Known for getting behind the wheel of anything with four wheels across the province, Mike Westwood has been hard at work in his shop this off-season. On top of preparing cars for other drivers, he has also built himself a new modified to run as part of the 2019 OSCAAR Modified tour.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve always liked running the Modifieds. It’s been a couple years since I’ve ran full-time in them. I’ve put together a new car and learned a lot over the last year, so I’m hoping the car will be fast.”
Westwood’s decision to return to the class just increase the building anticipation, given the early registration numbers that have been seen.
“The Modifieds looks strong this year,” he said. “I have four Modifieds here right now, so it’s looking good for people getting into the division. There’s a lot of guys that have been inquiring about cars. I know a bunch of people have bought cars, I know people that are converting super late models over to Modifieds, so it looks like it’s going to be a good field of drivers, and a lot of diverse drivers from different divisions. It should be good. I mean, I think the Modifieds and the APC Series will be the biggest series in Ontario.”
Entering the year, he says that while he hopes to run in the top-five right out of the box, he is also looking to have a solid season all around.
“I mean, I didn’t have a very good last year,” he admitted. “A lot of physical issues in the racecar with injuries, so just hoping for a good season and to run strong. I’m still not sure if I’m going to run a full season yet, but if I run good the first race, I may stick with it and run the full season.”
Whether he runs the full season or not, Westwood is certainly planning to make Jukasa Motor Speedway on June 1 one of the stops on his schedule.
“I ran there back when it was Cayuga in the mid-90’s,” he recalled. “I wanted to go there the first year it opened as Jukasa, but I got hurt in the hobby car and didn’t get to go. Then I wanted to go this summer, and just didn’t have the money to run the $50,000 to win race. So that’s the race that I’m looking the most forward to in the modified.”
Though while remaining focused on his own program, Westwood also has an eye on the competition. Among the drivers he says to watch for 2019, Shawn Chenoweth tops the list with the purchase of a new car.
“Like the guy or hate the guy, he can wheel a racecar so he’s going to be up there,” Westwood said. “If Kelly Balson comes out full-season, we know Kelly will be up there. (Cory) Horner will be back up there again if he’s running a full season. I think Chris Milwain – he had a rough time last year wrecking a couple cars, but he was getting his modified program up to speed; he was getting faster each week. It’s a shame that he got wrecked so many times. Of course, A.J. (Emms). I mean, I know A.J. may not be able to run a full season but when he’s out, he’s going to be running at the front.”
For Westwood, racing is something that he’s been around since a very young age, with his entire family being involved in the sport.
“My grandmother raced cars at Pinecrest and my grandfather had people drive for him back in the Pinecrest,” he said. “So I’ve been involved in racing for my entire life. My dad ran hobby cars, my uncle ran hobby cars, my nephew ran Midgets, and even my wife drove Midget cars for awhile. So it’s a big family affair for us. We all race and enjoy it.”
Through the years, there’s been several memorable moments, including some of the events that Westwood may not have visited victory lane himself.
“For me, I just like the competition and competing,” he said. “To me, I like to win, but I like to race.
“I think the Great Canadian race that I won at Delaware is one of my favorites because I came right from the back to the front, and then had to go to the back and came back to the front again. I got to race with D.J. Kennington; he ran a Pro Challenge car that night, too. That’s D.J.’s home track so that was a fun time. I had a really good battle with Patrick Freel, who now races full-time in APC. So I had a good time. That’s one of my favourite races.”
Hopefully Westwood can add a couple more favorites to the list after this year.
By Ashley McCubbin