaps, of any driver last year, and came close to winning a couple times but didn’t score a feature victory. No doubt the seven-time champion is looking to change that this year. On the flip side, Holdaway struggled the beginning of last year but seemed to find his groove as the year went. With a new car under his belt, look for Holdaway to get back to victory lane and have a solid season as he searches for his first championship.
Scott Beatty should be put on the list of drivers to watch as he contended for feature wins last year on his way to four feature top-five finishes.
Another driver to watch will be Nick Goetz. Goetz made the switch to Sunset from Sauble Speedway mid-season last year and got stronger as the year went on with five top-1o finishes. With a new car under his belt that looked pretty speedy during testing, Goetz could be the driver to sneak in and grab the championship – or at least a couple feature victories over the season.
Speaking of Goetz, he still has his car from last year and it will be kept as his back-up car should something unfortunate happen. However for the first two weeks of the season, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series regular Jason Hathaway will be behind the wheel in search of a victory.
Brittney Gresel has announced her intentions to run the full schedule as she makes the switch from Sauble Speedway to Sunset Speedway for 2014. Gresel was strong at the Velocity 250 invitational, leading 14 of the 15 laps in the B-main.
There will also be some new faces this year that everybody will be keeping their eyes on as three drivers have made the switch from Barrie Speedway – Ron Quesnelle, Thayne Hallyburton and Travis Hallyburton.
Quesnelle had a successful season last year at Barrie, finishing second in points. He also had success at Sunset in the past – on the old configuration. Can Quesnelle be successful this year on the new configuration with a new car?
Thayne also had a successful season last year at Barrie, finishing third in points with eight feature victories. The Hillsdale, Ontario native is working with Kyle Baker, who has led Dwayne to lots of success. With a new Port City chassis and Baker’s help, Thayne may take his success to a new track.
Travis had a successful season in the Thunder Car ranks at Barrie, finishing fourth in points and scored the victory in the Garry Reynolds Memorial. This year, it’ll be interesting to see how Travis adapts to the Late Model and a new home track.
Travis will be joined on track by fellow rookies Kyle Passer, Paul Maltese and Steven Wilson. Kyle Passer steps down from the OSCAAR Super Late Model ranks in search of some success, while Maltese is moving up from the Super Stock ranks. Maltese had a successful season last year scoring three heat wins in super stock competition. Wilson is also making the move up from the Super Stock ranks after a successful season last year that saw him score 13 top 10 finishes.
He’s no fresh face, but Sean Cronan makes his return to Limited Late Model competition after running a limited OSCAAR Super Late Model schedule last year. Cronan has had success in LLM at Sunset as he won the 2011 McColl Racing Enterprises Pro Shootout Championship.
Tyler Liscum may also be a face to watch. Liscum is registered for both Late Model and Super Stock and was testing both during pre-season testing. Liscum bought the car previously piloted by Dwayne Baker to success at Sunset and Barrie so without a doubt, Liscum could be one to watch.
Well this is a sneak peak as to who to watch for the championship, there are plenty of others to watch when it comes to the Spring Derby 100. With it being an invitational and no other Limited Late Model tracks stating their season yet, look for non-regular drivers to be in attendance.
Sauble Speedway competitor Joshua Stade announced his intentions to compete, as well as Pro Late Model Velocity 250 winner Ryan Kimball. Kimball spent most of last year helping fellow competitors and not behind the wheel, however is a talented driver behind the wheel with a lot of success in his back pocket from running Kawartha Speedway on Friday nights.
There are many other drivers that could’ve been added to this list and discussed looking at the Sunset roster so without a doubt, make sure you attend Sunset Speedway this year and keep up on the action.