After a very successful season last year at Sauble Speedway, Kevin Bridge will return to the beach in hopes of picking up his second straight Mini Stock Championship.
In 2016, Bridge put together the “dream season”, beginning with the first couple nights of competition in scoring a pair of feature victories to set himself on the path to win the championship. In total, he scored four wins, six top twos, seven top fives and only one DNF in the eight feature events to bring home his first ever championship.
“I’ve been so close before, finished second twice before and not by a lot as the one year was just a few points. So to finally win the championship was great,” he told Short Track Musings.
With a shorter schedule than most of the tracks in the province, some people have made assumptions the competition isn’t as high. However, that could be further from the truth as Bridge says there’s “a god bunch of front runners up there”, noting that Craig Kamrath gave him a run for the title right up till the final night of racing.
“It wasn’t by any means decided before the final night,” he said. “There’s also a couple new cars coming out. John Van Dyk has a new car coming that I know for a fact will be quick. Gary Jones has been quick for years, and Doug Butler, Warren Paxton and Andy Kamrath all ran a bunch of nights. Will Gibbons is always a contender. Paul Boyd ran well at Flamboro – he runs Sauble every night. Cory Young showed up a couple nights.
“Even though those people don’t run every night, with the short schedule the way it is and Sauble trying to do a non-conflicting schedule in trying to gain some of those cars when they may be off and welcoming in without having to make any changes, it makes for good competition.”
He also spent some time behind the wheel of a late model, noting it was a rough start to the campaign.
“First corner, the second race – it was just a racing deal. A guy checked up, I checked up and a guy hit me. I ended up getting the front end tore off the car,” he said. “But after that, we put in some good runs during the Saugeen Shores invitational. We ended up finishing seventh or eighth, and there were 19 cars there. So the first long distance feature that I’ve ran beyond 75 laps, we ended up with a top-10.”
After posting a fourth place finish in points, Bridge made the decision to sell the car due to not having the time to put in the commitment needed for the program.
“With the mini, I’m still out in the shop two or three times a week, but it’s not the 30 hours weekly that you need for a late model program,” he said. “I can put 10 hours in and still be at the top of the field.”
Outside from running Sauble on a weekly basis, Bridge has plans to hit up some of the other tracks behind the wheel of his Mini Stock in Ontario throughout the 2017 season.
“We’re trying to convince the people at Delaware (Speedway) to run a Mini Stock invitational as in the past they’ve ran it and in the past we’ve supported it when we could,” he said. “It just happened that last year, it was on the same night as the Sauble Championship and the same night other tracks ran so attendance was a little lower. So I’m trying to convince John Urlin and the Delaware staff to put on an invitational that doesn’t conflict with another date so we can go down there and run there, because one of my major sponsors is from London.
“Aside from that, we will run Frostoberfest at Flamboro (Speedway) again. We did well there last year winning the first feature, before getting in trouble in the second feature while running third with 10 to go. I’m hoping that Mike Schmidt includes the mini stock invitational as part of the Gold Rush, as we’d be down there again. Sunset (Speedway) is still up in there as they’re not 100% sold on my car. They don’t like the way the chassis is built, so I do not know if I’m allowed to run there.”
For Bridge, he got his start in racing through his brother-in-law Tom Gibbons.
“He started going out with my wife’s sister and naturally, I just went up the first night that they were racing,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, what was going on – had been up a couple times before, but always on the grandstand side. I went into the pits and started helping Tom out.
“Since then, we’e out there every weekend – even if not racing we’d be taking the camper up and having a good time. So it’s our second home now.”