The Saratoga Speedway May 28-29 weekend featured two nights of winged sprint cars. Photo by Doug Waller

Winged sprint cars take centre stage at Saratoga

2 nights of racing, May 28-29

Pat Monsigneur

Special to Black Press

Premier racing is finally back at Saratoga Speedway with the opening of the new Arbutus RV and Marine Sales “Northwest Sprint Tour.”

Featuring a full field of winged sprint car drivers including the Comox Valley’s own Mike Meeres, Stewart Lee, and making a return to top-tier racing: Trevor “The Tornado” Montgomery from Cumberland. The two-day series opener also included the WILROC sprint lites, VIROC iMods and the popular OLTA “Old Timers” for an open-wheeled action-packed weekend.

The late-spring weather threatened on Friday night but didn’t daunt eager racers or intrepid fans who came out dressed for anything Mother Nature had in store. There was plenty of hot food and hot-action on hand giving the fans of pure-adrenalin racing action something to cheer about.

George Jenson started things off working his ’33 Chevy Sedan through a competitive nine-car OTRA field leaving second place to Ken Littleproud’s ’29 Chrysler coupe and Mat Polley in the double-zero ’34 Chevy took third.

The home-track heroes of the VIROC iMods duked it out for 25 laps when Black Creek’s own Chris Beaulieu took the checkered before Brad Purdy (second) and Dave Emmerson (third place)

The WILROC non-winged sprint cars were up next and although it was a sparse early-season field they didn’t disappoint. The #16 driven by Rhett Smith topped the class followed by Mike Schott then Brayden Aumen’s #88.

The winged sprint cars took to the asphalt to close the Friday show with the first of a 10-race series. Fans were on the edge of their seats with anticipation after eyeing-up these super-cars all evening from hot-laps, qualifying rounds, dashes and heats leading to the main event, where Team Larson of Quesnel B.C. led by the #22 of Ron Larson dropped the hammer on the rest of the field after qualifying fifth-fastest. Brad Aumand’s #8 crossed the finish line next leaving third place to Courteney’s own Mike Meeres #11L, setting the stage for the rematch to come.

Saturday’s race weather was much improved as mainly sunny skies rapidly heated the black-top for some record-setting motorsports action.

Cayden Smith of Courtenay managed to shave a few hundredths from the track record in his VIROC sponsored #1 iMod, momentarily resetting the record at 15.783.

Not to be outdone, Brayden Aumen pushed his #88 WILROC Lite to the edge, topping the track record with a sizzling 14.363. Saturday’s main events were no less thrilling; George Jenson put on a clinic as he showed why he’s an OTRA Icon winning his 61st feature race to take top honours for the weekend! Second went to a hard-working Jamie Morgan who scored some cash by taking home both night’s Glacier Valley Homes Pole Awards in his class, and third place went to Doug Richens and his #54 ’24 Ford sedan. Next on the program, the VIROC iMod feature race was a Mike Haslam show as the veteran racer dominated the field after struggling with overheat problems all weekend to take the checkered flag.

Chris Beulieu showed patience and ran the difficult outside groove making a statement to the rest of the field that the past champion will not be denied another shot at the hardware by taking second, and in third place Dave Emmerson set the stage for a great season. The WILROC lights didn’t let the thin field deter them from putting on a great five-car shootout! Mike Schott qualified fourth but finished atop the podium with James Miller in second and Brayden Aumen racing to a third-place finish.

The big show for the weekend was Saturday night’s Northwest Sprint Tour, Round 2.

Team Leighton was forced into an overnight engine swap after their #48-Winged Sprint wheeled by Stewart Lee of Campbell River was forced into early retirement on Friday Night.

The qualifying rounds, trophy dashes and points heats were spectacular but on the first lap of the much-anticipated main event, the #8 driven by Brad Auman ran out of real estate on the backstretch and slid through some grass, then shot back up into the pack causing mayhem that retired two cars and sent Courtenay’s Mike Meeres into the safety barrier wing-first.

The professionals of the Oyster River Fire Department and Alpine EMS services safety teams were at the ready, but the track safety crew were on the scene immediately to confirm that the drivers were all unhurt. After the clean-up the race was restarted but soon a blown engine caused a spin and oil dump in the centre of the 1-2 corner, which collected another couple racers. The action got back underway after a tough clean-up.

In the end, Ron Larson in the #12 was not to be denied as he wheeled his car to the top spot on the Powerhouse Sheetrock Victory Lane podium with Stewart Lee #48 right behind for second place and after somehow surviving that first lap mayhem, the #8 of Brad Auman placed third in a hard-fought and exciting contest.

Next weekend’s Saratoga Speedway event will see the Ace Brewing Bombers finally get a crack at the ’22 season in the annual Fan Appreciation Night. Tickets are only $5 and can be reserved online at www.saratogaracing.ca.

auto racingCampbell RiverComox Valley