by Dave Vokey
In keeping with a season long trend, the weather was once again picture perfect for a thrilling night of on track action at Barrie Speedway on June 28. Once again the big winner on the night was a division rookie in the tracks featured Wahta Springs Late Model division, as #31 Rick Walt of Hawkestone captured both 30 lap feature races in the class to move into the division lead with 5 feature wins amassed in 2014, in what possibly could be the most successful rookie season in the track’s 50 year history. In the first feature, Walt would execute a clean outside pass on 3rd year competitor #91 Andre Pepin of Midland on the exit of turn two to take control inside of 5 laps remaining, while in the 30 lap finale to the evening, Walt was chased to the stripe every step of the way by former multi time Mosport Speedway Open Wheel Modified champ #12 Dwight Brown of Beeton. Heading into the Mid Season Championship which kicks off the month of July, defending track champ #10 Gord Shepherd of Oro Station holds a slender 16 point lead over Brown, with rookie contender #00 Darryl St. Onge of Barrie sitting in third, just 34 points behind the leader. Perhaps the tightest battles are in positions 4 through 6, as Pepin currently holds down 4th place just five points further in back of St. Onge and 39 behind leader Shepherd, while 2010 track champ Al Inglis rounds out the top 5 just 42 points out of the division lead. Despite the strong start to his season the hard charging Walt currently sits sixth, just three points out of top 5 positioning, after the driver would suffer some misfortune during the early part of June that resulted in a DNF. With the standings the closest they have been in recent years, it remains anyone’s guess just who will stake a claim to track supremacy in September as the season wraps up.
In the first of the twin 30 lap affairs, it was #24 Leonard “The Bandit” Johnston who took the initial lead after winning a tough two lap duel with pole sitter #5 Mike “The Hulkamaniac” Langley from the drop of the green. Quick to follow the Johnston progression on the outside line was the 91 of Pepin, as the talented pilot would check into 2nd in the early going with an outside pass of Langley in turn three. An early caution would appear on lap four, when #44 Rob Bromley of Orillia would get sideways in turn 4, making contact with the 12 of Brown who went for a spin, while St. Onge would tag the frontstretch wall on exit of four while trying to avoid the prone Brown ride. On the restart, Pepin would take over the point from Johnston and open up a 2 car length advantage from the outside line, while a little further in back Walt was beginning to make his presence felt, slipping inside #22 Taylor Holdaway for 3rd with an inside move in turn two. On lap 8, Walt would continue his charge towards the point, working inside of Johnston in turn 2 to take over runner up positioning, as an alert Holdaway would follow that pass one lap later to drop Johnston back to 4th in the running order.
Just shy of the midway point, a pair of veteran drivers were beginning to make noise, as Shepherd would dispose of Johnston for 4th, as Inglis would in turn follow that pass to enter top 5 positioning, with a clean low move in turn four. At this point in the race leader Pepin was still looking calm and collected, holding a 4 car length lead over Walt as the duo were clicking off laps in the 15.1 second range, now holding a near half straightaway advantage over the third place car of Holdaway. On lap 24, the strong #31 Impala SS of Walt would pull even with Pepin, as the two drivers waged a solid two lap dice for the race lead, with not as much as a rub between them. On lap 26, Pepin would just wash up the track ever so slightly in turn two, with Walt diving down towards the inside line and powering into the race lead. Over the duration, Walt was able to open up a two car length lead over the game Pepin, as Walt would cruise to victory from there, taking the win by those same two car lengths over Pepin at the finish. #22 Taylor Holdaway would match a season and career best at Barrie in coming home third, while Shepherd and Inglis would comprise the remainder of the top 5.
In the 30 lap finale to the evening, it was the 5 of Langley who broke out front early, after going wheel to wheel with the 24 of Johnston from the onset, while wily veteran #49 “Flyin” Frank Davey sat comfortably in the pocket in third, looking for any type of slip up from the lead duo. Just a few laps in the car to watch was the 12 of Brown, as the veteran driver would slip inside the 00 of St. Onge in turn two to wrestle away third, as St. Onge now found himself trapped to the high side, and was in turn passed by the duo of Walt and Shepherd. On lap 9, the positions continued to change near the front of the pack as Johnston would drift high out of turn 2, allowing Davey the opening he needed to take 2nd place. The strong run near the front would come to an abrupt end for Johnston when he and the 91 of Pepin would get hooked together while racing out of turn 4, as both drivers slowed on track leaving the 10 of Shepherd and 22 of Holdaway nowhere to go but pile into the melee, as all four drivers would be able to continue but would have to assume their spots at the rear of the field as involved cars. On the restart, Langley would still be holding a slight advantage over the 49 of Davey who made slight contact with Langley’s right rear while racing into turn three. The result would send Davey for a spin, as an alert job was done by the field in behind who scrambled to avoid the prone Davey ride.
This turn of events would bring the staunch 31 of Walt to Langley’s outside for the restart, which again wouldn’t go well when Langley would go for a lazy spin in turn two while trying to match the advances of Walt who was beginning to break out to a marginal advantage while running the outer groove. The result would again catch up the 10 of Shepherd, as the current point leader would make contact with Langley’s Dodge Charger, again the victim of nowhere to go. This series of mid race cautions would set the stage for a Walt/Inglis battle from the front row, as Walt would soon find the point, relegating Inglis to second, with St. Onge making his way to third inside of Davey who was now trapped to the high side himself, as the 12 of Brown and 10 of Shepherd would also work their way past the former 4 time track Thunder Car champ. On lap 16, St. Onge would move to 2nd inside of Inglis out of turn 2, with Inglis then slowing on track and losing several more positions along the way, eventually come to a halt in turn 3 to bring out the race’s fourth and final caution period. Once again it was Walt who found the front on the ensuing restart, as Brown would slip inside St. Onge for 2nd with an inside pass midway down the backstretch, with Shepherd who was also back near the front following through to claim third. On lap 22, the positions would continue to change, as the 22 of Holdaway had now entered the top 5, passing Davey along the high side entering turn one. Holdaway, would continue to search for the front, as the driver would look to the inside of St. Onge in an attempt to take over 4th but would inadvertantly run up over the curbing in turn one, as St. Onge executed a remarkable save and was able to maintain the position despite the contact from Holdaway. On the last lap, the duo would once again tangle in turn three while racing to the stripe, with the result being severe damage to the St. Onge ride who limped to the checkered. Once out front as has been proven on multiple occasions this season the 31 of Walt would prove difficult to catch let alone pass, as that scenario would once again play out here, with Walt capturing his 2nd feature win of the evening by 4 car lengths over Brown at the checkered. Despite some early misfortune, Shepherd would cap off a solid point night with a third place showing, while Holdaway, and Ingils would round out the fast five.
In Triple Sick Skin Tattoo Thunder Car action, it was the current point leader #00 Luke Gignac of Port McNicholl who went to victory lane in the 30 lap main. The win for Gignac, marks his 4th feature victory of 2014 in just 7 starts, as the longtime division veteran looks to be on track for his best career point finish in 2014, after a third place achieved 10 seasons ago. The race would begin with #83 Johnny Morrison taking the lead from pole position, as #37 Robbie Sikes and #11 Adam Misener would check into 2nd and 3rd respectively in the early going. On lap 3, it was #55 Shawn Goggins who took over 3rd with an inside pass on Misener in turn 3, with Gignac following through into 4th after starting 8th on the grid. Just two laps later, Goggins would continue to move forward, working inside of Sikes in turn 3 to advance to runner up positioning, with Gignac again following that pass to drop Sikes to 4th in the running order. Sikes, would soon find himself locked in a duel for that position too, as #12 Rick Walt was fast on the move towards the front, eventually taking over 4th place with a clean low move in turn three.
The first caution would fly on lap 11, as visiting driver #27 Matt Bentley would hit the turn 4 wall after suffering a broken driveshaft, setting the stage for a Morrison/Goggins battle from the restart. When the race went green it was the promising young Morrison who again found the point, as Gignac would move to the inside of Goggins for 2nd, with two time division champ Walt moving to third in the Beleskey #12 Malibu. Gignac, would catch up with leader Morrison on lap 15 and give him a slight nudge outta turn four, but Morrison would hold firm, showing a calm above his years in just his fourth career Barrie start. Gignac, would eventually pull along the top side of promising upstart Morrison, and execute a silky smooth outside pass entering turn three to assume control of the race lead. Gignac, would pull away by a half straightway over Morrison over the duration with laps in the 15.8 second range, with Morrison doing everything he could do to fight off the challenge of Walt for second. Gignac, would take the win in convincing fashion, with Morrison recording a career best 2nd, as Walt, Goggins, and #21 Desi Walt rounded out the top five.
Earlier heat wins went to Gignac and Morrison with a pair each.
In the St. Onge Recreation Pure Stock division, a season high 28 cars would align the field for the 25 lap feature, as #400 Justin Holmes of Innisfil went to victory lane for the first time in 2014, after a strong 2013 campaign that saw the driver record multiple feature wins . The race would begin with #18 Tim Gagne working his way to the front from the outside pole position, as #88 Jeremy McLean was quick to follow and check into 2nd around #4 Barrie Moore, with #24 Rick Butler and #06 Ryan Hardy also looking to follow the McLean move to enter top 3 positioning. McLean, would snatch the lead from Gagne on lap 2 around the outside line bewteen turns 3&4, with Butler and Hardy also following through to drop Gagne back to fourth. On lap 8, the car to watch became the defending track champ #77 Mike Gettliffe as the talented wheelman would work to the inside of #28 JP Rosevear in turn one to advance inside the top 5, as the three car train of McLean, Butler, and Hardy began to break away from the pack at the front of the field, breaking out to a half straightaway advantage on the action in behind them.
The first caution would fly on lap 13, when the third place car of Hardy would hit the outside wall on the exit of turn four and get crossways, as the 77 of Gettliffe would catch a piece of the action on the way past as both drivers were summoned arrears as involved cars for the restart. The top 5 at this point would now consist of, leader McLean, Butler, #63 Jaime Cairns, Holmes, and Rosevear. On the restart, McLean and Butler would have an impressive dice for the race lead, when Butler would slip back into the clutches of Cairns for 2nd, as Cairns woud make the pass along the inside of turns 1&2. On lap 16, Cairns would run up on the leader McLean, and as he would attempt an inside pass midway down the backstretch contact was made between the pair, as McLean went for a spin, with the former lead duo now having to take to rear of the field for the restart, now with under half the race remaining. This turn of events would put the ever stout 400 Mustang of Holmes to Butler’s outside for the restart, as Holmes would power into the lead on the outside of turns 1&2, as #68 Brandon Crumbie was quick to follow with #10 Doug Butler and #57 Ryan Toon also in the mix. and looking to advance further towards the front. Over the duration Holmes would drive with a impressive amount of consistency, hitting all his marks along the way while running laps in the 16.4 second range, recording the win by a couple car lengths over Crumbie at the checkered. Point leader Butler would come to the line in 3rd, as Gettliife and Toon would round out the top 5.
Heat wins went to Doug Butler with a pair, Gettliffe, Toon, McLean, and #09 Dean Curry.
PIT NOTES ———————————————– A number of new faces continued to roll through the pits as #41 Connor James and #35 Chance Isherwood would make their first starts of the season in the St. Onge Recreation Pure Stock ranks, with James a former Junior Late Model champ turning twin 4th place heat results in impressive fashion, despite having to pull off in the feature with mechanical difficulty with 9 laps remaining. Isherwood, a former division champ at Kawartha Speedway would turn in a 17th place feature showing, while keeping a clean car under him the entire evening in debuting his Mustang at Barrie for the first time. In keeping with the Pure Stocks, current Barrie point leader #10 Doug Butler would turn in an impressive showing at a recent Peterborough Speedway invitational, coming home 2nd in the 30 lap feature, thus earning valuble outside pole positioning for Autumn Colors in October. In the Thunder Car ranks, #27 Matt Bentley of Guelph would debut his brand new McColl chassis turning in twin 4th place finishes. Bentley, brother of former two time Garry Reynolds Memorial winner Mike, would suffer some misfortune come feature time, breaking a driveshaft and hitting the turn 4 wall causing right rear cosmetic damage to the right rear of the car, thus bringing his evening to an early end. Be sure to join us this week for Mid Season Championship Night, as twin 50 lap features for the Wahta Springs Late Models are the featured event, with the Thunder Cars and Pure Stocks also taking to the track for extra distance events.. Pit Gate opens at 2pm, with spectator gates opening at 5pm and green flag slated to drop at 6:30pm sharp!! With the long standing of Mid Season bragging rights on the line THIS WILL PROVE TO BE A CAN’T MISS EVENT!!!