TJ’s Notes from the 2010 Canadian Sprint Car Nationals

By T.J. Buffenbarger

  • Waking up last Saturday morning for the Arrow Express Canadian Sprint Car the abysmal forecast indicated the event may be plagued by rain. Shortly after lunch the sky became dark and a few sprinkles fell, but the skies cleared and sunshine appeared during the second half of the extensive technical inspection process. After clouds rolled in after the drivers meeting completed the skies cleared again and the program commenced with no interruptions by Mother Nature.
  • Shane Stewart joined Steve Poirier as the only two time winners of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. Both Stewart and Poirier accomplished this with back to back victories. It was only fitting that this duo of drivers put on what many considered to be the finest Saturday night feature event in the short history of the event. After a few early caution flags that negated the leaders catching slower traffic Stewart and Poirier exchanged slide jobs at each end of the race track for several laps just inches, and sometimes less, apart while navigating slower traffic that was racing for position two and three wide. The top five cars were relatively close to each other racing through traffic until Stewart’s car came in on a long run towards the end of the race and opened up just enough distance to separate himself from the battle for second between Poirier and Chuck Hebing.

    Stewart returned as the defending champion of the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals for a one-off ride with J.G. Motorsports as part of a two car team for the 2010 edition with J.G.’s regular driver Darren Long. The first time the car Stewart drove hit the race track was Friday at Ohsweken , amazing considering how J.G. Motorsports builds its own race car. Both Stewart and Long were impressive even though Stewart and Long preferred completely different feels for the race car. At one point the team had a difference of 4” of stagger between the two cars to get both drivers comfortable.

  • Tom Huppunen and Poirier won awards for fastest and highest finishing Canadian respectively. Huppunen went over a wheel and hit the wall with the back of the car and as done for the night. Could be the last ride in the 12 car as car owner Fred Cade is likely retiring at the end of the season.
  • One of the best preliminary races of the night involved track owner Glenn Styres and Justin Barger during the sixth heat race. Styres and Barger swapped the lead back and forth for five laps before Barger slid up to take away Styres line and the victory. Styres was still grinning ear to ear after the feature while recalling his preliminary feature with Barger.
  • Ryan Grubaugh’s championship hopes with the Engine Pro ASCS Sprints on Dirt presented by ARP nearly took a major hit when Grubaugh’s hauler was cited for improper licensing in Michigan. Grubaugh got the paperwork straightened out in time to arrive on Saturday for the Nationals and made a big run in his heat race to qualify for the feature.
  • Several of the major contenders on Saturday stumbled during the preliminary events.

    Jessica Zemken appeared to be driving at another level of confidence all weekend with new crew chief Mike Woodring at the helm. Zemeken won the Ohsweken Shootout, the Dave McCleod Memorial Race, and finished second in her preliminary feature on Friday. Saturday though after not transferring through an extremely competitive heat race Zemken had to transfer to the B-Main. Zemke made the best of the situation and charged from 19th to 4th I the feature event.

    Woodring recently took Zemken on a tour to several Midwest facilities that she had never seen to help her gain some more experience before coming back East. Plans are for Zemken to compete in the area for the next several weeks before heading to the Southwest to end the 2010 season.

    After impressive showings throughout the weekend Dustin Daggett, a driver that several people picked to win the Nationals, and Darren Long tangled in turn one with Long flipping and Daggett having a flat tire. Due to not having a work area in the preliminary events Daggett had to come through the B-Main and Long was finished for the evening. Even with a guaranteed stating spot in the feature Daggett raced his way up to a transfer spot during the B-Main and charged from 23rd to fifth in the feature Daggett indicated that the car did not feel right during the B and A main events.

    In what could be a poster child moment for proponents of the ASCS 360 sprint car engine a majority of Daggett’s wins in the 360 sprint car division this season were accomplished utilizing a five year old engine including both of his wins at Ohsweken Speedway. Crew member Tom Daggett indicated the team plans on freshening that motor and using again in 2011.

  • Wayne Johnson was on hand visiting Ohsweken with wife Erin while recovering from a major foot and ankle injury. Johnson reports he was way ahead of schedule and was on crutches, but wearing a regular shoe. Johnson even managed to give wife Erin a ride in the two seat sprint car. After the test run Johnson indicated he would be ready to compete for the Mills Hill owned team at the World Finals in Charlotte, North Carolina with the World of Outlaws and the later season west coast races with the ASCS Lucas Oil National Tour.
  • Dain Naida had his motor expire after qualifications on Saturday and changed engines and ended up with the pole position for the main event. Unfortunately a broken nose wing hindered Naida’s chances and dropped him back through the field.
  • ASCS Patriot Sprint Region point leader and top Canadian Nationals competitor Bryan Howland’s weekend came to an abrupt end when his right rear wheel broke and he flipped into the wall in turn four. Howland emerged from the car under his own power, but suffered a separated shoulder and a broken tibia. Howland had already secured the 2010 ASCS Patriot Series championship.
  • For the first time the Engine Pro ASCS Sprints on Dirt presented by ARP was the only ASCS affiliate on hand with a point race after the Canadian Nationals. The series concludes this coming Saturday at I-96 Speedway.
  • Chuck Hebing pulled into Ohsweken Speedway as the program was starting on Friday, opting to not compete in the preliminary program. The lack of track time Friday did not affect Hebing in his run to second in the main event. Lance Yonge also opted out of Friday’s program and ran up front for a majority of the event.
  • Jason Solwold and Randy Hannagan were surprisingly quiet throughout the weekend. Solwold was starting to make his way to the front during the feature when a mechanical issue ended his run while Hannagan scored the last possible starting spot for the main event by winning the “little” feature.
  • The Canadian Nationals always has a unique qualifying format. The 2010 edition continued that tradition by setting the heat race groups via pill draw and having each group of cars only qualify against themselves with the fastest driver in each heat race group drawing an inversion pill. Three six car inversions were pulled while the two, four, and zero car inversions were picked once. Then after standard heat race, B-Main, and affiliate series provisionals were filled the remaining cars had the option of running the “little” feature. However, the little feature was not so “little” with approximately 34 cars eligible to compete, with around 20 opting to do so.
  • Ohsweken Speedway Corr/Pak Sprint Car champion Dave Dykstra collected signatures on a top wing during the season for a donation to the Make a Wish Foundation. Dykstra presented a check to the organization before the Ohsweken Shootout for $5105.80. Unfortunately Dykstra pounded the wall in turn four with enough ferocity to tear the right front wheel off the car and shoot it into the infield.
  • World Racing Group employee and Canadian Roger Slack made his way over to Ohsweken for the weekend. While it was not Slack’s first visit to Ohsweken, it was his first Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. Slack actually messaged yours truly on Twitter during the Friday program to find out how close it was to feature time, and actually made it time to catch the twin 15’s.
  • Bill Oldroyd outdid himself again with his production of the 2010 Canadian Sprint Car Nationals yearbook. The full color program featured a fold out color photo section of the top stars from each affiliate series, feature stories, and other tidbits of information well worth the $5.00 price tag.
  • The dates are already set for the 2011 Canadian Sprint Car Nationals. Next year’s edition will fall on September 15th, 16th, and 17th with opening day at Ohsweken for weekly sprint car competition slated from May 20th.