It seemed if it could go wrong, it did for Amanda Balson throughout the 2021 campaign with mechanical gremlins plaguing her throughout her rookie OSCAAR Hot Rod season.
“I haven’t had a year this tough mechanically in a long time,” she commented. “It was hard on all of us, but you keep trying, keep working. It’s racing, and it has its ups and downs. You could throw in the towel, but that would just be too easy.”
Despite the lows, she applauded her team and supporters, saying she was impressed they didn’t want to quit, even when she was ready to at times.
“They worked tirelessly to solve our problems and stuck with me even in the worst times,” she added.
She will return to the OSCAAR Hot Rods in 2022, hopeful of putting that in that rearview and ready to contend for victories. She showed speed throughout the season, as evident by a podium performance at Sunset Speedway and a couple heat wins.
“We are always doing our best, I don’t think we can ask for much more,” she commented. “I’m hoping for some better luck, and I’m certain things will fall into place when that happens.”
Going into the year, she is keeping her goals simple – ready to enjoy herself with family, and friends while having fun behind the wheel of the Hot Rod. That will include a couple races at her favorite track on the schedule, Peterborough Speedway.
“Peterborough is always the one I look forward to; it’s my favourite,” she offered. “However I do find something special in each of the tracks we visit, I really look forward to race weekends wherever they take us. It was a wonderful feeling to be back at Sunset (Speedway) after a number of years away, I saw so many old friends in the stands.”
Balson’s racing history runs deep, as she has been involved behind the wheel for 25 years heading into this season. For her, racing comes as “second nature,” noting she wants to keep driving as long as she can but will be involved in the sport beyond that time. At the present time for her, there’s the bonus that the hot rod package and opportunity falls in line with everything else.
“When I had the late model the rules were going in a direction that I wasn’t too sure about it,” she recalled. “I didn’t want to get into having to run a pro late to compete, which is not in my budget. The hot rods tour with the Modifieds, which my husband drives. It made sense for us to build a hot rod, which offered affordability, a rules package that is locked for a number of years, and a chance to travel around again.”
She hopes to turn the traveling into some more great battles behind the wheel, noting the past 25 years have offered a lot of great opportunities to battle different drivers.
“It’s hard to choose just one,” she said. “Some of my favourites to hit the track with are Dwayne Baker, Rick Walt, Gord Shepherd, and John Baker Jr. Those guys have always raced me hard and clean; I have a ton of respect for the way those guys have treated me on the track over the last few decades.“
On the flip side, though, the past 25 years have taught her the lows of motorsports, with hopes of not repeating the worst wreck of her career to date which happened back in 2000 at Sunset Speedway.
“As I crossed the line at the checkered flag, I got right reared and went straight into the front stretch wall,” she recalled. “The steering column didn’t collapse as it should have and the wheel was bent, I was only about 20 years old at the time, I couldn’t remove the wheel to get out of the car. It was pushed into my lower chest. I panicked a little. I remember Stan McNally (former tech man) in my window telling me it was all gonna be ok, my high school auto teacher Mr. Vanderkooij in the stands at the fence yelling “you ok kid?”
“They just had to cut the steering shaft to get me out! All the smoke and the red flag out for me, I was a little scared! I wasn’t injured that night and I’ve been fortunate as far as racing is concerned with things like that. I do remember after that wreck my Mom telling me my Grandma covers her eyes now every time a car is near me.”
By Ashley McCubbin