By T.J. Buffenbarger
Early in 2018 Ohsweken Speedway owner Glenn Styres and general manager Clinton Geoffrey were making plans for the upcoming 2018 racing season. When news came that Ohsweken would be losing access to most of the land they were using to park cars and campers for the 2018 season it put the future of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals and the track’s World of Outlaws series dates in doubt.
Both events were initially cancelled, but as series put our schedules TBA’s and dates at Ohsweken in September where the Nationals fell on the schedule. As the season progressed Ohsweken announced they had acquired land over by turn three of the facility and turned that it along with some land across the street from the north side of the facility into additional parking and camping. While the World of Outlaws were not an option for 2018 the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals would take place.
It was the most trying season in the track’s history. With the land issues, Styres suffering from lingering effects of a pair of concussions dating back to a hard-crash last season, and new clay that was put on the facility early in the year that gave Ohsweken officials a lot of problems throughout the season.
Throughout the entire ordeal Geoffrey remained his energetic, positive self even thought the challenges seemed almost insurmountable. Nitro 54 Convince stepped up to help boost the Nationals purse back up to $10,000 to win and $1,000 to start in American funds after it appeared the event may have to take a severe pay cut due to the costs incurred to acquire the property for the parking and an abysmal trade rate with the American dollar (0.77). While several additional races like the Ohsweken Shootout, the Dave McCloud Memorial, and the Little feature are not part of Nationals weekend any longer I never heard complaints from the teams knowing what Ohsweken officials have managed to accomplish in the past six months.
In the end it was mid-September at Ohsweken with nearly 100 sprint cars on the grounds with 65 360 sprint car drivers from across the United States and Canada along with new crate division adding 30 cars to make Saturday’s Canadian Sprint Car Nationals finale an all sprint car program. The pits were full, the atmosphere was great, and the racing was tremendous. The weekend was everything you would expect from a Canadian Nationals other than the warmer than normal weather.
Things are looking good for the future at Ohsweken Speedway. Many of the capital improvements done over the past several seasons including a bathroom, souvenir, and concession building that’s among the best for any short track I’ve ever attended have raised the facility to a top notch, family friendly facility. The title sponsors for Ohsweken’s four weekly divisions are signed on for three more seasons each and it seems more teams find their way to Ohsweken to give sprint car racing a go each season.
If you look at Ohsweken, the crate division and Action Sprint Tour cultivating new talent, the Southern Ontario Sprints giving race teams options to compete on Saturdays and Sundays when Ohsweken is not racing, and the various other dates Empire Super Sprints and the Patriot Sprint Tour Sprint Car racing in Ontario is in a good place. It’s been exciting to witness steady growth and interest in Ontario’s sprint car racing scene over the past 14 years.
As the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals finale was lining up for driver introductions I was already making notes on things I would like to do to improve the 2019 coverage of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. For me the trip to Ohsweken is still exciting after 14 years, and I look forward to making it for years to come.
- Parker Price-Miller’s victory continued his remarkable bounce back tour after losing his ride with Destiny Motorsports. Price-Miller looked great at the Knoxville Nationals putting one of the Indy Race Parts cars in the Saturday finale and backed that up with his second Canadian Nationals title.
The Hills Racing team were not planning on fielding another entry until Price-Miller lost his ride with Destiny. Shortly after that plans began to be made and another car was being assembled in the team’s shop near Ohsweken Speedway.
Helping spin wrenches on Price-Miller’s car was Southern Ontario Sprints competitor and former KIDD Program participant Adam West. While engine issues sidelined West after only one start this season, he seemed excited before the race to be helping again on Price-Miller’s car. West’s endorsement is one I value, and he has nothing but glowing things to say about Price-Miller.
The Canadian Sprint Car Nationals is the most logistically challenging event for the Hill’s Racing Team. If you count all the cars fielded out of the Hills shop, some owned by other people, eight teams that touched Ohsweken soil during the Canadian Nationals. When considering the maintenance and logistical nightmares during the only time of year all the Hill’s teams are bound to the same destination and running out of the shop it’s a tremendous accomplishment to win despite everything that is going on.
- The number of multiple car teams in general at the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals was remarkable. Besides the effort out of the Hills shop track owner Glenn Styres had four entries for Mikey Kruchka, Holly Porter, and Dylan Westbrook along with a pair of crate sprint cars. The Burger Barn team fielded a four-car effort that even featured their own street sign. Several other teams had crate cars affiliated a 360 team or had multiple cars as well. Just a stroll through the pit area I counted eight teams that were affiliated or multiple car efforts.
- While Dustin Daggett kept his streak of making every Canadian Sprint Car Nationals feature alive on Saturday it was “Dain-O-Mite” Dain Naida that had the strongest effort from the mitten state putting his car in the pole dash and started in the first three rows of Saturday’s finale. The effort was Naida’s third start of the season for the Burger Barn Team due to being busy with both of his sons racing micro sprints.
- The biggest surprise on Saturday was Empire Super Sprints Jonathan Preston holding off Price-Miller and a host of others to score the pole position for the A-Main. I had joked that Preston didn’t cross my radar in any of the pre-race coverage on the site and I had to do some quick research. Unfortunately, Preston’s night ended after one lap of the A-Main when he hooked a bump in turn three and went for a scary front over back tumble into the fence in turn three. While the car was destroyed Preston emerged from his car uninjured.
- It appeared early on that Chuck Hebing might get his first Canadian Sprint Car Nationals victory until front end damage, a 360 spin, and rolling into the infield ended his run while pressuring Price-Miller for the lead. Hebing was impressive all weekend but can’t seem to shake his bad luck at Ohsweken.
- By all accounts Sam Hafertepe was the odds-on favorite to win the 2018 edition of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. After his win on Friday Hafertepe stressed the importance of starting in the first few rows of the main event, which held true as Hafertepe did not earn enough passing points among the transfer cars to make the pole dash and fell back on his fifth row starting spot earned by winning the preliminary feature. Hafertepe did make his way to the front, but eventually was shuffled out of podium finish late in the event.
- One year ago Steve Poirier was in the hospital following a grinding crash at the Canadian Nationals. This year Poirier used a late race charge to finish second. While Poirier indicated he likely wasn’t in position to challenge Price-Miller for a win even with more laps due to his car being good on short runs, the fuel stop with two laps to go actually helped the handling of his car with Poirier taking full advantage of the situation with his impressive late race surge.
- Speaking of fuel stops, Saturday’s was the first in the 14-year history of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals.
- While dates were not announced things appear to be on track for major events to return to Ohsweken in 2019. By all indications the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals seem likely to return and track officials are in communication with the World of Outlaws to hopefully find an open date for the series to return to Ohsweken.