|By Clayton Johns
OHSWEKEN, Ont. (May 8, 2019) – With less than two weeks until the 2019 Ohsweken Speedway Friday Night Excitement season opener presented by Auto Parts Centres the roster for the Kool Kidz-Corr/Pak 360 Sprint Car season is among the most exciting in recent memory. The list features a talented mix of veterans and exciting rookie talent with several familiar drivers in new rides for the upcoming campaign.
At the top of the list is two-time and defending track champion Dylan Westbrook. The Scotland, Ont. native will still sport his familiar No.47x, but with new colours after making the switch to a Hill’s Racing ride over the off-season. Westbrook is currently second on the all-time Ohsweken 360 Sprint Car wins list, five back of record holder Glenn Styres.
Jim Huppunen, last year’s runner-up in the championship standings, is back in the saddle for the new campaign. Huppunen had a remarkably consistent season in 2018 and will look to continue in that fashion while chasing his sixth career Feature win.
Cory Turner, last year’s reaction returns to action in a new ride with a new number. The Caistor Centre, Ont. pilot will be behind the wheel of the Burger Barn Racing No.13 as an official teammate to younger brother Ryan Turner in the No.91 and Mike Thorne in the No.55. The new three-car team should provide plenty of excitement with three experienced drivers seeking to improve on championship finishes of third, sixth and eighth, respectively.
Nathan Ackland Racing has expanded to a two-car team in the 360 Sprint Car division this year. Mack DeMan, fresh off a rookie of the year award, returns to the seat of the No.17x after earning his first career 360 win last June. He will be joined by teammate Shone Evans, who moves up to the track’s top division in pursuit of a rookie of the year title after claiming Crate Sprint Car and Action Sprint Tour titles last season.
Carlisle, Ont. driver Steve Lyons took a big step forward last season to finish fifth overall in the standings and will certainly be eager to improve on the mark while in pursuit of his first career win.
Returning to the division full-time in 2019 are Brantford brother Mitch and Jake Brown. The familiar blue No.10 and No.1-10 certainly deepen the weekly talent pool on Friday nights at Ohsweken. Also back at the track this season is Lewiston, NY driver Derek Jonathan in his No.81.
Thamesford, Ont. driver and fan favourite Curtis Gartly will be back behind the wheel, but with a new look. After a couple of tough wrecks in 2018, Gartly’s blue No.6 has been retired in favour of an orange No.45, returning him to his micro sprint racing routes and a look inspired by 1970s Michigan Late Model racer Dick Barker. In addition to Gartly, also registered to return is Grismby’s Travis Cunningham in his No.90.
Calling Dan Nanticoke’s 2018 season a roller coaster might me an understatement. From the outside looking in, pretty well everyone hopes the Ohsweken driver has earned some better luck for his No.15 and will start the season on a more positive note. One of Ohsweken’s most popular drivers in the pits is also set to return with Jamie Turner’s No.11 back on track and looking for a year of consistent finishes.
One of the more exciting names to return to the track for 2019 is Thedford’s Shane Ross. This year, Ross will be behind the wheel of a Dave Dykstra-owned No.5d as part of an unexpected partnership that blossomed over the off-season. It will be Ross’ first season of regular action since 2015. Ross will also act as a mentor to Crate Sprint Car driver Jacob Dykstra in his second season of action.
The rookie class for this year’s 360 Sprint Car division is the most extensive in years. The aforementioned Shone Evans is among the group as are fellow Crate Sprint Car graduates Aaron Turkey and Holly Porter, who will be Glenn Styres Racing teammates in car’s No.0 and No.1, respectively. Also in the rookie mix is teenager Josh Hansen who moves to 360 Sprint Cars after two years behind the wheel of a Crate Sprint. The Beamsville pilot will be the division’s youngest driver having not yet turned 18. Those four drivers make a total of 14 pilots to graduate from the Crate Sprint Car division to 360 Sprint Car competition.
Add to the list former Thunder Stock driver Kevin Pauls who will fulfill a lifelong goal to race in the 360 division. Pauls will continue to sport his No.46 with his father, Wayne Pauls, as his crew chief and support from Team Turner Racing. The final registered member of the rookie class is Corey Gruhl of St. Catharines, who has dabbled sporadically in Crate Sprint Car racing over the past two seasons.
Fans will get their first look at Ohsweken Speedway’s 360 division when the 2019 season of Friday Night Excitement gets underway with Auto Parts Centres night on Friday, May 17 featuring Ken Schrader and the UMP Modifieds. Cars will be on track for the first time on Friday, May 10 for Test and Tune night. Race time for all weekly events in 2019 is 7:30pm. For the full schedule of events, visitwww.ohswekenspeedway.ca.