One new on and a return visit
- ONE NEW ONE AND A RETURN VISIT
An early season start to the 358 Modified Super DirtCar Series, meant a trip down to the Niagra region this past weekend. The Merrittville track, located just 20 minutes away from the world famous Niagra Falls was hosting the 2008 opener. This is one of the longest established venues in North America and Saturday night heralded the start of it's 57th year in operation.
Like many of my long-distance race tours, I was joined on this one by my buddy Roger Aubin and we used his Ford Escape. An early morning start ( 6-00am) saw us parked up at our motel in Niagra Falls soon after lunch. With a few hours to kill before the racing started, we did the 'tourist thing' and walked down to see the 'Falls'. I usually manage get to Merrittville once a year, and on most occasions I stay at the same place, The BlackStone Inn, which is handy for all the resorts attractions.
We arrived at the track around 4-00pm and met up with another member of our gang, Jim Clarke of Belleville who was parked by the pit gate. While standing there 'shooting the breeze' I spotted Laurent Ladouceur , one of my local drivers from Alexandria (Ont) in the line waiting to get in. Laurent ,who won the 358 Super DirtCar Series in 1989 told me he was making his first ever visit to the track.
The big event, also attracted quite a few other surprise visitors from far and wide, including David Hebert from the Drummondville area of Quebec. Right now, It's 'Stanley Cup' time , and Dave's crew were letting everyone know which NHL team they support , with a large Montreal Canadiens banner hanging from their hauler.
Carey Tarrance of Akwesasne NY had brought along two cars, one for himself and one for Dale Planck.
While wandering the pits I chatted to Merrittville track promotor Pete Bicknell who was also taking part in the Series. Pete has been a major player in the 358 division for many years and is tagged as 'Mr Small Block'. I also had the pleasure once again, of meeting his eldest daughter Erica , (who is track manager), and his wife Nancy.
The weather forecast had looked very doubtful during the week leading up to the event, and much to the relief of most race fans, the usual time wasting SUPER DIRTCAR SERIES lap trials were dispensed with for the evening. We went straight into the heats, which is what most fans prefer anyway. The 38 car field was split into 4 heats and two Consis.
The program also featured, Street Stox and a 40 lap Sportsman race which turned out to be 45 minute marathon of cautions. For some reason the guys just couldn't keep out of trouble, and following yellow flag after yellow flag the race director thankfully ordered single file restarts. Eventual winner was Mike Bowman.
The 100 lap SUPER DIRT SERIES race was just the opposite and went the duration with only one caution. Cortland, NY's , Dale Planck was in a class of his own leading from green to checkers. A flag to flag win didn't mean it was a boring race, not at all ! Watching Planck ducking and diving while lapping most of the pack, was a sight to savor. Runner up, was Kingston's (Ont) Danny O'Brien who shadowed him for a while, but gradually slipped back as the laps ticked away. In third place was New Yorker, Chad Brachman. It turned out to be a great night of racing!
This early season sortie to the Golden Horseshoe area of Ontario allowed me to add another track to my TRACKCHASING totals. On Sunday it was the season opener for the Humberstone Speedway at nearby Port Colborne on the banks of Lake Erie. This is another track with long history and was formerly known as the Gasport Speedway.
It has been on my 'hit list' for quite a while but with the distance involved and the fact that it runs on Sunday nights ( clashing with my local Cornwall Motor Speedway) meant it's been a difficult one to get. The Cornwall season is yet to begin ( May 18) , so this was my golden opportunity to pay a visit.
In recent years the highest division the track has hosted on a regular basis have been DIRT Sportsman. I don't know why , but this fact gave me a preconceived notion that the facility would be 'minor league'. I have to say I was totaly wrong , pleasantly surprised, and very impressed. A new application of fresh clay with a good banking, well positioned bleachers and a tidy control tower/bar/concessions area all augured to make the place very different to what I had expected. I would like to see it added to future Big Block and 358 Modified SUPER DIRT SERIES tours.
For my first visit, Sportsman topped the bill with MiniStox, Streetstox and Trucks as the supporting divisions.
Many of the Sportsman, were the same ones I'd seen the night before at Merrittville. Their 25 lap feature once again, provided plenty of yellow flags, and eventually, the attrition rate allowed an exciting finish, with Tyler McPherson losing his lead to Rob Pratt on in the final laps.
Yes, I enjoyed my visit to Humberstone and hope to get back some day, and maybe , with luck see some 'Big Block' Modified Series races. The track is run by the Cosco family and I'd like to thank Mrs Linda Cosco and her friendly staff for being so helpful. I always like to get a souvenir track sticker where ever I go, and she/they went out of their way to find some for me.
The show was over by 9-30pm , so a hasty exit was made for our 7 hour plus, drive back to Eastern Ontario.
HUMBERSTONE SPEEDWAY, PORT COLBORNE , (ONT) TRACK # 170 on my TRACKCHASING TOTALS
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- There is a Northeast New York Slingshot & Go Kart Tour with the
following Slingshot dates for 2008:
Mountain View Raceway is a 1/5 mi. dirt oval that normally races karts.
It is located 3 mi. S of Bridgewater on SR 8.
The tour dates came from the Caroga Creek web site. The Mountain View
site doesn't mention the tour dates but they have races scheduled on
Thursdays instead of Saturdays on the weeks the tour runs. They also
list slingshots a couple other times on their schedule (5/31+6/5) and
show a few slingshots in their photo gallery, but they may be juniors.