With each season behind the wheel, Kevin Spiesz has continued to gain speed, capturing his first career heat victory last season at Grand Bend Speedway in Outlaw Midgets presented by Canadian Tire Innisfil action. He will return to the series in 2023, and shared his thoughts with SHORT TRACK MUSINGS.

What are your thoughts going into the 2023 season?

I think it’s going to be a very competitive year. There’s a lot of guys that have really come along in the past couple of years. The Bradley brothers (Mike and Dave) are going to be definitely a force to deal with. If Jessica (James) is not there full-time, they’ll be some of the next top drivers, and then Larry Lawson if he’s back full-time, he’ll definitely be someone to look out for in the next year.

There’s a handful guys that any night can win with our group. (Rob) Hooligan (Harrison) is right on the verge of having that happen; he’s right there every week. He’s battling for another top-five, top-three, whatever, he’s right there on the verge of making that big breakthrough, too.

Absolutely. It’s been fun actually watching him get better as an Outlaw Midget driver. I know he ran super stock for so many years, but watching him behind the wheel of a midget –the beginning it’s like, “Okay, you’re just a mid-pack guy.” Then I kind of tagged him with dark horse when he got a couple top-fives and now I can’t call him that as he’s a regular top-five.

Exactly. I’ve watched him too over the past bunch of years. He’s improved a lot. I think everybody that’s in the group learns something every year. I think this is my 11th year and every year I learn something about the car, how it – oh, I didn’t realize this but if I did this, it works. Then I started improving, too. I learned to not drive it so hard into the corners, but hard off the corners – different ways to do it. He’s adapted very well.

I didn’t realize you’ve been involved this long.

Yeah, it’s been 11 years – the beginning of 11 years.

So what keeps bringing you back all these years to keep racing every single year?

The fun, the camaraderie. To me, it’s another part of my family. We have our issues like every family has, but you look forward to seeing them every week. Everybody is there. We’re hard, hard competitors on the track – we’re bumper to bumper, obviously we don’t try to bump anybody due to open-wheels, but we’re right there and we’re battling hard.

Coming off the track, if somebody has a bad go at it, somebody is over finding what happened and how we can get you up there and better. Everybody works together. Jessica is there, she’s the top in our group, but she’s helping everybody. Dan Kviring, he’s fairly new to our group, major improvements this year, and he’s right there. Something happens, and Dan is right there to help – and a lot of guys. Hooligan is right there to help. It’s a family.

What drew you to want to get involved with the midgets to begin with?

I had raced street stock years ago at Varney (Full Throttle Motor Speedway). I lived in Durham, so I raced at Varney for a couple years and got away because of family. I was at the car show (Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Expo) at the International Centre and I was thinking about getting back into racing. I was looking at the Legends and Mike Westwood happened to be there with one of these midgets with the big wing on the top. The car he had at the time, which I think is the Bradley Brothers car, it had a nose wing on it too and it was really impressive. I started asking questions and looking around, and found a car that was in my price range.

From there, I just slowly worked at it. I started off with what I could afford and every year, I added something, improved something, got a better motor, learned how to drive them – that’s how it started.

You keep talking about every year getting better and running up front. It had to feel pretty good to get that podium finish (third) this year (at Grand Bend Speedway).

Yeah, Grand Bend was my first victory – but it was a heat race, but it was still a victory. The disappointing part was I took the checkered flag, drive around like most tracks, come back to the checkered flag and as I’m pulling up and get the seatbelts undone and like, “Okay, where’s the guy with the flag? Where’s the photographer?” They didn’t have one. Noooo….

Then the second heat, right up to the last two laps, I was ready to take my second of the whole weekend – and we had a restart with two laps to go, and Hooligan beat me and he got his first heat win. So great weekend.

I got to imagine Grand Bend is circled as one of the tracks that you’re excited to get to this season.

It’s a thrill. You want somewhere that you hold your breath from the time you hit the gas coming out of four – and as you cross the finish line, you take that big gasp of breath because you’re doing 11 and a half second laps and you don’t have time. You’re turning the whole time. You get two seconds down the backstretch to kind of point the car into a straight direction, and then you’re back into turning again. It’s just such a thrill. It’s something different.

We’re (also) going back to Varney this year, and I’m very excited to go back there because it’s another one of those tracks that it takes some finesse. It’s just motor and go – you have to drive the track and find your way around it because it’s a little unique. I kind of like those tracks like that.

I’ve always enjoyed going to Varney because like you said, it’s unique with the fish bowl design of the high banking,

The high banking, the D-shaped backstretch – the transition from the backstretch to turn three in our cars is just unbelievable because you’re almost airborne because the car is so light at that point. As you turn in, it drops down into the corner off the transition. It’s such a thrill going there and hitting that transition.

So what do you feel that you can do better this year to improve your program as we talk about you getting better each season.

To continue to understand the car and read the track from week-to-week as the track changes, and the day goes on – just staying on top of it. With these cars, it’s understanding how it’s changing a lot because there’s not a lot of adjustments. You have to stay with it and it’s the luck of the draw, too. If you start at the back and can’t get through the traffic, because most of the cars are pretty equal on the straightaways so you are kind of trying to gain every little bit that you can. That’s where it is – gaining that little tenth here and there.

Stay tuned for the second half of the interview, where we talk about what track has more bumps – Flamboro and Peterborough, racing heroes, and more.

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