Over the past 30 years, OSCAAR has thrilled fans across the province of Ontario with side-by-side thrilling battles right down to the checkered flag.
Although we’re currently staying at home to stay safe, the anniversary is special to everybody involved in the series, past and present, from originators and the officials, to the drivers and fans.
OSCAAR felt it was the perfect time to pay homage to our beginnings, and catch up with past and current faces to get their thoughts on the occasion.
Through the growth and changes of OSCAAR, there have been different people in charge of righting the ship. Over the past decade, the tough decisions have ultimately fallen on the shoulders of Dave Gainforth as the series president.
“With the 2020 race season being OSCAAR’S 30TH Anniversary, it brings me great pride,” Gainforth said. “I have been able to play a small role in keeping the dream alive that the founding members started in the off season of 1989. I would have been in the grandstands at the first OSCAAR event at the new ½ mile oval Mosport Speedway when the Super Late Models were a weekly division so you could say I been there since the beginning.
“To see the many struggles and obstacles that OSCAAR has had to overcome to make it to this point is truly amazing. When I stop and look back and reflect on things, it just shows that with hard work, determination that nothing is impossible to accomplish in a very difficult sport.
“The many Presidents, the dedicated staff members, the race teams and sponsors over the past 30 years are all part of the reason OSCAAR is still the providing race fans the best in short track racing each and every week.”
Gainforth wasn’t always making the big decisions, but rather started his journey via writing the payout cheques for the teams each race night. His involvement grew from there, as he developed the original series website, while doing race reports.
As the series headed into the early 2000s with Kim Robinson Mahoney serving as the president, Gainforth’s responsibilities grew and change as he became the race director.
“I would spend time in the flag stand for a few events, did tech and in the tower overseeing the race events,” Gainforth commented. “Kim and I had a great working relationship and I am glad to say our friendship continues to this day. I took a year off before becoming president and I guess you can say the rest is history.
“I have to say this has been a great experience. I know I have made a great many friends, some enemies, made some mistakes, also made some great decisions to help OSCAAR continue. It was actually myself and Kim that brought back the Outlaw body style to the super lates which gives them to this day their own identity which is very important in this business. It’s been a long road lots of different experiences and emotions but looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything, so I guess that means I have done a pretty decent job and have had fun.”
With Gainforth at the helm, the OSCAAR brand has seen several changes, with the Queenston Chevrolet Buick GMC OSCAAR Modifieds presented by Scott Reinhart Trailer Sales Ltd., Touchwood Cabinets, and The Fyre Place & Patio Shop brought into the fold in 2012. Gainforth says there were a few reasons for adding the open-wheel class, with the first of those in giving OSCAAR the ability to have standalone shows.
“At the time Promoters were starting to give their weekly divisions nights off and I wanted them to be able to book OSCAAR only on those nights I wanted to be able to bring a complete show,” he explained.
There was also the chance to enable the modifieds to be a feeder division for the super late models at the time, but Gainforth says he quickly learned open-wheel drivers are dedicated to their division.
“At the time the decision was made, to start the OSCAAR Mods, there were three groups all of which had some cars,” he added. “I wanted to see if they could be brought together to make one big Modified series. I had always enjoyed the look for the Mods; they were unique like the Outlaw Super Lates and I thought the race fans of Ontario would enjoy seeing all the best in Mod action racing together each week.”
Through the past eight years, Gainforth admits that there were some mistakes made, but he feels the current standing of the series speaks for itself.
“Car counts are great, the cars look amazing, and most importantly, the racing on the tracks for the past couple of years, you would be hard pressed to find anything better,” he commented. “Any Mod driver will tell you that you would be hard pressed to find anything more exciting to drive, for the investment you need to make. I personally think our product is the best, the rules are locked in until the end of the 2023 race season, drivers know their investment is solid, they are not spending money in off season in silly rules changes that don’t need to happen.”
While the modifieds have captured the hearts of many, it seems the Knightworks Design OSCAAR Hot Rods presented by Sauble Falls Tent and Trailer Park having been doing the same since their inception in 2017. Gainforth says he was inspired to create the series having grown up watching his heroes drive 50-70s body style cars.
“When a few Ontario racers built Super / Street stocks with older bodies in the years prior to the series, I saw how people including myself were drawn to them. It brought back memories of their childhood at the track,” he explained. “So one night I posted a picture of a old style race car in the states and made a comment. Well it took about five minutes for Darryl Stephenson to contact me to see if I was serious about this, then Josh Watson that same night offered to help put a rule book together with Mike Langley and it just hit the ground running from there.
“The key thing I stressed is that it had to be an economical division of racing, I wanted to bring people back to racing that had been priced out of the sport. If they had older parts I wanted to them to still come and have fun; that is why till this day everyone still gets paid the same at the end of the night.”
It’s no secret the Hot Rods were not opened with open arms, as Gainforth admits it was tough through the first couple years, but he has been determined to watch it be successful.
“I knew the fans would love it if they were given the chance,” he commented. “To be honest, I never expected the series to grow like it has. It is actually very overwhelming to see the excitement behind the series; the dedication from the fans is amazing. When you stop and look back in three short years to build an entirely new division to where we are now in 2020 is something you just don’t see very often in racing. I cannot thank all the teams that believed in my dream and helped bring it to the reality it is today.”
Often overlooked, the Living Lighting OSCAAR Pro Sprints are also a very critical part of the series as a whole, which came about via Charles Priestly who helped build the division from the ground up.
“These cars are super fast and put on some great racing every week,” Gainforth commented. “What I most like about this series, you have young adults 16 years old to men in their 50’s. The cars look amazing with their Sprint Car identity and the division is quickly growing with new drivers coming on board this year. Again, it is not easy to build something from the ground up, but together we did it.”
With successful groundwork laid and DNA, it seems the future is very positive for OSCAAR heading into the next five, 10 years, and even beyond that.
“Unfortunately with Covid 19 virus coming and changing everything so fast, it has presented our sport a temporary setback,” Gainforth commented. “I am very confident that our sport will survive this, but there will be some adjusting to do by everyone. I am not only talking about the guidelines as people we have to live by but the business side of the sport as well.
“This has hurt a lot of businesses, which promoters and teams all rely on for support. Whether it was a $100.00 sponsorship or a $100,000.00 sponsorship businesses either cannot afford to pay or will be revaluating where they do spend their marketing dollars. Race tracks need to open to give us a place to live; they need to make a profit. I know the cost of hosting events; I have done it, and I know the very slim margin they operate within.
“It is going to be my job as President going forward to ensure all of the OSCAAR series division continue to be economically feasible for the drivers. By locking all the rules for all classes in till 2023 is a good start. Racers love to spend money and sometimes they need to be protected from themselves.”
Gainforth went on to add that he has spoken with each of the track promoters over the past few weeks, offering his and the series’ support fully in whatever needs to be done to assist them to ensure racing continues for years to come.
“We are all in this together, and I know looking back on 30 years of OSCAAR history we will adjust as need and continue,” he added. “In closing, I would just like to say thank you to OSCAAR for giving me a chance to perhaps make a slight difference in the history of our sport here in Ontario. It’s been a fun ride and I look forward to the next 10 years when we will be celebrating our 40th Anniversary together.”
Be sure to keep up with OSCAAR by staying tuned to the series website at http://www.oscaar.ca. Also, make sure to “like” the official OSCAAR Racing Facebook page, while following both the Twitter and Instagram accounts (@OSCAARRacing) to keep up to date on everything you need to know.
OSCAAR’s 2020 racing season was supported by several dedicated partners including Queenston Chevrolet Buick GMC, Knightworks Design, Living Lighting Canada, Scott Reinhart Trailer Sales Ltd., Touchwood Cabinets, Sauble Falls Campground, The Fyre Place & Patio Shop, Ohsweken Speedway, American Racer, and Grisdale Race Products.
By: Ashley McCubbin