While the battle for race wins and the championship is always fun to watch, this year there will also be focus on the rookie of the year award. Entering the 2017 season, there are currently seven rookies on the roster for the OSCAAR Modifieds – Tim Tolton, Dave Hodgkinson, Ken Hayward, Jase Cornell, Marty Monette, Wally Wilson, and Mark Hamacher.
The drivers enter the year with a variety of different backgrounds as some have been involved in racing for years, while others just for a couple years.
Some of the names may be familiar, like Tim Tolton, as many will recall his son Bobby Tolton racing in OSCAAR a couple years ago. Tim is now set to take his turn, saying his team is “looking forward to a new challenge in a new series, and trying something a little different” this year. The opportunity fits also based on the Black Magic Racing’s current resources, the rules and schedule OSCAAR has to offer.
“I like the fact that they have parity in their rule package to allow different types of motors to be competitive and go to the winner circle, and it’s something that we’re looking forward to,” he said.
The schedule also opens the door for Tolton as he’ll be able to make his first trip to Kawartha Speedway, with the Fraserville, Ontario track returning for the first time since 2014.
“I’ve raced a bunch of different tracks around Ontario,” he said. “Kawartha is one that I’ve wanted to, but I haven’t had the chance to. The one time I was planning on going I couldn’t make it, so Kawartha is one that I’m looking forward to the most. Other than that, Full Throttle – my home track; it’s one that I tend to do well at.”
Without having a lot of modified experience, except for a couple races behind the wheel of his son Bobby Tolton’s car a couple years ago, the veteran is keeping his expectations wide-open, by stating he just wants to do the best he can for his sponsors, and possibly walk away with the Rookie of the Year Award.
He won’t be the only driver vying for the award, as Dave Hodgkinson also plans to run the full schedule this season, making the transition for four-cylinder modifieds. The veteran says he’s looking forward to it, focused on having a good time each week.
“I’m not out there to win anything,” he added. “If I’m running second or third, I’ll go for it, but I realize I’m up against some tough competition.”
Looking at the schedule, he is excited about is making the trip to Kawartha as it’s “one track that I’ve never been on so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve watched a few there a couple years ago, and thought they were great.” It’ll partially be a throwback to the big events he ran in the United States at tracks like Salem Speedway and Winchester Speedway with the four-cylinder modified.
“I used to travel with the ARCA Pro 4 in the States, and I went to Cincinnati, Ohio, and that’s the first time I ventured out and went on a big half-mile, and that’s when I screamed my lungs out,” he recalled. “It was like ‘yeeehaaaw’ all the way around. In the years that I’ve raced, I’ve traveled in the States a bit and run with that division. Salem, Indiana was also a wild experience. With the banking, you don’t let off. I thought there was something wrong with my racecar the first time that I went because I realized my foot was in it going around the corner.”
For Hodgkinson, he got started in racing back in 1975, beginning with racing on ice up in Hallyburton. He then transitioned to running Mini Stock at Sauble Speedway, before joining the Ontario Mini Stock Association at the time and running the four-cylinder modifieds. Now going into 2017, he was looking for a change in pace.
“When I first joined the four cylinder modifieds, they were a traveling show years ago, and I enjoyed that part going to the different tracks,” he said. “But as the years went on, they kind of evolved and ended up at Flamboro, and being at just one track I’m getting tired of.”
While the first two rookies have recent experience, the same can’t be said for Ken Hayward, who will make his return behind the wheel for the first time in nine years. Hayward has been raced in OSCAAR, and will be using the super late chassis from 2005 to build his modifed from with crew chief Terry Coats.
“I look forward to it,” he said. “I missed the competition and comradery with other drivers, but been busy with other stuff.”
Going into the season, he says the primary object is to “have fun,” and believes he can run up front throughout the season.
“I was known for being competitive so if we’re somewhere fifth through 10th to start out, that’d be great, and then build from here,” he said.
A glance at the schedule has him excited for Peterborough Speedway as “you can get a head of steam” there, but also the return to Kawartha Speedway twice this season.
Growing up with 13 siblings, Hayward got interested in racing at a young age, helping his older brothers with their cars at the track. He then took his chance behind the wheel, racing a go-kart followed by a street stock at Delaware Speedway. Over the years, he says there’s been lots of great moments, including running the traveling series and racing both a Street Stock & Late Model at the same time at Barrie Speedway.
Jase Cornell is also marking his return back to racing this year, as it will his first time back behind the wheel in close to 10 years, which has him focusing on learning for 2017.
“I’m going into this year trying to keep an open mind, cool head, and staying out of trouble,” he said. “The OSCAAR modified series has lots of great competitive guys running in it, so my plan is to pay attention and earn their respect.”
Cornell made the decision to go OSCAAR racing as he’s always had a “soft spot” for the “ground pounding excitement of the modifieds,” and feels the series is”well-organized” and draws out the best competition in Ontario.
Going into the year, he says he hopes to contend for rookie of the year, despite knowing the “stiff competition,” with eyes set on finishing in the top-five in points. And like those before him, Kawartha Speedway is where his eyes are set on after loving each past experience on the fast oval in the past.
The Amsoil sponsored driver got started in racing in the 1990s, after his brother-in-law thought it’d be fun to build a thunder car.
“He worked at it tirelessly all by himself until one day I felt sorry for him and offered to give him a hand,” Cornell recalled. “Next thing you know, we were in it neck deep and loving every minute. I continued helping him for 3 or 4 years, but knew driving is where I wanted to be. That winter a friend was selling his modified, so I bought it and went racing that spring at Mosport and in the OMA hunder Series. I wrecked a lot of stuff that year.”
While some may not know Cornell, a lot will recognize Marty Monette, following his success behind the wheel of a thunder car at Barrie Speedway and Sunset Speedway. He’s set for a new challenge this year, set to drive a Craig Ellis-owned, Brian MacDonald prepared modified with Al McCaughey calling the shots as the crew chief.
“I mean, it’s a bit of an unknown for me,” Monette said. “Getting into a modified is a completely different animal than I am used to. First and foremost, I can’t thank Craig enough for giving me the opportunity. I can’t express that enough. There’s not too many guys out there that are willing to put up the money for somebody else to drive their stuff. I’m just really thankful.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to racing some different people, like Gary McLean. I’ve always followed him so interesting to see how you stack up against a guy of that talent. Raced a bit with Luke (Gignac) – always a good runner. Gary Elliott will make a couple appearances – never raced against him, so that should be cool. I’m just entering the year with an open mind and hoping everything works out for a good year.”
Going into the year, Monette is keeping his goals in check, but feels with seat time over the season that he can be competitive.
“I know that racing is money oriented and I think the money is being spent in the right places and I think when it comes down to the driver, once I get some seat time, I think we can run top-five,” he said. “Maybe that’s a lofty goal, but I’m really hoping to keep the wheels on it and having some good finishes.”
Like Tolton before him, the excitement is the biggest for Kawartha Speedway, as Monette hasn’t raced there in his career to date.
“I practiced there once in the thunder car and loved it,” he said. “So really looking forward to going back and seeing the speed we can generate in the mod there. Varney (Full Throttle Motor Speedway) should be interesting. Don’t have the greatest track record at Flamboro, but will probably be interesting there. But Kawartha is pretty much where I’m thinking I will have the most fun.”
While the previous names are new to OSCAAR, Wally Wilson isn’t as he has spent the past two years racing as part of the OSCAAR Midget tours. Following a career season in 2016, he announced he had purchased a modified for 2017.
“I couldn’t be any happier,” he said. “This is a huge step in my career. I’m very grateful for everyone that has helped me get to this point! I can’t wait to race with guys I’ve been watching for years.”
Going into the season, he’s focused on getting as much track time as possible to learn hopes of scoring a victory down the road; he also feels confident in saying he’ll be a top-10 competitor by year-end.
This past season, Wilson experienced success behind the wheel of both his Pro Midget and Midget, finishing in the top-five in both series standings. Behind the wheel of his OSCAAR Midget, Wilson put together a solid sophomore campaign with top-10s on a weekly basis en route to finishing fourth in points. Meanwhile, in the Pro Midget, he was able to put together a season without any finishes outside of the top-seven en route to finishing second in the series points. In both divisions, he also picked up the t RTR – Sirius 167 Hard Charger Award.
Lastly, Mark Harmacher is set to make his return behind the wheel for the first time since 1990.
“I’m a bit anxious to get back out on the track,” he said. “I have always loved the modified class throughout my life and now I have the opportunity to finally get out in one…on my bucket list you could say.”
The Canada Tubeform sponsored driver always wanted to get behind the wheel as a kid going to the tracks with his father and brother, getting his start in off-road dune buggies as a teenager. He then transitioned to racing street stocks at Delaware, and notes his most memorable moment was “winning three out of four races on a double header weekend at Delaware – second and first in the features, first in both heats.”
Currently set on a partial schedule with just a couple events, Harmacher is focused on getting seat time and being competitive by season’s end.