After a successful season in the APC Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario Tour, Billy Schwartzenburg is set to compete once again this upcoming season.
“I’m really excited to kick off 2017,” he told Short Track Musings. “By the end of last season it felt like everything was really starting to come together. The team has meshed well together and everyone knows what their role is. As a driver I felt that as though I was really starting to get comfortable behind the wheel and I’m confident that we will be a force to be reckoned with in 2017.”
After some solid performances last year, Schwartzenburg feels as though his team can be in the top-10 on a consistent basis in 2017, based on the multiple top-10s to date and now entering his third season of pro late model competition. Beyond that, he says he really wants to score his first feature victory, as well as finish in the top-five in points, which is a challenge in itself.
With each year, the series continues to expand in the level of competition, with the solid line-up returning each year, along with new additions as the years go. A couple of the big new names discussed thus far have been 2016 OSCAAR Super Late Model Champion J.R. Fitzpatrick and Flamboro Speedway Thunder Car standout Hudson Nagy.
“Competition is most definitely at an all time high with APC and I feel as though the drivers who have stuck around as well as the new additions have turned the series into Ontario’s premier racing tour,” Schwartzenburg said. “Each week is a new opportunity for me to learn as a driver and for our team to show that we deserve to be in this series. It is almost impossible to single out any one driver as each driver has their own style and technique. Anyone has a shot to win on any given week and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Last year in his sophomore season, Schwartzenburg finished seventh in points with five top-10 finishes, highlighted by a runner-up at Peterbrough Speedway.
“Last year was a real up and down season for our team, but looking back at 2016 there were many positives,” he said.”We had a great points battle with Jamie Cox going into the last race of the triple crown at Delaware. Finishing 2nd at Peterborough was extremely cool and unexpected. Winning the pole for the Great Canadian Race after wrecking the car a couple of weekends before was also a huge accomplishment and showed how hard everyone on this team works. We also had some bad luck last season but I think 2016 has been our best year yet, I can only imagine 2017 being even better.”
With all eyes focused on this year, Schwartzenburg believes the biggest thing he has to work on between last year and now is being more consistent as while they’ve been fast every week, they haven’t always gotten the finish to match the speed.
“We are still quite new to the late model game and I can see the team learning more and more about setup and making changes to improve the car with each trip to the track. As a driver I am constantly trying to better myself,” he said. “I would really like to improve on how smooth I can get around, I feel this is the key to saving tires which are a huge variable in late model racing. I need to work on conserving a bit more so I have a good car for the final leg of the race.”
One of the tracks he scored a top-10 last year was at Sauble Speedway, which has always meant a lot to him since winning the Mini Stock Championship there. Being able to have success there would mean a lot with car owner Ken Spira and his wife Carol Spira sponsoring the summer event.
“We seem to always be plagued with mechanical issues when we head to Sauble but more than anything I want a strong run at the Spira Fire Protection Beat the Heat 100,” he said. “It would be great to win this race for my team and everyone who has supported us.”
One of the other hot spots on the schedule this year is Jukasa Speedway, with excitement building from drivers across the province as the track opens it doors this season.
“It seems that you hear more about tracks closing then you do tracks opening so it’s exciting to be going to a facility that I have never raced at before,” Schwartzenburg said. “Unfortunately it went through its heyday before I was old enough to appreciate it. I love that a new track will be a total wildcard; I’m hoping my crew chief Ken Spira can find the hot setup and we are a contender at Jakusa. With the repave it’s definitely going to be fast and it should be a fun weekend.”
Schwartzenburg will kick off the 2017 season as one of the drivers featured at the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Show. He’ll have the No.86 Pro Late Model on display, as well as signing autographs in the APC Series booth throughout the weekend.
“Thank you to all of my sponsors, without them none of this would be possible,” he said. “I would like to welcome two new sponsors to the team this year, Hy-Grade Steel Roofing System and Schwartzenburg Haulage. I would also like to welcome back all of last year’s sponsors; St.Jacobs Farmers’ Market, Spira Fire Protection, Nuco, Gunk, Lucas Oil, Erb and Erb Insurance Brokers, Vinnie’s Mr.Fix it, Apollo Valves, Wolseley, Cambridge Source for Sports, Guelph Wish Fund for Children, Fleet Image, Plasti Kote, Dominion Sure Seal, Northern Ice, Victaulic, TSS Top Shops, Wurth, and Wix Filters.”