In May of 2009, a new ownership group took over Sunset International Speedway, in hopes of bringing forth strong weekly racing, as well as special events in the future. Part of the process in building up the 1/3 mile was an extensive face lift that was conducted during the 2009/2010 off-season to extend the track slightly, add more banking in the corners, resurface the track and add a pit road in the infield in hopes of attracting travelling series.
The hard work put in by the staff has been recognized throughout the Ontario racing community, with the 1/3 high-banked mile boosting the highest car count for any asphalt track in Ontario.
Everything all came together as last week, it was announced the Sunset Speedway will host a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series date. The inaugural Leland Industries 300 presented by Johnsonville is the second race of the schedule for the Canadian Tire Series, set to take place on Saturday, June 20th.
“We’re really excited about it,” Sunset Speedway General Manager Mark Dilley told OnPitRoad.com. “It’s exciting to see the pieces come together. It’s something that we’ve been working for the past couple of years. We also already have a sponsor for it – it’ll be the Leland Industries 300 presented by Johnsonville, which is great. It should be a good show.”
It was also announced that Sunset Speedway will be NASCAR sanctioned for the upcoming season, with their drivers eligible for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series points fund.
“Anytime you can associate yourself with the NASCAR brand, it’s huge,” Dilley commented. “I saw that myself with NASCAR taking over CASCAR. I think it’s going to be really great for the drivers as it’s good for attracting sponsors, and it gives them a bigger point fund. With the caliber of drivers that we have at Sunset Speedway, there’s a good chance that someone in the late model division could take home an extra $25,000, which is huge.
Sunset Speedway has been asking for a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series date the past four years, but was denied each year with Barrie Speedway having territorial rights due to being only approximately an hour north and having NASCAR sanctioning.
“They said that if something happened they would give us a call,” Dilley notes.
The door of opportunity opened up as it was announced mid-January that Barrie Speedway was sold to new ownership and would be tore down to make room for the Boots & Hearts Music Festival.
“It’s unfortunate that Barrie closed, as it was a great track and I used to be a part of it, but it brings forth this opportunity,” Dilley continued. “They kept to their word and gave us a call, which I respect a lot. It’s nice to see them stick by their word.”
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series is famous for putting on close side-by-side racing at any track they got to, with close finishes right to the line, and Sunset Speedway should be no exception. The track produces side-by-side racing on any given week, with the Sauble Falls Late Models running three-wide at times and the Graham Landscape Mini Stocks going five-wide at times, as well.
“It should be a really good race,” Dilley commented. “The fans are going to be in for a good show. As you see any given week, we’re have side-by-side racing all around the whole oval. There’s two grooves that you can easily run. It should be really exciting.”
The NCAT event marks the topper on a top-notch schedule that Sunset Speedway staff has produced for the year.
“It’s one of the biggest schedules that I think we’ve ever put together,” Dilley said. “We’ve got five OSCAAR events, the Pro Challenge Series, Vintage Modifieds, TQ Midgets – lots going on through the summer. It’s going to be a busy, but fun year.”
The weekly racing should once again be top-notch, as well, with about 140 drivers currently registered on the roster across the four divisions.
“There’s a lot of talent in the divisions – we’ve seen that over the past couple of years,” Dilley said. “With Barrie closing and those guys coming, like Gord Shepherd and Rick Walt, it’s only going to make that deeper. The fans are going to get really good racing on any given week. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
The Mini Stock Division saw over 50 drivers register, which has brought forth the decision to split the division into two – the Mini Stocks, and the Mighty Minis. The Mini Stock division will remain as it is, while the Mighty Minis “will be for those inexperienced drivers, as well as those who are just looking to have some fun”.
Also, with going sanctioned, Dilley has stated that there is discussions of possibly going to double features for the Late Models to allow them maximum opportunity to gain points.
“I’m going to discuss things with the drivers at the end of the month and see what they have to say,” he said. “Nothing is definite but it’s part of discussions. I’m looking at possibly nine double features, and a 75-lap feature.”
Beyond being part of the management staff at Sunset Speedway, Dilley is a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series driver himself and will be returning to the series once again in 2015, splitting the schedule wtih Kerry Micks. The pair have split the schedule over the past couple of seasons, with Dilley running the ovals while Micks runs the road courses.
So when the series comes to Sunset, Dilley will be one of the drivers in the field, vying for the chance to win the inaugural event at his track.