By Dean Reynolds
GRANBY, QC- The first annual Can-Am Challenge at Autodrome Granby kicked off Friday night with two 15 lap preliminary feature events that were captured by Belleville, Michigan’s Dain Naida and Bixby, Oklahoma’s Shane Stewart. Not only did they collect $500 for their efforts by also guaranteed no worse than ninth and tenth place starting spot in Saturday night’s finale.
A large crowd came out to see some of the very best 360 sprint car drivers from four states and two Canadian provinces. They were rewarded with an action packed evening which wasn’t just on the track but in the air as well. A very fast track proved very challenging to many teams and with the all important guaranteed spots being offered, several sprinters ended up on their wings.
In the first 15 lap A-Main, it was a battle between teammates with Naida and Jamie Collard putting on a spirited battle. The two Ohsweken Speedway runners were found side by side several times in the closing laps.
By virtue of Steve Poirier scratching his pole starting spot re-injuring his knee, Jared Zimbardi inherited the pole starting spot. But, when the green lights were displayed it was the outside starting Naida claiming the lead. Third place starting Collard soon got by Zimbardi and the chase was on.
“I got a good start there at the beginning and my car just felt strong right from the start.” said the driver of the Townline Variety #07X. “I heard someone behind me and then I saw it was Jamie, I knew it was going to be a good race. Just on the those last few restarts I needed to come out of the start strong so I could stay out front. I’m glad it worked out, my first time in Quebec and I get a win.”
There was a late caution and while a second place runner would welcome such a sight, for Collard it hindered him. “My car just wouldn’t go on those restarts, just not sure why.” Said the Burford, Ont. pilot. “When we stayed green I could run up on Dain but it just didn’t work out. Hey, to finish second to your teammate is not all that bad.”
It the finish it was Naida three car lengths ahead of Collard with Zimbardi, Chris Jones and Quebec’s Patrick Vigneault taking fifth. The next five was made up of Mitchell Brown, Granby modified star Kayle Robidoux, Tyler Rand, Keith Dempster and Jason Barney.
In the second 15 lap A-Main it was Stewart going wire to wire in the Scott McClaren owned #21 to pick up his first ever victory on the province of Quebec. Stewart who is a multi-time ASCS National Tour champion won by a comfortable margin and guaranteed him at least the 10th place starting spot the next night.
“The crew gave me a good car tonight.” said Stewart. “I’m glad they did a good job working on the track during intermission, it was smoother and it was fast. I really didn’t lift the entire race. The guaranteed spot is nice in case something does happen, but the goal is tomorrow night.”
The second race got off to a wild start with fourth place starting Bryan Howland jumping a tire and going into a wild series of flips in turn one. While the car was heavily damaged he did walk away unharmed.
The second try to get the event going went smooth and while there wasn’t a battle for the lead in this event, there was some great racing going on behind the Oklahoma star.
Travis Cunningham, Alain Bergeron and Glenn Styres kept the crowd’s attention. Cunningham eventually opened up some distance with Bergeron and Styres side by side several times in the closing stages.
At the checkered flag, it was Stewart winning easily over Cunningham, Bergeron just nipped Styres at the line with Dale Gosselin taking fifth. The next five was made up of rookie Etienne Girard, Anthony Cain, Chris Durand, Southern Ontario Sprints President Mike Ferrell and 2010 Empire Super Sprint rookie of the year Matt Tanner.
Can-Am Challenge Night 1 Notes – A total of 27 sprints were in the pits on the chilly evening…Kevin Ward Jr., Cory Sparks and Lee Ladouceur all were flip victims during the preliminaries. Only Ward required medical attention but he was with his team by nights end…Poirier won his heat easily but his knee was too painful for the three time ESS champion to continue…Jake Langlois suffered magneto problems and was unable to answer the call for his A-Main.
NIGHT 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1 – Steve Poirier. Travis Cunningham. Chris Jones. Glenn Styres. Keith Dempster. Anthony Cain. Mitchell Brown. Kevin Ward Jr. Michael Parent.
Heat 2 – Shane Stewart. Jared Zimbardi. Bryan Howland. Kayle Robidoux. Dale Gosselin. Tyler Rand. Etienne Girard. Jason Barney. Chris Durand.
Heat 3 – Dain Naida. Alain Bergeron. Jamie Collard. Matt Tanner. Patrick Vigneault. Mike Ferrell. Lee Ladouceur. Cory Sparks. Jake Langlois.
A-Main 1 – Naida ($500). Collard. Zimbardi. Jones. Vigneault. Brown. Robidoux. Rand. Dempster. Barney. Did Not Start – Poirier. Ladouceur. Ward Jr. Langlois
A-Main 2 – Stewart ($500). Cunningham. Bergeron. Styres. Gosselin. Girard. Cain. Durand. Ferrell. Tanner. Parent. Howland. Did Not Start – Sparks
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