Continuing to get stronger on a weekly basis, Robert Toope put together a solid season at Sunset Speedway en route to finishing seventh in the Signs of Innovation Mighty Mini standings.
“Looking back on 2016, it was a productive year,” Toope told Short Track Musings. “Our hopes were to finish top ten and to finish top seven. We were amazed to finish in the top seven. First three weeks were tough, but got a handle on things and settled in.”
As Toope noted, the first three weeks of the schedule didn’t go as planned with finishes outside of the top-15. However, in the pair of weeks which followed, he was able to post a pair of top-eight finishes. Notably, it seemed everything really started coming together on June 17 as Toope scored a fifth place finish. After following it up with three more top-nine performances, July 30 turned into a night to never forget.
Toope started off the night solidly, finishing third in his heat and third in the Dash for Cash.
Starting second in the feature, Toope put the No. 25 The Beach Bar and Grill, Trade Mark Signs, Rikota Mechanical, CCL Landscape Design, Auto Trim Barrie, The Tree Guys, Jimmy Sign (Adcon Enterprize), Revolution Tires, Highway 400 Transmission, The Stump King (Jim Herrington), Atkins Appliance, and South Bound Roofing in memory of Lloyd Robbins Mustang out front ahead of the field. He’d lead the early laps, including an impressive restart at Lap 3.
The whole feature wasn’t smooth sailing, though, as he lost the lead on a restart with 16 laps to go to Doug Wilman, dropping back to second. Toope wasn’t going to be denied, though, getting back alongside Wilman for the lead a lap later. Toope then retook the top spot on Lap 7 ahead of Wilman.
From there on, there was no stopping Toope as he led the rest of the way to the checkered flag.
“To get that first win felt amazing,” he said. “Something I will never forget. To race against a lot of young talent upcoming in our class and to be apart of such an organizational as NASCAR, it’s a thrill in itself to be part of.”
The mid-season swing came about as a result of working together with last year’s division runner-up Cameron McGlashan and Brian Walt.
“I think having Cam as a teammate and Brian Walt as my tire guy was incredible,” he said. “We learned so much about what tires meant, and the importance of tire management even in mighty mini stock. Having Cameron running Mini Stock and myself running Mighty Mini helped us set up the cars to run with others in our classes. I think we got a handle on things and end result meant we did our homework.”
Toope was able to post another pair of top-10s before the year closed out.
Now moving forward to 2017, Toope notes it’ll be a little tougher in having both divisions combined, noting one of the challenges will be having to race against McGlashan as a competitor.
“We have discussed this but getting the cars ready every week to race will be of the most important,” he said. “And that will come first . We will let the racing look after itself on the track.
“I think merging Mighty Mini and the Mini Stocks back together this year is going to be tougher on Sunset Speedway . Not only merging two divisions together, but there’re tire rules and engine rules has to be looked at. I think we have the cars to run this division but there is a lot of things to be worked out before we start racing. I do believe that the meetings we had didn’t accomplish what needed to be said .For the mini stock class, maybe, but not for the mighty mini upcoming this year.”
Toope believes if they can put the pieces together, 2017 can be a good season as he believes their “engine program is in tune to be where we need to be”, noting their practice schedule will dictate how they do.