Mini Stocks. Known to most as the starter division and not the most exciting, the complete opposite could be said when you watch the competition level. Some of the most experienced drivers will be gracing the 3/8 mile known as Sunset Speedway this year. Beyond that, as they have done in years, the races should be exciting as there will definitely be some three, four-wide action for every fan.
Last year, Warren Paxton took home his first championship after scoring five feature wins and 12 heat wins over the course of the season. Paxton has the same Honda underneath him and has been consistent over his career, scoring three feature wins in 2012 and five feature wins in 2011. Based on the speed seen during pre-season testing, expect Paxton to contend for the title this year.
2012 Mini Stock Champion Eric Yorke will be back this year, hoping to repeat his championship glory once again. Oddly enough, Yorke did not win a single feature last year after scoring four feature wins during his championship season. Still, Yorke had a great year last season as he finished third in points with eight feature top-fives and eight heat wins. Look for Yorke to get back to victory lane this year and contend for the championship.
Since the Mini Stocks debuted at Sunset Speedway in 2002, only two drivers have become repeat champions – Colt Carcone and Doug Butler. In both cases, notably, the drivers won the titles back to back. With that said, history is on our side for a new face to win the title and with this year’s talented batch of drivers, it’s easily possible.
After buying Darryl Fice’s championship car, Miles Tyson ran two races near the end of last year and impressed with a pair of feature top-fives. Look for Tyson to be quick this season and pick up his first career feature victory.
Following a highly successful Late Model career, Andy Kamrath is jumping behind the wheel of a Mini Stock this coming season. Known as ‘The Instant Classic’, he has the talent to do well as he had four feauture top-fives last year in the late model division. Kamrath is expected to have a fast car underneath him as he is running as a teammate to Paxton for the upcoming season. It’d be no surprise if Kamrath won early in the season and won the championship.
After running half of Sunset Speedway’s schedule last season, Brandon McFerran is on board for the full schedule this upcoming season as he searches for his first championship. McFerran certainly has the speed to do it as he won four features and 12 heat races last season.
Samantha Shaw ran a partial schedule at Sunset Speedway, running on nights that Flamboro Speedway’s Mini Stock division wasn’t running. Based on her experience, she is making the switch for 2014 and will be running Sunset’s full schedule this coming season. The University student had success last year, scoring five feature top-10s and five heat wins. Look for Shaw to make her way into feature victory lane at some point this year.
She’ll be joined at Sunset Speedway on a full-time basis by her young Spira Racing teammate Jake Watson. At the age of 11 last year, Watson made his debut at Flamboro Speedway and had success as he picked up his first heat win. Watson looks to translate that into success at Sunset Speedway this year and has a good shot at doing so as he continues to improve with more laps on track.
When you’re taking a look at Spira Racing, you cannot ever overlook Billy Swartzenburg. Swartzenburg will be running his ‘tour of the tracks’ schedule this year, hitting up as many different tracks as possible to test his skills. Last year’s tour turned out successful as he scored multiple feature wins across Ontario, including a pair at Sunset Speedway.
Last year, Kendra Adams made her rookie debut and got stronger throughout the season, including 10 heat top-five finishes and a b-main feature win at Sauble Speedway. Adams may miss opening night due to engine issues during practice, however expect the second-generation driver to score her first heat win this season.
Other sophomore drivers to watch will be Steve Belanger and Shawn Gerrior as they both were fast throughout the season last year on their way to successful seasons, as well.
Last year, Love had a solid season that led him to finishing sixth in points as he was consistent throughout the whole year. Expect Love to be just as consistent this year, and pick up that checkered flag that eluded him last season.
Another consistent driver to watch will be Terry Woodley as he finished fifth in points with three feature top-10s and 12 heat top-fives.
Each time Tyler Johnston is on track, he is fast and this year should be no exception so expect Johnston to pick up a couple heat wins and possibly his first feature win.
When Dan Britt was running at Sunset Speedway weekly, he was one of those drivers that you had to always watch as he was fast. If Britt comes out to play this year – full-time or part-time – keep an eye on him.
Rory Collett’s last season at Sunset Speedway in 2012 marked a successful season with three feature top-fives and six heat wins. Collett is registered for the 2014 season and if he returns, keep your eye on him.
2011 Mini Stock Champion Nicole Podewils has registered for the 2014 season. She ran a partial schedule last year, scoring a feature win. Keep an eye on her mustang as she normally gets it hooked up and ready to go.
Another female competitor that has been made gains with each season on the track is Wendy Adams as she got faster with each lap that she made. Keep an eye on her to see whether the improvements continue, but also for reasons beyond simply competing on track. Adams is looking to raise awareness about mental health issues with her racing efforts, carrying a couple special organizations on her mustang.
When it comes to Mini Stock competition, rookies are always a batch that you should keep your eye on as it’s the beginning of the next generation of talent and sometimes they can surprise you off the bat.
One driver that could surprise this season is Jordan Howse as he was quick throughout testing on the weekend and looked to already begin to get a handle on the track. A pair of multi-generation drivers to watch are Gerritt Tiemersma and Lauren Halliday. With each lap they made during practice, they continued to get quicker and show more speed. As they both grow comfortable, they could begin contending for their first career heat wins.
Other rookies registered include Connor James, Dave Middle, Parker Traves, Chandler Bos, Jerry Noble, Treyten Lapcevich, Steve Love, Thomas Dunn, Stefan Woyslaw and Nic Montanari.
The first event of the season – the Spring Derby presented by Great Lakes Concrete – marks an “invitational points” format in where registered cars score points, but everybody is open. With other tracks not opening their gates yet, expect some outsiders to show and throw their name into the mix. Some of the confirmed drivers so far on the list including Charlie Smith, Donovan Price, Willy Howells and Rob Gosse.
There are many other names that I could’ve discussed and certainly missed, however could not fit them all in trying to keep the article at a reasonable length for your reading pleasure. So with that said, be sure to head to Sunset Speedway this year and see all these talents for yourself.