By: Ashley McCubbin
It’s just a matter of days now till you can officially pronounce the off-season over – and cure a need for speed that’s been burning since Autumn Colours. However, some drivers got their fix already as the first practice session of 2017 was busy at Sunset Speedway was busy on Good Friday. Here’s a rough recap of what you should know.
Jade Franklin made his first laps of the season, in hopes of building off the late season momentum from 2016. In his sophomore season, Franklin finished fifth in the final points standings at Sunset Speedway with four feature top-fives, 11 feature top-10s and nine heat top-fives in 12 events. His efforts were awarded at the banquet with the Most Improved Driver Award. He then caped the year off with a b-feature victory and eighth place finish in the Autumn Colours Classic at Peterborough Speedway.
“My goals are to do the best that we can all season long,” he said. “It’s a long season and I’m not going there to worry about points, my goal every night is to win. I think it will be some of the best racing you will see.”
Bullen Racing had a pair of mustangs out on the track, hoping to find success this season in the Mini Stock division. Melissa Bullen laid down some laps to kick off the day, hoping to back up an impressive sophomore campaign. Last year, Bullen competed in Sunset Speedway’s second-tier Mini Stock division, the Mighty Minis, scoring a consi victory, along with three top-fives and nine top-10s.
“I plan to continue to hope to improve and get stronger each and every night,” she told Short Track Musings in February. “As my confidence grew significantly last season I feel more comfortable and confident entering a whole new season, possibly racing with new drivers and a few new changes on the car. Going into 2017 I hope to strive towards and achieve our goals and make for another successful and positive season. I’m very excited about this season, we have many things planned and to look forward to as a team and I’m very anxious and excited to get out practicing for the 2017 season.”
The team also debuted a second brand new mustang, which will feature rookie Josh Bullen behind the wheel. Bullen is no stranger to the track, having crew chiefed for Melissa through last season.
After unveiling his look for 2017 at the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Show, Ethan Constable laid down his first laps of 2017. While it appeared the team was fighting some mechanical gremlins, he should have them sorted out for opening night. Last season saw the driver of the No. 11 Eisses Pump My Tank, M.R Auto, Alliston Transmission, Paul’s Auto Body, RTI Equipment Solutions, Murry’s Law Firm, Big Bryan’s Towing, and Middleton Motorsports Super Stock have a “pretty rough” season at times with numerous incidents throughout the year as he learned more about racing in the division. However, the young driver persevered to post three top-15 feature finishes throughout the season, including a pair back-to-back.
“My thoughts going into 2017 are pretty simple – just excited to be at the track and see how the season goes,” he told Short Track Musings.
At the end of 2016, Gerrit Tiemersma sold his mustang to Stefan Woyslaw, leaving many to wonder what direction he would be headed next. The session revealed his team’s plan to switch to Super Stock for 2017, as he purchased a Late Model previously piloted by Ian Bourque that has now been converted to a super stock. Last season, Tiemersma finished third in points after scoring two feature wins, two heat wins, and 11 feature top-10’s.
Mike Wilkinson is one of the familiar faces that will grace the Sauble Falls Tent and Trailer Park Late Model division this season, as he was testing his familiar No. 25 ride on Friday. Wilkinson has steadily got better with each season, posting a pair of top-10 feature finishes in 2016.
Billy Schwartzenburg was on hand testing his APC Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario Tour Pro Late Model ahead of their season opener at Sunset Speedway near the end of May. Last year in his sophomore season, Schwartzenburg finished seventh in points with five top-10 finishes, highlighted by a runner-up at Peterbrough Speedway.
“I’m really excited to kick off 2017,” he told Short Track Musings in March. “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.”
He was joined on track by fellow APC competitor Treyten Lapcevich, who debuted his brand new ride for 2017. Set his rookie season of Pro Late Model competition, Lapcevich has impressed since he set foot behind the wheel of a racecar. In his first season of stock car competition at Sunset Speedway at 11 years old, he captured the Mighty Mini Championship with four feature victories. He then ran Super Stock last year, finishing third in points with a pair of feature victories.
2015 Sunset Speedway Late Model Champion Taylor Holdaway shook down his ride for the 2017 season as he looks to finish this year on top of the standings, following a runner-up to Gord Shepherd last season. This past year, Shepherd was crowned with two wins and 18 top-fives, to Holdaway’s seven wins and 15 top-fives. It was a battle of all-out speed from Holdaway being victorious, versus the solid consistency of a veteran in Shepherd. Now which team will rule the roost in 2017? We’ll just have to wait and see.
2016 Autumn Colours Classic Race Winner Andy Kamrath shook down his Mini Stock, trying out the new Hoosier tires, which the track is shifting towards having the entire division run moving forward. This year, Kamrath will be busy – running at least five Pro Late Model events, as well as numerous events in his familiar Mini Stock.
“Looking ahead on 2017, we are looking just to continue our success as a team, both with the mini stock and the Pro Late Model program,” he told Short Track Musings in January. “I think I left a bit on the table and wanna make sure I put my 100% into every time I unload off the trailer.”
Ken Townsend also shook down his Mini Stock as it appears his team has gone in a new direction for 2017. Last year, Townsend was able to pick up three victories in the Mighty Mini division.
Unfortunately, testing didn’t go as Peter Wakeling as he blew his motor in turn three on his second run. The team has already pulled the engine, and is set on working towards being in attendance on opening night. Wakeling posted eight top-15 finishes in the Mighty Mini division, including a season-best ninth place finish.
Miles Tyson has a lot on deck this year with a Legend and Super Stock, but was in attendance to shake down his Super Stock for 2017. Tyson proved last year he was quick, with three heat wins and seven feature top-10’s.
Both Lane and Billy Zardo were on hand, taking turns behind the wheel of Billy’s Late Model to get their program ready for the upcoming campaign. Last year, it seemed as if nothing would go the way Billy wanted, with four blown motors, a couple bad crashes, and a transmission issue plaguing the season. Despite that, he was able to make every night of the season, and put together a couple good runs with three top-fives and eight top-10s. There were even a couple memorable moments, from working Friday night through Saturday morning at 5am with his brother Lane Zardo to get the car ready, to watching his brother pick up his first career Late Model victory.
“I can’t wait for the 2017 season,” he told Short Track Musings in February. “I never did like the cold, and to get back to the track is very exciting to me. In 2017, I’m hoping to have a lot more luck then 2016.”
Daniel Montanari unveiled his brand new ride for the 2017 season as he hopes to make his mark known in the Mini Stock division. Last year, he put together a solid rookie campaign in the Mighty Mini division, picking up four heat victories and three feature wins.
“We are going to come out stronger and better than ever,” he said. “Last year I had a couple DNF because of mechanical failures which put us back in points. My goal will be to keep the car in one piece and drive the wheels off of it. I’m really excited for the upcoming year.”
Surprising fans some, Frank Davey has ventured away from his familiar black appearance to a mostly white car for this season in the Super Stock division. He is hoping for a better season this year after scoring only one heat victory and two feature top-10’s last season.
Cameron McGlashan shook down his mustang, though his time on track was cut short as a result of mechanical gremlins. He posted on facebook afterwards that his team was already in the process of sorting it out, and had a motor on loan from their teammate if need be. This past season, McGlashan made the move up to the Mini Stock division after he completed 2015 with a runner-up finish in the Mighty Mini standing and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division IV Track Championship. It didn’t out as planned, but he put together some performances through the second half for eight top-10 results, including a pair of top-fives.
“I’m hoping 2017 will be a breakout year for our team and get us back to running up front,” he told Short Track Musings in January.
2015 Mini Stock Champion Doug Butler shook down his ride after announcing earlier in the week he’d be returning to Sunset Speedway on a full-time basis this season, following a partial schedule last year.
Ron Quesnelle shook down his Late Model as he gets set to make his return back behind the wheel full-time in 2017.
“We will strive to be good out of the box,” he said. “Our team is already hard at working on the car. We will be looking for top tens we know this is a very stout field of cars and drivers. Really happy that my old crew and family are back on board with me.”
They’ll be no missing Nick Goetz on track this season as he debuted a very bright yellow and pink late model, shaking down both of his cars on Friday. This past season, Goetz had a solid season, scoring 16 top-10’s, including a feature victory.